Wondering about the images? Here are the stories. Each image has its own unique tale and brief description of the circumstances surrounding the moment in time with a note about the species.
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Great Horned Owls are found everywhere. Typically females are larger than males. They perch high in quiet, secluded habitats taking up residence in trees that include deciduous, coniferous and mixed forests. Their preferences are areas of open habitat where they often hunt and woods where they tend to roost and nest. I found these owlets on the grassland located in the South Platte River basin on the Colorado Eastern Plains. They were very cooperative and stayed on their perch for hours!
Fox on the Rocks
On many trips to photograph wildlife in and around Yellowstone National Park red fox seem to elude me. When this guy (or girl!) leapt out of the grasses and onto a large boulder, I couldn’t believe my luck! Red fox are social animals, primarily feed on rodents, and sometimes displace or even kill smaller predators. On this occasion a vole was the lunch of choice. This higher vantage point gives the fox an added benefit and odds are good that their stealthy hunting methods will ensure success.
On a recent trip to our first national park we found a coyote traveling alongside the road in search of a meal. Typically this time of year coyotes are in pursuit of voles or other rodents just beneath the layer of snow and ice. With their keen sense of hearing a coyote can locate the smallest of critters under winter's adverse conditions. Once a likely meal is found, the coyote will stalk its prey and pounce head first into the snow to grab the unsuspecting mammal.
Badgers at Play
Did you know there are eleven species of badgers? Males are called boars, females are sows and young badgers are identified as cubs. Their lower jaws are articulated to the upper, firmly locked into long cavities of the skull so dislocation of the jaw is all but impossible. This enables badgers to maintain their hold with the utmost tenacity. Siblings practice fighting skills while mom hunts. This rehearsal prepares them with the necessary skills to survive on their own after leaving the den.
Wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park in 1995. It was not without controversy and to this day it remains a heated debate. Wolf packs in the Greater Yellowstone area continually have their own disagreements-commonly over life or death issues. I was in the right place at the right time with seconds to capture this member of the Canyon Pack. Wolf watchers reported that two packs had just ‘collided’ and the alpha female seen here was seeking refuge after that conflict.
Sandhill in Shadow
Along the Central Flyway you can visit Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. It is one in our system of 561 refuges spanning all 50 states, the territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and the U.S. Minor Outlying Islands. Sandhill cranes, synonymous with the refuge, forage in open prairies, grasslands and wetlands on their migration from breeding grounds as far north as Canada south to Mexico. This sandhill crane was landing for the evening to feed.
Pronghorn Antelope are indigenous to interior western and central North America. They are the fastest land mammal in the Western Hemisphere. Top speeds can clock up to 55 mph. Each "horn" of the pronghorn is composed of a slender blade of bone that grows from the front of the skull, forming a permanent core. Skin covering the bony core develops into a keratinous sheath which is shed and regrown on an annual basis. A family band travels terrain at elevations varying between 3,000-5,900 ft.
Air temperature was 19 degrees, much less with the howling wind. Near the junction of the Lamar River and Soda Butte Creek I was delighted to see tenacity was paying off. A family of river otters were staging a show as they searched the waters for a meal. It was delightful to watch and learn from these amazing animals. They are tireless and right at home in the frigid waterways spanning the park. The whole family participated in the games but only these two stayed long enough for a shot.
The mule deer is indigenous to western North America and is named for its ears, which are large like those of a mule. Mule deer are generally associated with land west of the Missouri River, and more specifically with the Rocky Mountain region of North America. Mule deer females usually give birth to two fawns, although if it is their first pregnancy, they often have just one. This alert yearling must be aware of its surroundings and keep hidden from predators to survive.
The territory of a yellow-bellied marmot is about 4 to 7 acres including a number of summer burrows. Marmots choose to dig burrows under rocks where predators are less likely to see them. They live at elevations typically above 6,500 feet in the western United States. Marmots reside in colonies of about ten to twenty individuals. Each male digs a burrow soon after awakening from hibernation. When a marmot sees a predator, it whistles to warn all other marmots in the area then hides nearby.
Hallo Bay Bear Camp, Katmai National Park was my second stop on a month long trip in our 49th state, Alaska, to photograph brown bears. It was a unique place to visit. Early August the bears are fattening up for the approaching winter. Their coats are full, a time wildlife photographers love to shoot. These two juveniles followed each other in and out of the tidal flats searching for their next salmon meal. The occasional squabble occurred over a catch.
Visiting Yellowstone National Park always affords photo opportunities. Visiting in the winter makes the effort extra special. This lone red fox was marching to his own beat, crossing a snow drift near the Yellowstone River in a never ending search for his next meal.
During the month of August, bison in the Greater Yellowstone Area are typically in rut and willing to do whatever it takes to find a female in estrus. They use their keen sense of smell to assess if the timing is right. Within Grand Teton NP you can watch as this play of power takes form. In this image both bison are sizing up the situation as sexual tension elevates.
Both ewes and rams have horns, but the ram’s horns are much larger and sometimes are fully curled. These horns are used to clash or battle against competing bighorn sheep to achieve dominance. These two rams were sizing each other up, making it appear as if one was going to slash the other's throat. In addition the ram in front is displaying the classic “lip curl” used to sense whether or not a ewe is in estrus and receptive to breeding.
Elk or Wapiti are one of the largest species of the deer family in the world. Elk range in forest and forest-edge habitat, feeding on grasses, plants, leaves, and bark. They are ruminants and therefore have four-chambered stomachs. During a Yellowstone winter you can find them browsing on willows and aspens. As winter brings deep snow, burying nutritional plants, animals migrate to meadows and forest areas where accessing food is much easier.