Ok, the other day I shared a mountain lion track and talked about what makes a cat track distinctive. Well, a few days later we found a very excited herd of bison when we went to feed. They were snorting and bucking and kicking up their heels, quite literally. That happens with them, and sometimes for no particular reason except that they feel good, but this time was a little different. Like they were proud of themselves or something. It wasn’t until my walk that I found out what had gotten them riled. Wolf tracks crossing through our aspen drainage. I followed the tracks and found that, while the wolf pretty much made a straight shot across the ranch, all the other ranch inhabitants certainly didn’t ignore him. I found where a deer had bounded across the wolf tracks and the buffs had milled around behind the wolf and completely obliterated the his tracks in other places. It didn’t look like the buffs chased the wolf, and he certainly hadn’t chased them, it was more like the buffs wound around behind the wolf and kept him on the move. I also found a set of coyote tracks that came up to the wolf tracks. Stopped (probably sniffed them), then began to follow the wolf tracks – the opposite direction the wolf was going! That coyote’s mom didn’t raise no dummy!! So very cool!
Guess who’s coming to dinner – a bull elk invites himself! December 9, 2013
I really LOVE game cameras – they are just so darn much fun. It’s sort of like getting a Christmas morning every time you go check them :). We knew someone was eating the hay (ok, we knew what was eating it too – elk tracks are pretty hard to mistake ) but we didn’t know it was this big fella.
When it comes to tracks, mountain lions are just a cat. But bigger. December 7, 2013
As many of you know, I love snow tracking (ok, when one lives at 6000′ in the mountains of Montana, one better figure out ways to enjoy snow!). And while there are always tracks to follow in the snow, there’s something exciting about seeing big cat tracks just a few hours after they’ve been made here on the ranch. (Makes one look up at the trees and over one’s shoulder as well :). And these tracks were just perfect for seeing exactly what identifies these as cat tracks. Round and round. Round toes, round print, no claws. My little housecats have tracks that look just like these. Only lots, lots smaller. I’ll compare these to some canid tracks in the next blog.
As we continue to get bigger critters – add a golden eagle! February 4, 2013
Another young ‘un, this immature golden is happy to find such a handy snack! First, he checks it over….
Then he takes a bite. What a deal for a growing youngster.
First Magpies, then Ravens and – a Goshawk on carrion! February 1, 2013
While carrion isn’t the usual for Goshawks, they’re certainly not above taking advantage of fresh goodies. And when you’re a young of the year, now on your own, you are happy to take what you can get!
What animal is next? Fun with a game camera. January 15, 2013
We LOVE game cameras! Every couple of days we sneak in, swap SD cards and eagerly load the pics onto the computer. It’s like Christmas – you never know what you’re going to get :)! So here’s a series of one of our game cameras. First, it’s the little guys. Magpies are almost always the first to find the goodies.
Why Bison Quest? January 11, 2013
Come face to face with nature and wildlife in an eco friendly vacation. Live among bison and study wildlife alongside our biologists-then use what you learn to save our wild world.
Snow stories – end of the road January 8, 2013
Sometimes the snow stories are funny, and sometimes they’re sad. But they’re always interesting. Here I can see the tracks of a cottontail rabbit making it’s way across the top of the snow.
I followed these tracks which disappeared in a set of wing tracks. End of the road for the bunny and dinner for the owl.
Snow stories – the lion doesn’t sleep tonight. December 18, 2012
Ghosts. And like ghosts, our lions are rarely seen. But there is a reason that “our” does have their fawns in the yard every spring, and keep them there throughout the summer. Although we don’t often see our lions we, like our deer, know that they are here. Because our ghosts leave tracks. Snow stories. Gotta love it!
Because everything dies. December 10, 2012
It’s the time of year when we field harvest some of our buffalo and I invariably get the question, “I know you love them, so how can you live with them and still kill them?” Those are honest questions and here’s my best answer.
“Because everything dies. Every thing.”
As a biologist, as well as for me philosophically, it’s not the fact that things die that we should focus on – after all, every one of us will do that – it’s the quality of life and the quality of death that matters. Because we do love our buffalo. And we do care about them. And we do eat them. Those are not mutually exclusive ideas. In fact, they are the basis of life around us. We all eat living things.
To us, that means that our bison are treated with gentleness and respect and honor. They are never penned and fattened, but are allowed to roam wherever they want on the almost one square mile they call home. It means that calves are never separated from their mothers, that there is no pain of castration, dehorning, branding, squeeze chutes, or electric prods – often a part of “traditional” livestock raising. It means that we can live on a ranch that is home to other wildlife including predators, where we can encourage native vegetation rather than introduced plants, and basically run the ranch in an environmentally friendly manner, all while living with that most amazing of creatures – the buffalo.
Yes, there is a cost to that, in both time and money. It means that we have to spend hours trying to coax a buff onto a trailer instead of forcing it, that there is never a semi-truck crowded full of our bison and trucked long distances to a central feedlot and slaughterhouse with it’s horrors, and it means marketing the meat ourselves, wholesale, one animal at a time, instead of in large commercial quantities. But it also means that when death does come to our buffs, it is done instantaneously, painlessly, and without bringing fear. And most of all, it means that each bison is treated as an individual with emotions and feelings that deserve respect. I wish we all had it so good.