Monday, December 15, 2008

Prepare To Be Underwhelmed... my wildlife photography. I don't normally share sub par photos on here, but I turn into a 10-year-old when I see wildlife and have a camera handy. Even though I know they are going to be bad, I just can't stop snap, snap, snapping.

These are the elk in the National Elk Refuge, where they winter. You can spot them easily from the highway on the north side of Jackson. I don't think the space is a controversial item, but the fact that the government feeds the elk is. Their herd numbers are nearly double what biologists believe they should be, and would naturally thin out to what the land could support, except that they are fed in the winter. However, if they were not fed, they would graze on the surrounding cattle lands and cause ranchers quite a bit of money and trouble. So the issue is at sort of a compromise, as many wildlife related issues in Wyoming are.

We were exploring the roads open north of Jackson, in Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Parkway, when I spotted two wolves crossing a frozen river. We pulled the Xterra over and grabbed our binos and cameras. Even from a distance of about 1/2 of a mile away, they looked very large. Through the binos we could see their coloring and size and tell they were definitely wolves. Seeing them was the highlight of our trip - they are rare to spot unless you go with biologists and rangers who know their habits. They did look up and see us, but continued crossing the ice, tentatively feeling out unstable parts and jumping over melted rivulets, until they were out of sight.

If you want to hear about real controversy, just mention wolves. Wyoming, Montana and Idaho have been at the center of wolf reintroduction debates. The idea, I think, was for the packs to stay central to Yellowstone National Park and other nearby parks and forests, and for those areas to support them. Wolves, however, are wild animals and like any other, they don't stay where you tell them to. The estimated 1200 wolves range past the park and sometimes prey on the easy kills of cattle. Wyoming is struggling to find a compromise between folks who feel strongly on both sides of the issue. Some want NO wolves in Wyoming, and others want NO regulation of the species. Wyoming is still trying to find a balance that the federal government approves of.

Flat Creek, along the same part of the highway that you'll find the National Elk Refuge, is home to a group of Trumpeter Swans. We drove by a few times and they were always visible, but I got these pix when they were close to the fence (which is there to keep them from attacking folks like me who get too close).


  1. Amazing to see such beauty and wildlife. I appreciate the hard struggle to find balance, but am so thankful that these animals still roam parts of the country. Also, I think your photos are splendid, and am delighted that you have shared them. Gives folks like me a chance to live vicariously, helping to fuel the dreams of future travels!

  2. Oh I soooo love wolves! Every time I see your nature pics, I think I have to plan a trip out west...

  3. Ladies, please come visit! Wyoming is so cool and laid back.