We have resident moose here at the ranch on a year round basis, and it’s not uncommon to see them striding past the kitchen window. You would think that, with such long legs and oddly proportioned head and body, they would look ungainly, but they most definitely do not. They have a grace that makes their long legged pace look almost relaxed and easy and they cover distance at a remarkably fast rate. Their long legs lift them up above the snow, and they don’t find it the obstacle that deer do. So, while the deer and elk leave our high mountain ranch in the winter time, the moose are content to move from one drainage to another, crossing over the ridge that our home and bison ranch sits on, and striding down the other side. While they eat substantial amounts of aquatic vegetation in the summer months, spending long hours in willow thickets and streams, their winter diet is more accessible on the mountain slopes and south exposures where aspen, fivewillow and chokecherry, snowberry, snowbrush and other shrubby offerings stick up above the snow. This fella is using his front hooves to paw through the snow to reach vegetation hiding away there.
There’s a reason that bison have such big heads (a bull head can weigh up to 200 lbs). They can forage through 1- 2 feet of snow by using their head to push snow aside to reach any vegetation underneath.
Here Gigi is finding some green grass under the snow that grew as a result of our fall rains .
So how can you tell what a nocturnal critter is doing all that time in the nest box? Why, working at making one of the cutest babies in the world. And when the baby owlet peeks out, you know everything must have gone very well indeed!!
Bison – how do you tell them apart? We’ll start at the beginning with the calves and their horns! January 12, 2015
When guests come to visit, Craig introduces them to all of the herd cows by name. And that leads everyone to ask, “How can you tell them apart?” Well, the simple answer is the same as your answer to this question, “How do you tell your friends from each other?” Because they all have individual characteristics that are unique to them. Of course, if you aren’t used to looking for those characteristics, they’re hard to see (I have Caucasian friends that tell me they can’t tell Asians apart, and I have Asian friends who tell me that all white folks look the same :). It’s just a matter of knowing how to look for those differences. So I figured I’d do a series showing how we identify our buffs!
And since horns are probably the characteristic that most folks look at first, we’ll start there with a look at age classes. And to do that, let’s begin at the beginning. The calves!
The one sleeping on the left is a newborn. If you could touch the top of her head, you would feel the tiniest little bumps that will become her horns. And you would really feel some horns when her mom caught you doing that!
The next calf picture (sniffing my fingers) has little horn buds that are just showing up above the curly wool.
The little black faced “red” calf is about 4 months old,
and the last is a six month old calf. I think their little horns make them look like devils!
We thoroughly enjoyed Jo Piazza’s visit and resulting article about our Bison Quest Wildlife Vacations!
Helicopter Eagle Nest survey – how we do it. June 8, 2014
For those who are curious, here’s how we try to determine the number of golden eagle nests in an area (for those concerned about tax dollars, these aren’t. This is money from oil and gas leases, which is fitting since they are some of the issues causing the problems.)
Golden eagles need either cliffs or very large trees to nest in (Bald eagles nest primarily in really big trees near water). So to find Golden Eagles (the primary target of this study) here’s what we do:
Get up in the morning, grab a bite to eat, and run out to the pasture to catch a helicopter to work. We’re doing Golden Eagle surveys this week :)!
Bison Quest Drive In – We drive in and the bison calf jumps on! January 5, 2014
This youngster isn’t big on waiting for the hay to come to him. Once we arrive, he jumps on the trailer and rides while I drive. Craig throws hay off of the front of the bale while the youngster snacks on the back. It’s a buffalo sort of “Drive In Dining.”
Lions and coyotes and wolves, oh my! December 16, 2013
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.