Tetons & Yellowstone - p
22 January 2006
We're staying in a warm cozy cabin at Elkhorn Lodge in
Cooke City, just east of the park. A special bonus here is the large flock of Rosy
Finches that swarm down to owner Suzy's bird feeder each morning. All appear to be
the Gray-crowned subspecies. They swirl up into the sky whenever a snowmobile
passes, but quickly return to feed. The snowmobile, by the way, gets my vote as the
noisiest, smelliest contraption in the history of technology.
23 January 2006
We've had no luck photographing wolves, but the
trip has produced nice studies of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep. At the National Elk
Refuge, we enjoyed watching a mixed herd of about 25 rams and ewes atop Miller
Butte. Here in the Lamar Valley, 3 rams are wintering together on the cliffs above
Soda Butte Creek. The male shown here grazed along the ridge top, then wandered down
and began to graze on the slope above another male.
For some time
all was peaceful, then without warning the upper ram turned toward the lower one, arched
his body, and reared up slightly. The lower ram did the same. Then they hurled
toward each other with amazing speed - the collision of their horns produced a loud
"whack" that echoed across the valley.
Since the rut was over months ago, and no ewes are around, head-butting
among rams now seems to be a way of maintaining the social hierarchy, or perhaps a way for
the younger male to move up in the standings.
head-butting, the two combatants would occasionally stand side by side for a moment.
Then the challenger would wander away to graze and paw at the snow before making
Unlike cats and dogs, whose fighting entails by much snarling and grimacing, the
rams did not show the least emotion during the fight. They reminded me of wind-up
toys, just doing what they're programmed to do.