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Competition Between Carnivores

January 2nd, 2016

Competition Between Carnivores

Here is a link to my national geographic blog post from December 2015. The blog explores the topic of competition between pumas and black bears.

http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2015/12/30/competition-between-carnivores-untangling-the-relationship-between-pumas-black-bears-and-deer/

Wild Cats

January 24th, 2009

Wild Cats

The wild cats of the world are some of the most difficult and elusive animals to photograph. The wild cats worldwide include Lions, Leopards, Cheetahs, and Tigers, as well as the species found in the United States: Cougar, Bobcat, Jaguar, and Lynx.

Most of my photography of wild cats has occurred through the use of motion cameras. I find a well-used trail, scent post, or kill site with food still cached away, and set up a camera. When the camera detects motion, a shot is taken. I have been able to take many great shots of Bobcats using these methods, though to be sure I always end up with a lot of photos of tree branches swaying and gusts of wind blowing, as well as many photos of other animals (a friend of mine recently captured photos of a Snowy Owl on an island in Maine using a motion camera).

Recently I had an experience that was quite a highlight for me. While out for a walk I saw a Bobcat hunting in an open field along the edge of pine woodlands. The Bobcat eventually moved off into the surrounding woods, and I quickly lost sight of her. Even though they were open woodlands, the Bobcat was able to merge with the darkness and shadow and effectively disappear from my eyes. Fortunately for me, the birds of the forest have much sharper eyes than mine.

A pair of Stellarís Jays and a Black-billed Magpie were nervous about the Bobcat, and followed it through the woods creating quite a ruckus. Listening to the birds, I was able to figure out in which way the Bobcat was headed, so I cut way out around where she and birds were and when I was roughly 1000 feet ahead of them I turned and started making my way towards the Bobcat, hoping that our paths would meet.

When I was able to see the birds I started moving very cautiously, and soon spotted the Bobcat grooming in a thicket of young pines. I crawled forward inch by inch, pausing when the bobcat paused from grooming to look around. I was able to make the portrait shot I was looking for, and observe the Bobcatís behavior up close. She eventually finished grooming and moved on further into the woods, hunting once again. When she had gone I measured how far I had been from the Bobcat, 16 feet. I whispered thanks and walked a different way home.

Autumn In Colorado

November 19th, 2008

Autumn in Colorado is a time of abundance.

This abundance comes in many ways. The first I think of are the plentiful food supplies for animals, and the second sign I think of are the large flocks of migratory birds passing through Colorado on their way south. As a wildlife photographer the sign of abundance I most look forward to are the abundance of opportunities for action photographs provided by the rut.

The rut is the autumn ritual of courtship and mating by ungulates (Deer, Elk, Moose, Bighorn Sheep, etc.), and Colorado is one of the best places in North America to observe and photograph these demonstrations. Each chance I get I head north to Rocky Mountain National Park to try my hand at Elk bugling and Bighorn Sheep battling, or stay more local to my Boulder home and go to some local hotspots for the sparring and strutting of Mule Deer.

This last weekend on a day out at Rocky Mountain National Park I witnessed my first fight of the year between Mule Deer bucks. I had been watching sparring matches between bucks for the last six weeks, but I could tell right away there was a difference between this battle and the sparring matches that now seemed like friendly shoving matches between the best of friends.

The fight was between a 16-point buck and an 8-point buck. Both deer were relatively the same size, with the difference being in the size of their antlers, and their attitude. They locked antlers and began thrashing about, the sound of their antlers and their deep grunts rattling through the forest.

Surprisingly the 8-pointer was the better fighter of the two. He soon enough pushed the 16-point buckís face onto the ground, and then turned the buck onto its back. With this display the 8-point buck showed his dominance, and as soon as the 16-pointer regained his balance he broke the connection of their antlers and ran. Just to be clear of who was in charge, the 8-point buck ran after the 16-pointer jabbing itís antlers into the haunches of its defeated fleeing foe, before strutting back to the herd of nine females.

Each year I look forward to challenges and opportunities of autumn, and each year it seems, this year included, my appreciation and respect grow deeper for its ancient rituals and rites. Alas, I was not able to get a photograph of the fight due to the thickness of the trees. Maybe next timeÖ