Friday, December 31, 2010


The word "moose" comes from the Algonquin Indians. These were native people who lived throughout the northern regions of Canada. The Algonquins called this strange looking creature mooswa. It means "twig-eater" or "the animal that strips bark off of trees." Early explorers heard this word and as they passed it on over the years, "mooswa" eventually changed into "moose." 

It is important, if not critical, to always respect wildlife -- especially animals that can be aggressive. Moose are the largest animals in the deer family. Only the Bison weighs more. As a general rule Moose are not aggressive. But, when you see how big they are and the size of their antlers, instinct tells you to be careful. So, you constantly look out for signs of uneasiness or of being disturbed by your presence. But often with Moose, you get lucky. Despite their size, they seem gentle --- or at least, uninterested in you. Moose often are willing to let you get close and willing to pose. Here is a close up of a Bull Moose I found in Colorado State Forest:

You can't quite see it from this small of a photo, but the iris and pupil are clearly visible when enlarged. 

Thursday, December 30, 2010


Looking through all my Moose photos, I realize that I have over the past two years shared most of the my moose stories with you. We have guests (who have become friends) who stay with us each year around this time. He is a "big game hunter" and this past summer took his wife with him to the Yukon in search of Moose and Caribou. Now, I have never understood hunting Moose. Once you find them they are relatively easy to shoot -- either camera or gun. But, as his wife explained, it is the best tasting meat "in the world." So, I have a better appreciation for hunting Moose, now. Still, they are a magnificent animal. Now, if you having been following my blog you already know this.  One of my favorite places is the Columbia Icefield in Alberta. So, here comes another story from the Icefield. One summer I was driving along the Icefield and there in the wide open spaces was a Bull Moose. He was casually, but purposely walking right down the middle of the Icefield. I pulled over to the side of the road and parked; then walked parallel to the Bull for nearly two miles until he turned and went into the forest. He never stopped once and never looked at me (of course Moose don't have great eyesight so he may not of even know I was there). As is my "policy" I did not try to walk closer to him because there were other people present. It also seemed that he was on a "mission" and I didn't want to disturb him. It was a great walk! Here he is:

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


There are six subspecies of Moose: a European Moose, Siberian Moose, Eastern (Northeast US and Eastern Canada, Western (north central US and  Western Canada), Alaskan (the largest subspecies), and the Shiras (the smallest and found in the Western United States). Now, when you see a Shiras Moose, I must tell you they don't look all that small. Bulls are still over 1,000 pounds. Colorado State Forest in Northwestern Colorado is an outstanding place to find these moose. The nearest "large town" is Walden, although only large enough for a Motel 3. (minor attempt at humor -- sorry). Cameron Pass which is about 100 miles west of Fort Collins and 30 miles east of Walden is a haven for moose. Willow and oak bush fill the meadows. So early morning and late afternoon there is a good bet you might find one-- or two. In early September (2009) I found three Bull Moose in the willows at daybreak. The following sequence is of one of those Bulls. First, he spots me: 

Then he decides to cross the road where there is a little more cover:

As he crosses the road he finds a "street sign" that makes a good "file" for scraping off the velvet from his antlers:

He finds one of the other Bulls and enjoys eating with him for a while:

In trying to get a better angle, I disturbed him, so he trotted toward me:

I got the message and moved away.  After a bit he became comfortable again eating while I watched:

After about two hours he walked off into the woods (behind him in the above photo). I was thrilled both being there and with my photos.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Back in 1994 and 1995 I was using an APS camera. This was before digital -- and, before I realized that the APS didn't capture the level of detail that 35 mm slide film -- or today's digital can. I was traveling to Jasper National Park. Before you get to the park there is 60 or so miles of wonderful Moose country. On this one occasion, I noticed a Moose with two calves on the other side of Yellowhead Lake. So, I parked my truck and walked down to the lakeshore to try to get a better photo. Then to my surprise the mother and two calves jumped in the lake and started swimming; not just anywhere but directly over to my side of the lake where I was standing (behind a tree). It was as if I called for them, and unlike a cat, they came right away. Watching them swim was a treat. How can an awkward looking animal, weighing 800 pounds or more swim? The answer is like this:

Monday, December 27, 2010


I am going to take you back to Jasper National Park in Alberta and Maligne Lake -- well, sort of. Maligne Lake sits at the end of, what else, Maligne Road. From there, a trail ends up at Moose Lake. On one of my trips I had not had any luck finding Moose along Maligne Road. So, I thought, "Well, they all must be at Moose Lake." Why else would they call it Moose Lake? So, I hiked up the trail, got to the top of the hill and there was Moose Lake right in front of me. There also was a Moose right in front of me. I was already so close, that I just sat down and watched as she ate the aquatic vegetation along the lake's edge. She wasn't bothered by me and kept working her way along the lakeside. Finally, she was no more than 20 feet away. (I am still sitting just where I was when I first saw her). What a treat! Here are a few photos:

The above photo was taken when I first saw her.

This photo was taken after she had worked her way around to the very front of me.

Then finally, in the above photo, she had passed, but still content on eating while I was watching.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


On my first trip to Colorado State Forest in search of Moose I wasn't having much luck. Finally, at one of the road's end I came upon a female moose. We played peek-a-boo in the woods for a while. I only got a couple of photos, though. I ran out of film, and had to drive to Steamboat Springs (about 60 miles away) to get more film. Once again, the move to digital has been a welcome advantage. The second photo is one of Christine's favorite photos:

Thursday, December 23, 2010


I love this story. Probably means more to me, but .... It was one of my first photo trips into Alberta, Canada, probably 1995 or so. On the way I stopped at Wells Gray in British Columbia. Oh, by the way I should say in was January and the temperature was minus 10 degress F. I slept in the back of my truck where I had made a bed. When I woke up in the morning I tried to brush my teeth but found the toothpaste completely frozen. In fact, everything was completely frozen ----- except what was in my ice chest!!!! After that, I started putting things like toothpaste in my ice chest. Anyway, on to Alberta. I was not having a great deal of luck finding anything. Of course, Grizzly Bears are hibernating, Black Bears asleep in their dens, so I am looking for Bighorn Sheep, Caribou, Moose, and Elk. I was driving up to Maligne Lake (Jasper National Park) and as I was looking through the trees that lined the road I saw a brown spot in the middle of a snow covered meadow. I pulled over and walked through the trees and it was a female Moose just lying in the snow.  I trudged through about two feet of snow taking a photo every four or five steps (thinking that might be the last photo before seeing her "backside.") When I got to about 30 feet I stopped and sat down in the snow and took several photos. This was before digital so I was a little more judicious with my shot selection. Then I just sat and admired her beauty. I had never been this close to a Moose. Her coat around her shoulders looked like sable, absolutely gorgeous -- not, a descriptive term I have ever her before -- or, again relative to Moose. But, to me: gorgeous:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

HOOFED MAMMALS: Mountain Goat Stories-VII

Sometimes on the way to a specific place where you expect -- well, hope -- to see a particular animal you see it unexpectedly. Such was the case while traveling over the Going-To-The-Sun Highway (Glacier National Park). It's not that I wasn't expecting to see a Mountain Goat. After all, they are in the area. It's just that the road is so traveled that I didn't expect to see one so close to the road. But, just over the summit, there were three Mountain Goats, feeding on the grassy hillside. But what got my attention was they appeared to be head toward a waterfall. So, I am thinking that will be a photo.  I was traveling with my in-laws and asked them to drop me off while they looked for a parking place. They thoughtfully and graciously did so. Here was the result:

Nice background. Luck brought me to the right spot at the right time.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

HOOFED MAMMALS: Mountain Goat Stories-VI

The Columbia Icefields has brought me a lot of luck. Here are several photos taken at various times from various mountains along the Icefields: In the first photo I am above the Mountain Goat looking down. In the background you can see far below the tops of 150 foot fir trees.

The next photo is a close-up of the previous photo:

In the following photo taken a little later in the year you can see the Mountain Goat beginning to shed his coat. Again I am above looking down. In this case we are very near the tree line.

Here, above the tree line, I was fairly close, but the Mountain Goat was distracted be something to my right.

Here I am below the Mountain Goat who is a thousand feet or more below the tree line. While he is a the ledge, the drop is only about 30 feet to where I am standing:

This next one is one of my favorites. He looks so regal. If the African Lion is the "King of the Jungle" then the Mountain Goat is "King of the Mountain." As a general rule Mountain Goats stay far above the range of its potential predator the Mountain Lion. Most Mountain Goat deaths come from Golden Eagles that fly close enough to cause Mountain Goats to lose their footing. (True more of the young goats or kids than adults).

And lastly, quite close and showing off his beautiful coat:

Monday, December 20, 2010

HOOFED MAMMALS: Mountain Goat Stories-V

Finding Mountains Goats with their young kids is a delight. Baby animals are just like baby humans, they are cute, playful, and cuddly. About 70 miles south of Jasper you come to the Columbia Icefields. The Icefields is a flat "straightaway"  that varies between 100 to 300 yards wide and runs for several miles. It gets an average of 275 inches of snowfall per year. There are eight major glaciers feeding the Icefields. There are eleven mountains all of about 12,000 feet lining both sides of the Icefields. The Icefield sits atop a "triple" Continental Divide. The Athabasca River and the North Saskatchewan River and the tributaries of the Columbia River all originate in the Columbia Icefield. So, the Columbia River  eventually flows into the Pacific Ocean dividing Washington State from Oregon. The Athabasca River ultimately arrives in the Arctic Ocean and the Saskatchewan ultimately in the Hudson Bay and thus North Atlantic Ocean. This is the Canadian Rockies at its finest. You have a clear view of the Athabasca Glacier from the road that parallels the Icefields. I once saw a big Bull Moose casually strolling down the middle of the Icefields, but I'll leave that to another day. And, if you recall, I told you of the story of the Coyote strolling down the middle of the Icefields just a couple weeks ago. On another occasion, though,  I stopped along side the road and got out to admire the scenery. At the very top of one mountain cliff I saw what looked like a Mountain Goat. I got out my binoculars and confirmed the sighting. So, I decided this would be a great place for lunch. I made myself a sandwich, cottage cheese, chips, poured a drink and waited. After an hour, and a delicious sandwich, I took another look through the binoculars. Not only had the Mountain Goat come halfway down the cliff, I now could clearly see a baby carefully descending the cliff behind its mom. After another hour wait, the Mountain Goat and Kid arrived at the bottom, providing me wonderful photos and memories:

Sunday, December 19, 2010

HOOFED MAMMALS: Mountain Goat Stories-IV

Occasionally, Mountain Goats will find a "mineral lick" which then becomes an annual trek and gives photographers (and tourists) an opportunity to see these magnificent animals. I am sure there is a physiological explanation -- maybe like our taking vitamins -- but the soil in these areas is rich in minerals.  One such "mineral lick" is just past Athabasca Falls about 20 miles south of Jasper, Alberta. Like all animals you want to respect them -- and their deadly ability to defend themselves and their offspring. And, again the answer is make sure the animal knows you are present and are not interested in harming them in any way. Maintain a safe distance and viola:

I love how the young kid's face is more round, while the adult is more elongated. This is also true of Moose. If this young kid wasn't white, you could easily think it was a Bison calf.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

HOOFED MAMMALS: Mountain Goat Stories-III

Sometimes you get lucky. I had made the trip up Mount Evans, Colorado several times looking for Mountain Goats. But this time I was lucky. I came across about 50 Mountain Goats in a meadow at about 13,000 feet. I not only could see them, but could hike down into the meadow to get close. This requires some forethought. Not just which is the easiest route, but which is the least likely to disturb the Goats as I transcend the mountain. A very slow serpentine pattern seemed to be the best course of action. After about 20 minutes I got close enough to get a dozen or so:

I continued my serpentine pattern until I got within about 25 - 30 feet away. Then sat down on a rock (similar to the ones you see in the first photo). Once I was sitting, they seemed quite comfortable and actually decided to sit as well:

After another 30 minutes some of the little "kids" got up and started walking around. Not any closer toward me -- but, wandering as kids do. This was my favorite photo of the day:

You can't really tell from the photo but the kids are on the edge, and between them and the large rocks behind them is a drop of a thousand feet or more. I loved all the wildflowers, even though it was 2500 feet above the treeline.

Friday, December 17, 2010

HOOFED MAMMALS: Mountain Goat Stories-II

The search for Mountain Goats requires some research and prior planning. First, they are only found in North America and were historically only in the Cascade and Rocky Mountain Ranges in the lower 48. Populations have been introduced into the Olympic Mountains in Washington, and in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado with moderate success. But those populations are fairly small. As a general rule Mountain Goats stay above the tree line but will migrate to lower elevations at times during the year. When above the tree line it becomes problematic to get close enough for a good photo. I thought I would show you some of those challenges today. All of these photos were taken with a 400 mm super telephoto lens. First, is at Grays Peak in Colorado. You can barely see an adult Mountain Goat with a kid right on the skyline. In the lower part of the photo you can see three other Mountain Goats:

In the next photo, taken at Torrey Mountain, Colorado you can see six Mountain Goats foraging on vegetation in the middle of the photo. 

In the next photo taken in Yellowstone, you almost have to trust me. There is a single Mountain Goat in the very center of the photo. The larger "white" spots are snow. 

Okay, maybe you can't see it. I'll zoom in closer. I left the patch of snow in so you could get the Mountain Goat's position better:

The next photo is a herd of maybe 10-15 foraging on a grassy shelf. The photo is from Mount Coleman in Alberta.

My intent in showing these photos is not just to tell the story of how difficult it can be finding certain animals, but also getting close enough once you do find them to get a good photo. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

HOOFED MAMMALS: Mountain Goat Stories

I love Mountain Goats! Let's start with what amazing climbers they are. Their feet are well suited for climbing steep rocky slopes with pitches of more than 60 degrees. In fact, in the photo below it almost looks like a 90 degree pitch. Their feet have inner pads that provide traction and cloven hooves that can be spread apart as needed; and dewclaws that are sharp to keep them from slipping. Several years ago I was traveling in Glacier National Park, Montana and came across a single Mountain Goat drinking water from the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. I watched in amazement when he turned and started up the cliff (from which he probably had come down):

I found a way to descend my side of the canyon wall to get a closer photo. It wasn't quite as easy for me, probably because I don't have cloven hoofs and dewclaws. Here's the best I could do:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

CARNIVORES: Grizzly Stores Part III

I should probably tell you my first Grizzly Story, although there is no photo. I was fly fishing with my youngest daughter Ashley. I had taken her on a fishing trip into some of the back country lakes in British Columbia. In this case it happened to be Plateau Lake. To get there required using a very difficult and challenging road -- 4x4 high clearance and winch required. We were the only ones at the lake. We got out in our float tubes just at dawn the first morning. The water was still and the mist coming off the lake provided an idyllic setting. We were in the shallow end fishing up against the shoreline. Ashley was about 75 yards away from me when I heard a thump, thump through the woods. To my astonishment it was a fully grown male Grizzly Bear. Since Ashley had the camera I couldn't take a photo. I waved my arms to get Ashley's attention so she could come closer and take the photo. A minute passed and she was no closer to me (and the bear). In fact she may have been further away. So, I wave my arms again signaling her to come with the camera. This time I got the Grizzly's attention. I was in water about three feet deep, and the Grizzly Bear was no more than 10 feet away from me. As he stood up my mouth and eyes opened. This was the most amazing and beautiful animal I had ever seen in my life. He was 8 feet tall and probably weighed well over 1000 pounds! I was awestruck. The Grizzly could have easily waded out in the water a couple of feet and done what ever he wanted with me. I could had hit him with my fly rod I was that close. But, no, he wasn't interested in me. He went back down on all fours and "waddled" up the shoreline about 50 yards and then disappeared into the words. It was only then that my heart started pounding. It was truly a one-in-a-lifetime experience. 

So, I don't leave you today without a photo, here are a couple of Grizzlies I caught in Yellowstone late one Spring:

Friday, December 10, 2010

CARNIVORES: Grizzly Stores Part II

Back in 2003 I was in Yellowstone when I came across fifty or so cars lined along the road. I immediately pulled over at the nearest spot not even knowing what people were looking at. When I got to the scene it was two medium sized Grizzly Bears eating an Elk that probably died during the winter. There were a dozen or more professional photographers, amateurs, families with children, etc. I stayed  for about an hour. While I knew that sooner or later the Grizzlies would get up and walk away, I decided not to stay longer. By this time there were over a hundred people and two or three rangers so getting around wasn't easy. This is often the Yellowstone story. And, here are some of my photos:

I am off now to Flagstaff, picking up daughter Ashley at the Phoenix airport (who just landed a job on Wall Street -- not, financial, but with an architectural firm). We are all going to celebrate grand-daughter Ruby's birthday in Flag. So, a couple days off for me. See you Tuesday.