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Elk, Eagles, and an equinox moon

I took a hike up Little Bald Ridge to see the Bighorn Sheep.  They’re usually there in the winter.  On the way I spied a herd of about 700 elk grazing on the hillside.  It was a gorgeous day after a light snow.  The trek up there can be hard if the snow is deep.  Usually in March it is.  But we’ve had so little snow this year, interspersed with warm days where the snow has melted off, that only a few inches were on the ground.

Elk herd resting mid day

Large elk herd

(Here’s is a video I took from inside of my cabin the other day when the herd came through at dusk)

By the time I got to the top of the ridgeline, there were no sheep to be found.  I walked and glassed all along the top without any luck.  They must have gone elsewhere.

An immature Golden Eagle played on the currents.  I’d seen a nesting pair last year up here.  The Eagles like these cliffs to nest in.  I supposed this was one of their offspring.  Hope he finds a mate this year.

Valley after a light snow

Although I found no sheep, I did find an elk kill in the valley. The kill was made right at the fence line of the local ranch.  At first I wasn’t sure if the elk had gotten caught trying to jump the fence.  This happened last year.  But the ranch manager assured me it was a kill, although we don’t know from what.   He hadn’t seen any wolves on it, and the last kill I’d seen the wolves had been there all week, nibbling.

I parked at dusk close bye and watched, wondering if any wolves might come around.  The crows and magpies were going to town on it.  Suddenly, the immature eagle swooped in and all the smaller birds flew away.  I watched the eagle pick at the remains.

Eagle on kill

Then an odd thing happened.  A group of 5 yearling cows came trotting over.  The eagle, feeling threatened, fled.  The young cows edged slowly over to the carcass and one by one, sniffed at it.  A big mama cow walked over.  Standing right by the carcass, she mooed at the yearlings, over and over, as if to shoo them away.  I liked to imagine her as the wise cow elder, telling these yearlings “If you don’t watch your p’s and q’s, you might end up like that.”

J__, the ranch hand, and I chatted on the road as the crescent moon rose in the equinox evening.

“I saw those cows going over towards the kill and thought I should check on what’s going on with them.  I used to take care of a herd of Bison and I’ve seen them do the same thing—go sniff out a carcass.  Strange.”

Immature Golden eagle

It was a perfect equinox day and night, or is that redundant?

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One Response

  1. It’s a mystery: I’ve seen both elk & deer sniff at gutpiles, carcasses, and bones. Sort of an “Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him well moment.” Except that I’ve also shot deer & elk and, after just a moment of fright, seen the rest of the herd resume feeding as if nothing had happened.

    Like

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