Quiet Times

Quiettimes9442
Buffalo herd Lamar River Yellowstone

 

It is scenes like this that draw me back to Yellowstone year after year. A small group of buffalo are spending some quiet time browsing and resting by some snags next to the river. The trees, either damaged by the 1988 fires or simply died off as they do, make perfect scratching posts. Their long shaggy winter coats are mostly gone, but it feels good to scratch just for the sheer enjoyment of it. It won’t be long before the winds of winter blow these standing dead pines down and the herd will move along the river until they find a new bunch.

Buffalo like to stand in quiet water and you can see them in there for hours. They seem unfazed by the cold water, and it is cold after coming down out of the Absaroka mountains, fed by springs and melting snow. It’s a little later in the summer as you can see by the size and color of the calves in the herd, no new-born red ones in this bunch. The rut hasn’t started yet, everybody is eating their fill because they know that as pleasant as the weather is today, winter is waiting up in the snow-covered tops of the Absaroka mountains. Soon it will sweep down in all its fury and make life much less idyllic.

Right now though, everyone is taking a break and making use of an infrequent event, quiet time.

The Lurker

The Lurker5047Coyote Yellowstone                            click to enlarge

 

If you were a mouse, or a vole, or even a ground squirrel, and I am in no way suggesting you are, you would have a vastly different life. You’d be a lot smaller and quite a bit hairier and you would be constantly preoccupied with eating. Now even if that description fits some of you and of course I am in no way suggesting it does, you’d have one more concern to keep in mind.

And that would be The Lurker. The Lurker is that ominous presence that is always just out of sight, but you know it’s there, waiting, waiting, and well, lurking, back there in the shadows ready to get you. And the getting of you is the deal. If you get got it is game over. No more rustling in the grass, no more squeaking with pleasure when you find those new green grass shoots, that’s it. Conclude-o.

Now if you are that small little rodent busily eating your way to oblivion and you are not paying attention to the first rule of rodent survival which is “Never get far from your den” and the second rule, which is “Don’t chew with your mouth open” and the third rule which is “Remember the Lurker” then you are in for what is known in the rodent world as a really ugly day. There are no “Hey wait” or “Listen I just stepped out here for a smoke and some fresh green grass shoots” or “Who’s going to feed my cat” it is simply Bite, snap, gulp, and Next ! and the lurker is on his way.

So this is a reminder to all the little hairy, grass munching, squeaky little rodents out there, keep your blue cross up to date, sometimes the Lurker misses, and when you get to that comfortable just full feeling, stop eating, and finally, send your Mother-in-law out there first, the mean one, to see if the lurker is nearby. You just might get lucky.

The PreNup

The Pre-Nup2420captive Cheetahs                             click to enlarge

 

One of the most anticipated events in the captive animal world has been the engagement of these two superstars and their impending wedding. Xikankanka, a Tsonga princess from the Limpopo river area, seen here on the right and Ingulule, third in line to the cheetah throne in KwaZulu-Natal. Ingulule, has been the heart throb of young cheetahs females all over the zoo world since the tabloids began reporting his arrival. They are shown spending some quality time together in an undisclosed enclosure in the U.S.

The story given out by their publicist is that the two lovers met while in transit from a wild animal holding facility near Durban and built up a strong attraction as their respective crates were side-by-side in the aircraft that brought them to their new home. Wildlife officials seeing that the two had become inseparable during the trip elected to keep them together and the romance was born.

Every aspect of their story has been covered by the media including some of the rockier moments in their relationship. This photo released by the zooparazi shows them recovering from the serious negotiations regarding the prenup they will reportedly sign prior to the ceremony. Apparently, in this undated photo, Xikankanka is assuring Ingulule that he is the most important thing in her life and if it was up to her she would not insist on the prenup but her advisors have made it clear that it must be signed or their will be no wedding. Ingulule’s response has not been reported and there is some concern that as a potential ruler of his fellow South African cheetahs, he will not sign the prenup.

There is always some drama in a high-profile match like this one and the fact that rumors have been swirling around the animal world of a possible litter on the way has not helped quiet things down. As of right now the nuptials are still on but also as of right now the prenup hasn’t been signed and the tension is building.

We can only hope that things are worked out for the two as their affection can clearly be seen and it is fervently hoped that if the rumors are true that a littler of baby cheetahs is on the way, that a mere formality will not stand in its way. We intend to stay on top of this story and will be reporting the news as it happens. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Not The Sharpest Knife In The Drawer

Sharpest Knife0943Buffalo Herd Spring Storm Yellowstone

 

Now as we look at the current graduating class at Yellowstone we are not staring at the class valedictorians here. Buffalo aren’t the most academic members of the animal kingdom. You will rarely see them doing calculus like the wolves do, or building particle accelerators like the grizzlies, they prefer instead to utilize their time banging their heads together and grunting, or eating grass. Eating grass is probably one of their highest achievements and they have produced some prodigious grass eaters. Which is also why they weigh 2000 lbs.

Scientists have found that there is a reason that buffalo are not as astute as some of their other animal neighbors and it has to do with the head butting activity we spoke of earlier. It is also the reason their heads are so big. It seems that the repeated whacking  together of their heads has caused them to swell up and add padding and bone to the front of their face until they have this giant huge big head. It is natures’ way of protecting a species that is too dim to do it themselves. The other manifestation of this behavior is that their brains get ping-ponged back and forth in that huge cavity and gradually get compressed until they’re roughly the size of a walnut. This new tinier more compact  brain is also encased in a substance rather like jello that acts as a shock absorber and also keeps any intelligent thought from escaping out into the open, kind of like fundamentalists. This causes them to make decisions we can not understand.

Such as the one above. A spring snow storm has blown down out of the north, its freezing, they have little ones and what do they do? They rush to the nearest pond filled with ice-cold water and stand in it. They don’t gather around a fire in a meadow somewhere and sing folk songs like ‘buffalo gals’ or ‘It’ll be a hot time in the old town tonight’, or check into the Buffalo Hilton and have some hay sent up, they head straight for the one place that will make their miserable circumstances worse.

Even the smallest of the herd, the ones whose heads haven’t been deformed and still have a brain that is a normal size know that this isn’t right and attempt to head for someplace that isn’t as totally miserable as this. Unfortunately there isn’t any. It’s like this for as far as the eye can see. Which isn’t very far in this case as it is snowing and will snow harder before this is over. The one thing the small ones can be thankful for is that the brains of this outfit couldn’t find any deeper water to stand in or else you know they’d be there. This is truly a case of one herd left behind and the results are as predicted. You don’t study and do good in school and you’re going to be standing in butt deep freezing water. In a snow storm. Stay in school. And don’t do crack.

The Hokey Pokey

HokeyPokey6973Osprey Yellowstone                           click to enlarge

 

You put your right foot in,*
You put your right foot out;
You put your right foot in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey-Pokey,
And you turn yourself around.
That’s what it’s all about!

We stumbled across this osprey practicing for the annual Hokey Pokey festival held in Yellowstone National Park every September 16th to the 21st rain or shine. Osprey from all over the park assemble along the Firehole river for a week-long orgy of Hokey Pokeyness where they vie for the attention of the judges and admiring tourists and each other. Each attempts to put their own spin on this famous dance routine in the hopes of winning fame and fortune and maybe the eye of some admiring female.

This fellow was having a bit of trouble getting his moves down. He was getting his right foot in without too much trouble but when it came to the part where he had to shake it all about, he’d lose his balance and stick his wing out to recover. This is a definite point penalty, plus it makes him look like a goof. If he doesn’t get this straightened out he can kiss the championship goodbye, not to mention the babes. We watched him for quite sometime and it seemed like he was improving but he had a way to go if he was thinking finalist here.

We will be there covering this event as it happens and look forward to bringing it to you as it unfolds. In case there might be a human out there that has not heard or seen this dance performed we have included this link to refresh your memory. It’s a catchy little tune so don’t blame us if you’re humming this puppy all day. Here you go.

http://kids.niehs.nih.gov/games/songs/childrens/hokeymp3.htm

 

* Written by Roland Lawrence LaPrise, (with Charles Macak and Tafit Baker). Recorded in 1949. U.S. Copyright 1950, Acuff-Rose Music Inc.
Written by Roland Lawrence LaPrise, who concocted the song along with two fellow musicians in the late 1940s for the ski crowd in Sun Valley, Idaho. The group, the Ram Trio (with Charles Macak and Tafit Baker), recorded the song in 1949, and they were awarded U.S. copyright in 1950, Acuff-Rose Music Inc.

 

Friday Morning Reflections

Schwabacher Landing3294Schwabachers Landing Grand Teton National Park

 

As you travel along the Snake river in the Grand Teton National Park you will arrive at a famous scenic spot called Schwabacher’s landing. It is a beautiful place as you can see. The spot is famous for several reasons, one of the most intriguing being there is almost no history regarding who this Schwabacher was, what he was doing there and why the ‘landing’ was named after him.

Well, we can fix that. I have from several unimpeachable sources at least one, if not more, accurate although completely unsubstantiated stories, regarding this Mr. Schwabacher. He wasn’t the sterling character you’ve come to know and love from seeing his ‘landing’ on countless calendars and post cards and coffee mugs etc., nope he was a man of dubious but questionable qualities. He was a heavy drinker, he smoked cigars in the presence of ladies, he would spit in the river whenever he felt like it whether he was upstream from camp or not, he used rude language, he was unkind to animals and small children, and he didn’t attend church unless there was that service where they give wine to the faithful and then he left right after the wine was served. Now days he would probably be a politician.

His personal hygiene would become the topic of conversation whenever he was near other people or even in the same county as other people, and the general consensus was that he didn’t have any. Personal hygiene that is, and when you put him on a small boat with several other less than fastidious people, the fact that it would be mentioned at all must have indicated that an incredible aroma wafted off this gentleman that we cannot delve into here it being close to lunch time. It must have been epic if even these hardy souls who lived off the land and ate things we couldn’t look at let alone consume and whose olfactory senses must have been stifled by their own unsavory living conditions to the point that they could tolerate odors that would gag a normal man’s hiney, felt moved to complain. Mr. Schwabacher’s odoriferous presence must have had a prodigious effect. So much so that they beached, or in mariner parlance, landed, their boat and unceremoniously threw him onto the shore to save themselves, being sorely afraid that they would otherwise all be overcome and die. Hence the name Schwabacher’s Landing.

I tend to believe this story, having visited Schwabacher’s Landing myself and I personally noticed several areas on the bank where the very stones were burned black in the shape of a man lying on the ground and there are trees next to the water that haven’t grown their leaves back yet and this is like ninety years later. History does not relate what Mr. Schwabacher’s fate was. It was rumored that he could walk anywhere in this country in perfect safety because even the grizzlies wouldn’t eat him and grizzlies will eat anything. This may not be the story the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce wanted to hear, but you can’t pick and choose history. If that’s the way it is, well then that’s the way it is. Sorry.

Fortunately Nature has her way of recovering from these types of events and she has admirably in the case of Schwabacher’s Landing, it being gorgeous and hardly oderific at all. If you get a chance, visit it, and if you feel the need you can hang one of those little tree shaped things that make the air smell nice on the bushes just in case.

 

Wild Ones Among Us

WildOnesAmongUs6132Red Fox and kit Ft Collins Colorado       click to enlarge

 

Relying on the kindness of strangers. That’s what this fox family does every day. This young mother and her family live in the middle of a densely populated suburban area filled with kids, dogs, passerby’s, cars, sidewalks, bicycles, everything thing that modern living brings to bear on our day-to-day lives.

Her den is less than five feet from a busy sidewalk that sees a constant parade of people walking by, mom’s pushing strollers, dog walkers, kids running by on their way to the park just across the street. It is also next to a small but vibrant wetland. It is here that she gets much of her food. That and the constant supply of dog food well-meaning folks leave at the den entrance.

She has three young ones at home and they spend as much time as they can now out in front of the den, the young playing and mom on constant guard for any danger. They don’t get much sun time though because as soon as mom spots someone coming down the sidewalk it’s back into the den until she sounds the all clear. When mom barks a short command the kids respond immediately and disappear into the den with lightning speed.

The kindness that mom depends on isn’t the food well-wishers leave at the front door, she really doesn’t need it, she can find more than enough food on her own, it’s the fact that she has been basically unmolested and able to rear three youngsters to young adulthood without much interference from the humans that live around her. The observers that keep an eye on her have kept the intrusions into the fox families life to a minimum and thankfully fate has spared the young ones from the constant traffic going by just feet from their playground.

Make no mistake, these are not pets, they are wild things, they just happened for one inexplicable reason or another, chosen to live among us. So far it has been a successful arrangement.