Bison Quest Adventure Vacation Blog

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Winter Moose February 6, 2018

Snacking in the snow.

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.

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And whooooo is looking down at me- the saw whet owl has owlets! May 19, 2015

Mama northern saw whet owl

Mama northern saw whet owl peering down at the photographer pointing a camera up at her!

Northern saw whet owlet looks out at a brand new world!

Northern saw whet owlet looks out at a brand new world!

 

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!!

 

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:

We cruise cliffs along rivers..

We fly above rivers looking in the trees (and watching out for powerlines!), check out cliffs along rivers and up drainages,

and cliffs in the mountains

and cliffs in the mountains

Golden Eagles usually nest on cliffs

Typical Golden Eagle nest with 2 chicks

Bald Eagle nest

Bald Eagle nest with adult and chick in a cottonwood tree on the river.

 

Commuting to work. A Bison Quest “I love my life!” post June 7, 2014

Commuting to work Monday morning.

Commuting to work Monday morning.

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 :)!

 

 

 

Lions and coyotes and wolves, oh my! December 16, 2013

Wolf tracks - note oval with large claws.  Big, too!

Wolf tracks – note oval shape with large claws. Big, too!

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!

Coyote track - wolf track

Coyote track, wolf track. I’ll leave you to guess which is which!

 

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.

Do I hear a camera click?

Do I hear a camera click?

Guess who's coming to dinner?

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

 

And then comes the cautious coyote… February 21, 2013

While some critters come right in to the camera, others make really sure that it’s okay first. This series shows the cautious canid starting in, then going back out, coming in again and then going back out, over and over.  It took two nights before he finally actually ate at the bones.  Even then, he would eat, then back off, then carefully come back in.  This is how a little 20 lb canid lives in a hostile world.

Cautious coyote checks it out

Cautious coyote checks it out

Moves in...

Moves in…

Moves back out

Moves back out

Moves in again with a little more confidence

Moves in again with a little more confidence

and finally, eats.

and finally, eats.

 

 
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