First Day of Spring

Oooooh Mann Does that feel good. I can’t believe I’ve been wearing this coat for like five whole months. We need a bigger clothing allowance if the honchos here at Yellowstone want us to look good when the season starts. I cannot wait to get this raggedy old thing off. It feels like my fleas have fleas.

It’s the first day of Spring and people are gonna be coming around looking at us and I feel like I just crawled out from under a bridge. Oh yes, right there. That spot has been making my teeth itch since the middle of February. Oh,k,k,k,k. I’m going to do this until June maybe even July.

The first day of spring is a time for celebration as it usually means good weather, new stuff to eat, time to look around for some of that winter kill. I am famished. Humans have it made. They can just take off their winter coats with a quick pull of a zipper and put on tank tops. Not us, I got like 12 more hours of scratching just to get the tangles out and then who knows how many days of squeezing through the oak brush to get my comb on. But I will look good. After all check me out. Even looking like this you know you want me.

Alright, the first day of Spring. I’m out of that smelly den.  After five months that’s enough to gag a man’s hinder. The suns out. I got the scratching tree first, looks like it might be a good year after all. Gotta run, well actually I gotta scratch and I need to concentrate here. Catch you later over on the flip side of Mt. Washburn. Where all the cool bears hang. I’ll be the one with the shiny new coat. Have a good one. Write if you get work.

P.S. Yeah I know I’m a little fuzzy in the picture but the guy taking the picture kept getting in my space so I had to back him up some. Apparently he was a little nervous after I ate his wrist watch and he didn’t hold the camera steady. And he was quite aways back and under his truck so I guess I can cut him some slack. You can decide how you want to handle it.

Three Strikes


My name is Millie Elizabeth Smallfoot and I’m a Mule deer doe currently residing in Rocky Mountain National Park. You would not think it to look at me a but I am a twice convicted felon on the National parks Three Strikes program. I come from a good family. I have never offended before but now I’m one strike away from the death penalty. I do not know what I have done wrong.

Early one morning as I was making my way down to the creek to begin my morning ablutions I felt a blow to my left hindquarters, then a stinging pain. I became dizzy and disoriented but before I passed out I saw four large men in green jumpsuits approach me and wrestle me to the ground.

I don’t know how long I was unconscious but upon awakening I felt a foreign object in my ear. It was a sharp pain that scared me but that was nothing to the feeling I had the moment I found out that I had been branded or tagged as a criminal. One of the larger bucks who had one in his ear too came over to me and said ” Strange, they usually don’t do that to does.” I asked what it meant and he said it was the way management identified troublemakers and it was a serious deal. I had better watch my step he said.”You don’t want another one.”

Frantic and desperate to find out what this meant and why it happened to me I went to Park headquarters to speak to someone who might be able to help me. Instead I was met with outright hostility and contempt and told that I must have deserved it or they wouldn’t have tagged me. Pleading with them to explain what obviously was a mistake, they simply handed me a pamphlet titled “Three Strikes and you’re out, How the park system manages it Problem Residents.” and told me to leave.

The pamphlet explained that some of the larger parks had residents such as Grizzly bears that would make trouble and be rude to park visitors. These “bad” bears would break into trash cans, destroy tents and campsites, and even bite people. Consequently they were caught, had this device put in their ear and told not to do it again. One tag meant you’re were an at risk individual, two meant you were on the watch list, and three, three meant you were incorrigible and would be “put down” at the next infraction. It took me a moment to realize what “Put Down” meant.

I’m a doe, possibly the least offensive resident in the park. I weigh 72 pounds max. I’m not going to break into any trash cans or campsites or even bite someone. I’m a leaf eater for cripes sake. If i even see anyone I run and hide in a bush.

Apparently it was a mistake to take my case to management. Park headquarters took that as sign of aggressiveness and the next morning I received my second tag. Now I keep myself way up in the back country behind bear lake. I have plans to take my fawn and head out of the park. Maybe someplace like *The Institute where I’ve heard they don’t support tagging in any form. I heard that they can even take these tags out. I could have a new life, free, off of death row. The trick is to get out of the park. They feel that they own you and especially more so if you are tagged, they aren’t going to let you go. I’ve been planing this for months now. My fawn is old enough that she can keep up, the aspen are fresh with new green leaves, the mountain mahogany is budding out, there is an unusual number of visitors to the park this Spring so management is not watching as close. I know we can make it once we cross the park border. Fortunately there is no hunting season open right now so we should be in the clear. I just hope that The Institute will take us in. And I can finally lose these tags.

*Note: For those of you unfamiliar with The Institute and what it does, please see the page labeled The Institute on the Menu Bar above. That should explain everything. You shouldn’t have one single question remaining regarding The Institute after reading it. None. For those of you favored few who already know about the Institute, Nevermind.

Hurry Up Eddy The Grass Really Is Greener over Here


In Yellowstone as well as many other places the old adages are still in use and in the case of the Buffalo, followed religiously as well. If you observe carefully you can often see them being acted out. “The grass is always greener on the other side of the (add your own barrier here)” is the one being followed at the moment.

Perfectly intelligent looking Buffalo will be quietly grazing alongside the Madison when one of them will look across the river and with a bellow race directly into the frigid water to get to the other side where the grass is obviously greener. Soon every member of the herd will be on the other side wondering why their privates are freezing and doesn’t this grass taste exactly like the grass they were just eating a few moments ago.

But an adage is an adage so there must be some purpose in having them. It can’t be just to wash their undercarriage. It must be a case of one of them overhearing it somewhere and not being the mental giants of the ungulate world, decided it must be important or someone smarter than him wouldn’t of said it. Why the rest of the herd follows him is easy to understand. If you were able to look inside that great shaggy head, which is nearly 3′ wide and weighs over 250 lbs. of solid bone except for the small cavity right in the center that the brain resides in, you would see a buffalo command center roughly the size of a very small clock radio. The commands to go left, right, forward but not backward, buffalo do not back up, lie down, get up, fight with whomever is nearest your cows, make small buffalo, gore the occasional tourist and have room for one or two adages, one of which is always “The grass is always greener on the other side of the (add your own barrier here)” The other might be “Stand in the middle of the road until all traffic is backed up at least 17 miles in either direction, then lie down.” That isn’t generally a well-known adage outside the park but it is a big one for the buffalo.

Spring is here and everybody is revved up to do springtime stuff and making sure that adages both young and old are followed. The buffalo do their part. If you haven’t followed up any old adages lately you can do your part by personally Googling adage, choose several and make them a part of your life. You’ll feel good and be a better person for it.

Harbinger of Spring

2016-04-21YH Blackbird6480

Harbinger. “a person or thing that announces or signals the approach of another”.

“Yellow-headed Blackbirds are the harbingers of spring”.
    If that ‘s so then we’re getting harbingered all over the place. Yellow-headed Blackbirds, their cousins the Red-winged Blackbirds, even Brewer’s Blackbirds are coming in dragging Spring behind them. There have been other signs of Spring too. Bluebirds have been seen everywhere, flitting shamelessly about, grabbing your attention with their deep shining American bluebird blueness. Even everyone’s favorite Buzzard the buteo buteo has arrived to eat the dead things you’ve been tripping over all winter that have been lying around all over the place. Spring is pretty darn great.

    We could wax poetically all day about the Yellow-headed Blackbird but when you get right down to it, they’re basically just a black bird with a yellow head, plus a little white on it’s wings. Lot of people who aren’t birders or just don’t give a flying fig about Nature would say “Yeah, So, What’s the big deal?”  But they miss the point. That’s the cool part of Nature. They’re the only bird that looks like that. And they do that harbinger thing too. So all you Nattering Nabobs of Negativity can just go pound sand. We’re glad that there are Yellow-headed Blackbirds harbingering Spring and you should be too. Remember just a few minutes ago we were up to our keesters in snow and cold, and short, ugly grey days and you were whining about Spring, how you wish it would get here and everything. Well it’s here and Yellow-headed Blackbirds are partly responsible so show a little respect.

   We have posted this image of a Yellow-headed Blackbird doing its thing. If you look very closely you can even see a few vestiges of Spring swirling and trailing behind it as it flies toward the Blackbird Country Club located over in the reeds next to the lake. It’s singles night tonight and there will be plenty of female Yellow-heads there just waiting to get hit on. Spring, it’s all good.

Spring Housekeeping


It’s Spring and time for Spring housekeeping. After a long winter with the nest exposed to the elements there are plenty of things that need looking after. For us it means throwing out all the empty Heineken bottles and those pizza boxes from behind the couch that have accumulated over the Winter. For Golden Eagles it’s time to inspect the nest, perform a D & C (dusting and cleaning) and bring in new sticks to make the nest even snazzier than it was.

Here the male is bringing in a fresh stick that will just fit over the lintel and that will allow him to cross that little item off his To Do list. There’s lots more to be done and both of the pair work together to get things spic and span before the chicks arrive.

Speaking of chicks, it’s close to that egg laying time and the eagles have been taking the  time necessary to make sure that happens. That doesn’t just occur on its own. You’ve all had the birds and bees talk and it takes plenty of one on one time to ensure there are lots of eggs in the nest. You need a bunch of eggs because eagle raising is hazardous to the young eagles health. To get a couple of eaglets all the way to fledging is dicey, you need to start with several more than you need. Dark things happen in the nest and fowl play can often occur . Those are stories best left to another time.

Lets move on to cheerier subjects. From now on these Golden eagle parents will be spending their time decimating the rabbit population to feed those growing eaglets and handling the daily chores that arise. Cleaning the nest, removing carcasses, bringing in fresh sage and soft grasses to line the nest, all the usual eagle raising stuff. Young eagles have it pretty easy at this time of their lives, not speaking to the occasional fratricide that occurs. Their job is staying more towards the top of the nest, not to be in the bottom of the pile, growing feathers, trying their new sharp beak out on their brother, watching for the parents bring in rabbits, tussling to see who is most likely to be pushed from the nest, etc. It’s Spring time in the Rockies. We’re ready, are you.

Fire In The Meadow


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.

Things They Are A Changing


Every Spring The Institute sends one of our roving biologists to Rocky Mountain National Park to see whats new and they usually come back with a report that is fairly dull and boring. I mean how many new species of Chipmunks are you going to find ? None would be the correct answer. Or what about Elk? Any lime green ones this year? No, the correct answer would also be no. As far as the type of animals available in the park that’s going to stay pretty much the same.

So what we have to look for, if we’re going to have anything new at all to report, is changes in behavior. Trends, new styles, interspecies love affairs, technical advancements, etc. And we hit pay dirt right out of the chute. It seems as if the technical advances we’ve seen in the last few years outside of the park’s boundaries have finally caught up with some of our animals in the park. Also some real life style changes that are remarkable when compared to the way these animals have lived for who knows how long, years probably.

If it weren’t for photographic evidence and the fact that this was seen by one of our most dependable and sober researchers we might have dismissed this story out of hand. But as you know by now pictures don’t lie. People writing stories about those pictures might, but the pictures themselves don’t.

We have two, that’s right two, really remarkable things happening here. The first is that many of the Mule deer in the park who are constantly looking for a better life, have taken up living in heretofore unused housing. There is now a sizable number of them occupying the caves that abound in the sides of the mountains here. Yes, difficult as it may be to believe except for some of you more gullible types, we now have a group of cave dwelling Mule deer. They have begun moving into these caves at an incredible rate, actually causing cave prices to double in just the last year and a half. Low interest rates have played a part in this cave dwelling boom but the fact that they are now occupying caves at all is the real story.

The other amazing story is the adoption of wearable technology. This trendy young male, or buck, as the ladies like to call him, is seen wearing the newest Sony TrotMan mp3 player, radio and personal location device. This is actually the latest version (2.0) of this newly offered Animal Media delivery device on the market. Besides being able to pick up K103.5, the Mulie Music station of the Rockies, or K-Buck as it’s known throughout the park, he can receive weather reports, updates on the next hunting season, Oldies but Goodies, there’s even a swap meet show every Saturday morning and tips on where is the best recycling place to shed his antlers in the spring, and with the optional blue-tooth speaker you see mounted in his other ear, everything is incredibly clear so he can hear every word and sing along with his favorite artist. This is all in stereophonic hi-fi, and of course advertising free FM.

In speaking with park officials, those that would agree to make any kind of statement at all that is, actually no one officially employed by the Park Service or any of its subsidiaries would agree to make a comment, mostly they just rolled up their windows and drove away, but this guy that hangs around the trash cans at Horseshoe Meadow said that from what he heard, this is a test program being conducted at Rocky Mountain National Park and if it goes well and they get the subscription numbers they’re looking for, this program will likely Spread to Yellowstone, Bryce and Zion, and any other park that has a sizable number of Mule deer.

As always we want to make you aware of the latest stories and unusual news coming out of the wildlife world. We’re justifiably proud to be the first to bring you this latest breaking story and want to remind you that The Institute is always on  the lookout for the those news events that  keep you abreast and informed, so that when you relate this story to your coworkers around the water cooler you’ll sound as intelligent as any one else there. Check in with us often so you are always are up to date with the most intriguing news available. Remember We’re The Institute and we’re here to help.