Monday, June 29, 2009

Wild Life

Wyoming is huge. Huge, as in massive. Florida is huge too, but to put things in perspective, Florida is 66,000 square miles while Wyoming is 98,000 square miles. If you’re not surprised yet, then check this out: from the last census taken, Florida has 18,000,000 people. Wyoming on the other hand is just below 550,000.

I think my favorite thing about the Cowboy State is the space; the romantic, healthy kind of space: rivers, mountains, streams, rocky outcroppings, sagebrush, aspen groves and fields of wildflowers. This is not to say that Florida doesn’t have beautiful, natural areas. To set the record straight I am completely infatuated with my flat homeland, but with the presence of so much unoccupied land Wyoming exudes the essence of uninhibited, untamed wildness.

Over the past three days I’ve been blown away by the array of wildlife here on the ranch. The A Bar A could even be considered a wildlife sanctuary as it's managed with a conservationist’s mentality, lending itself to close encounters.

Saturday, I went hiking with two of my teens from the program and we came across a herd of five big horn sheep. Resting under the shade of a ponderosa pine, they casually gathered when we approached. The light was poor for photographing but I finally managed to get a portrait of the famed uni-horned sheep.

On the way back, a male blue grouse strutted and cooed in search of a mate.

That evening while fishing on the river, I looked to my right and only fifteen feet away a family of beavers was sharing a leafy branch. Unfortunately, my camera was elsewhere.

The next morning on the way to breakfast I spotted a female moose and her two calves resting in the willows. The male, not too far away, approached slowly and I moved cautiously for cover. Moose can be extremely dangerous when they feel threatened or challenged, especially when the young are involved, but I felt safe behind the buck-rail that bordered the river. This was my first encounter with a moose and I couldn’t get over how weird she looked. Somewhere mixed between a giraffe, horse, and cow, moose appear as though they wound up on the wrong-end of some twisted science experiment. They’re beautiful though, in a funny way.

Later on in the afternoon while taking pictures of the kids playing in the pool, I heard loud screams coming from the golf course. Looking up, I noticed a small black bear lumbering towards the ranch road. Quickly, I set off on a dead sprint to head the bear off and get a candid photo amidst the sagebrush. Generally, black bears are far less-aggressive and smaller in size than brown or grizzly bears, so I felt comfortable pursuing the animal. Not too long into my endeavor, however, I heard the manager yelling at me to come back. Unfortunately, despite several more encounters, this would be the only photo I made of our friend the bear.

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