Some Badgers Are OK

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We have written several posts about badgers in the past. The earliest one was back in April of 2014 http://www.bigshotsnow.com/fun-with-badgers and more recently in January of 2015 we wrote the expose titled “The Thing About Badgers” http://www.bigshotsnow.com/the-thing-about-badgers/ where we pointed out that Badgers did not make good pets.

Since both of those posts could have mistakenly been considered critical to Badgers and all their relatives and the States that harbor them we thought it was time to give Badgers a little good press. Which is why we titled this post, “Some Badgers Are OK”.

Although we had to do a bit of digging to find good points about Badgers we did find some. For instance Badgers are considered good parents as they rarely eat their young and then only for the best reasons. Badgers like to maintain good order within their family groups. Lining up in straight lines is important to them and having all their offspring facing in the same direction is too.

Biting. Biting is big with Badgers. Everyday when the female brings out the young and gets them all pointed in the same direction in a straight line, she will bite the nearest one. At first this was thought to be an act of rage from a single mother who didn’t like raising children, then we noticed that she didn’t bite them all that hard. It was more of a “We’re badgers and this is what we do.” kind of bite. Of course if the other one snickered at its sibling while it was being bitten she would walk deliberately around to his side and give him a bite roughly twice as hard. Discipline is strict in a badger family. No screwing around during the morning biting session.

Badgers realize they have a PR problem and have taken steps to counter the poor image they have made for themselves. Because they are usually grumpy, snarly, ill-tempered beasts at best they are now trying to change that image to show their better side. In the past if you drove by and said something pleasant to a group of Badgers they would respond with a rude gesture and taunt you with an invitation to come closer and “get your soft parts chewed on for a while, if you’re so damn friendly.” Now however it is not unusual to see the badgers lined up on the front porch of their dens or alongside the roadway waving a friendly paw and offering to show you how they eviscerate a ground squirrel for dinner, or how the young can line up in straight lines without even being bitten. This is a big change.

This movement is slow to being accepted universally in the Badger community however. You will still find many Badgers that have no interest whatsoever in being friendly. These Badgers usually live in the more rural parts of Wisconsin and in the more common Western states where hardly anyone goes anyway, so that may account for the slow adoption rate.

Wisconsinites have been paying more attention to their state animal since we have been running these posts and now some of them can even recognize a Badger in the wild, or as wild as it gets in Wisconsin, and will often stop their vehicles and run up to the Badger thinking it is just another furry little animal that will be nice to them. So when they get out of one of those portable roadside clinics set up by the State to treat those who have not yet learned that all wildlife is not their friend, they will stop and compare the number of stitches they got with the other members of their party, then go home and mention to friends and neighbors that it is best to leave all badgers the hell alone until you find out if they have accepted the new “Let’s Be Friendlier Badgers” program.

There may be other good things about Badgers we haven’t mentioned but that was only because we couldn’t find any more of them. Of course we didn’t look too hard as you’re liable to get really bit if you go poking around near Badgers so we found these few items and called it good. At least no one can call us one-sided on the Badger issue now as we have presented both sides of the subject and look pretty darned objective, badger-wise. Ok then, there you have it. Discuss it amongst yourselves if you need to.

 

 

 

 

 

Fire In The Meadow

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There is a special meadow near a village called Red Feather high in the Rocky mountains of Northern Colorado where magical things happen. If you sit still and watch you may see a coyote slowly hunt across it’s grass-covered surface, pausing here with cocked head to listen, leaping there if it hears a mouse scamper through the new grass. Or see a Red-tailed hawk glide majestically out of the surrounding timber to splash its shadow across the land below as it too looks for it’s next meal.

Hummingbirds flit from flower to flower sipping the nectar from the new blooms and helping to pollenate the plants in this untamed garden. Before long the grass will be knee-high and cover the shorter blooms leaving you to discover them as you walk slowly through the dew covered stalks early in the morning.

There is an old fence line that divides the meadow into unequal portions, meaningful to  the humans who like to section things off and say that’s mine, but meaningless to the life that occupies or uses the ground on either side of the old rusty wire. Silent things that grow and stand tall and wave in the fresh breezes that occasionally wend their way down from the Never Summer mountains, their color dotting the meadowland like jewels left to catch the sun.

Now that the last of winter’s snow is making up its mind whether it will melt or not the earliest of the spring flowers are starting.  The Lenten Rose and Pasque flowers are peeking out beneath the snow close to Easter. Winter Aconite and the Common Snowdrop are breaching through the snow-covered meadow displaying their blooms, plus a favorite of all who see it, the Wyoming Indian Paint brush is beginning to appear. That pyrotechnical colored perennial that migrated down from the open plains of Wyoming and Montana to gently settle here and become a favorite native in this high meadow. It’s red and orange and yellows the exact colors of newly lit campfires. Scattered throughout the tall grass these brilliant flowers give the appearance of fire in the meadow with their brightly colored heads waving in the wind.

Spring is here, even though we just had a blizzard that produced a couple of feet of snow. The snow is nearly melted already and leaves in its wake what the locals call Mud Season, those several weeks of melting snow and saturated ground and mud everywhere. That’s spring in the high country. Enjoy it while you can. And while you’re at it go see the fire in the meadow. That’ll make you feel good.

And thanks to those gentle stewards of the land, Jack and Peggy, for the opportunity to photograph there. Enjoy your special place.

Spring Portraits

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March is “When The Bluebirds Get Here” month. So is February. And sometimes April if the weather has been particularly bad, but this year the month is March.

In the past we had to rely on natural migration schedules to get our quotas of Western Bluebirds. They can be in short supply due to their being the most popular of the bluebird species, and they have often been coerced into going to other states by handouts of Bluebird chow, favorable nesting sites and one state who shall remain nameless but their initials are Utah, tried to make it their state bird, thereby gathering some legal advantage of some sort. In the past we have had to offer some of our sister states to the West a premium of two Stellar Jays and a Clark’s Nutcracker to get one Western Bluebird.

As you know The institute has its own Ornithology department with trained and highly intelligent bird guys (and girls) studying birds, bird books, bird seed, bird brains, and lately bird genetics. That’s the big one. That’s the one that is going to put us on the map bird-wise. Genetics is the new thing. It’s like plastic was in the 60’s. Huge.

They found that they can yank the DNA right out of a bird, futz around with it, and stuff it back in and make big changes to how a bird works. Our problem had been that bluebirds don’t like the cold so as soon as the temp drops much below 60 degrees they haul their little feathered keesters south for the winter. That’s the problem. While they’re down there they can be swayed by any one of those unscrupulous Orno guys from other states and we lose our stock of bluebirds.

The problem was birds head south, then we lose them. Solution, and this is where genius comes into play, is we took that bluebird DNA and added a whole bunch of genetic stuff to it before we repacked it back into the bluebirds. For instance we added the anti-freeze gene to it so now our bluebirds are good down to about -126 degrees, we added a fixed route from anywhere South directly to The Institutes front door to their GPS gene, we added the Horsepucky detector gene so that they can tell when they’re being conned by those guys from Utah, and lastly we added an extra amount of Bluebird blue to their blue color gene so we now have the brightest Western bluebirds in the northern hemisphere.

Their was one more big change we are experimenting with and this is the first spring to see how our experiment worked out. We added an extra gene to the Anti-freeze gene to make a small number of bluebirds hibernational. Hibernational is a term we just made up here in our Ornithology department that means these particular bluebirds can lower their body temperatures down to the approximate temperature of one of those Big Gulp Slurpee’s you get at 7-11 and then be buried in neat rows in the snow over the winter to be ready to emerge at the first sign of Spring.

When the snow melts as it does every spring the snow bound bluebirds slowly awaken as they respond to the sun’s rays on their little beaks, and they pop up through the snow like Pasque flowers and start hanging around, getting an early start on Spring. It gives them at least a two-week head start on those Utah bluebirds so they are already hooked up with a bluebird chick, found a good nesting box, etc. and our supply of Western Bluebirds is guaranteed. Their GPS gene tells them they’re already here so they don’t take off and go cruising somewhere else so we got them locked. Our own inbred species of Western Bluebirds. Neat Right? Science is really cool.

We are photographing each of our newly altered bluebirds and tattooing an ID number on the underside of their tongues so that we can better keep track of them. Here is the first reconstituted Western Bluebird to emerge from its snow bunker. He seems in fine shape. We’ll let you know how he does in the reproduction department as the data come in. So far it looks great.

Dune Patrol

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Monument Valley is a big place. It stretches across two states and given the type of terrain encompassed within its borders it requires a huge amount of upkeep. It also gets an enormous number of visitors every day who traipse across its surface, leaving footprints, disturbing the details that make up the various dunes located throughout the park, and generally causing the park to get a slightly tired look by the end of the day.

The Navajo people own Monument valley and do their very best to keep the park pristine. You won’t find any litter along the roadways, or plastic bags stuck in the sagebrush here. But as we mentioned before Monument valley is a big place and there aren’t enough Navajo to get out everyday and tidy up all the aspects of the park that need looking after. That’s where the volunteers come in.

Each morning before the park opens residents and docents of the valley get out at the first sign of dawn long before the park opens for business, and check their areas. Perhaps a wind came through and erased some of the picturesque furrows that give the red sand dunes their distinctive look. Or a passing night hunter came along and left their tracks behind.

That’s what occurred last night when  a coyote spent some time on this dune waiting for something unwary to make itself known. Fortunately for them nothing did and the coyote moved on to better hunting grounds leaving just a few of its tracks in the sandy surface. Jack Rabbit, the overseer of this particular dune, is out inspecting the damage. Fortunately this disruption can be repaired by Jack himself with just a few tamping’s of his big flat feet and a quick roll over on the effected area and the dune will look pristine again.

This little repair was easy, but occasionally one of the large herd of sheep and goats that roam through the park will pass directly over the dune Jack is responsible for. That’s when catastrophe strikes. Dozens upon dozens of hooves tramp across the dune breaking down the edges, leaving deep footprints in the soft surface of the dune, even tearing out the occasional foliage, creating damage that is much too much for Jack to take on himself. That’s when he calls out the big guns. The park’s maintenance team.

The maintenance team is a large group of paid workers made up of Jackrabbits, voles, a large hawk too old to hunt any more who uses his strong wings to brush the surface of the sand dune smooth again and in return is allowed to occasionally borrow one of the mice or voles for dinner, are just a few of the members that make up the maintenance team. This crack team of highly trained professionals rush to damaged areas within the park and perform the triage needed to get the park back up and running in no time at all. They are the unsung heroes of the park, along with Jack and the many other volunteers who spend their time making sure the park is in perfect condition each day when it opens.

They are all part of the Dune Patrol, those tireless workers who keep Monument valley ready for us to view its wonders everyday of the year. Thanks guys, keep up the good work.

Crow Camp – Nearest The Fire

This post has been moved to OpenChutes.com. All future postings of Powwows, Indian Relay Races, Rodeos and Rendezvous will be posted there from now on exclusively. So if you’re looking for new images and posts for all those events attended this year, plus all the old posts posted on BigShotsNow.com check out OpenChutes.com. See you there!

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Walking through the Crow camp on a moonless night, watching your footing as your eyes are having difficulty adjusting to the darkness, you find yourself entering and leaving one oasis of light after another. Flashlights help but do little to overcome the inky blackness between one set of lodges and another.

The lodges have been set up in a random fashion in rows and groups generally following the banks of the Little Bighorn river as it winds its way from Custer’s battlefield down to the town of Crow Agency. It is one of those places where you have to know where you are before you can get where you’re going. It is very easy to get turned around in the labyrinth that is Crow camp, especially at night. The people living here know where they are. Little kids are out running around, darting like lightning bugs into one campsite after another and back home again as if they had built-in direction finders, which you suspect they do.

The sound of the camp varies from very noisy where one group may be playing the drum and singing, to quieter areas where small groups of the people are sitting around the fire, talking, laughing, enjoying each others company, and on to the stillness of the darkness when you leave the campsites.

Each of these places is a small area where the only light is from the fire and the occasional lantern. These islands of brightness scattered in the sea of blackness are welcoming, making you wish you could enter and sit and be a part of the festivities. Then you’d be home and wouldn’t have to walk and walk until you found your way back to your car and your own temporary home.

At every fireside there is one lodge that is nearest the fire. The flickering light from the burning logs changes the dull white of the lodge, covering it in a wavering, shimmering shade of gold. The lodge poles are highlighted against the darkness, the faint green of the surrounding trees barely visible in the background, the surrounding teepees just catching enough light to show you they are there.

The experience of being in the Crow Camp is one that has many layers, some loud and boisterous, others quieter and filled with subtle visions and sounds. The contrast of night and day is filled with excitement and wonder for someone new to the experience. Perhaps next time you can sit with the people in front of the lodge nearest the fire. What a memory that would be.

Hang Time

This post has been moved to OpenChutes.com. All future postings of Powwows, Indian Relay Races, Rodeos and Rendezvous will be posted there from now on exclusively. So if you’re looking for new images and posts for all those events attended this year, plus all the old posts posted on BigShotsNow.com check out OpenChutes.com. See you there!

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Rodeo Facts

“Hang Time” or “When Bulls Fly” is a term used to describe that moment when the bull leaves the earth and ‘hangs’ or ‘flies’ in the air. All four of his hooves must be off the ground with the lowest hoof no closer than 12″ from the arena floor to qualify. This maneuver is usually done after the bull dislodges his rider, but not always, and is generally celebratory in nature. This movement or procedure is almost always reserved for the actual event of bull riding but there have been reported sightings of bulls performing this activity in the privacy of their own pastures.

It is also a tactic used to confuse and disorient his rider who expects at least one of the bulls feet to be attached to the ground at all times. When the bull fully detaches himself from the earth it causes momentary spatial confusion much like the weightlessness that astronauts experience, except while on the back of a two thousand pound bull, and leads to the rider getting all over wonky of a moment and falling off. This is what the bulls wants, as it gives the bull the opportunity to step all over him and maybe even poke him some with its horns. Plus it apparently just feels good to the bull to be free of his usually earthly constraints.

It is also a maneuver that the bull can be judged on thereby earning points for himself. Points are good as the more points the bull accumulates, the more ring time it gets, and the more prestige and financial gain it acquires. The length of the hang time is the largest single factor in the scoring although height and distance play a part also. The longest hang time ever recorded was on a bull named Little Chicken and was 8.37 seconds in duration. That’s right, as unbelievable as it sounds the bull hung up there about 3½ feet off the arena floor for the entire time of the ride which you know is 8 seconds. His rider, an Italian cowboy named Pauli “Little Patty” Concertina, from Newark N.J., was so confused and disoriented that he thought he heard his bell being rung around the 6 second mark and simply jumped off thinking he had made a perfect ride. Well he didn’t of course, he totally screwed up which was the bulls plan all along, and left the arena and the rodeo grounds to the jeers from the ‘regular’ cowboys, feeling like a total Easterner. The fans still laugh about it while he still thinks to this day that he made a perfect ride and was robbed of his score.

Aside from the tactics and the scoring and the general chaos that surrounds the bull riding event there is something spellbinding about seeing a 2000 lb. bull floating effortlessly in the air. It is a symphony of motion and drama that is amazing to watch. You are mesmerized by the slow motion aspect of the suspended bull and then suddenly it returns to earth with incredible force, smashing back onto the arena floor with a sound like a freight train crashing. Dust flies, riders fly, rodeo clowns yell, spectators suddenly scream in appreciation and then it is over. Until next time. If you need some excitement in your life come to the rodeo and watch when the “Bulls Fly”. You’ll never forget it.