Tag Archives: Nature

What Does The Fox Say?

After watching this mother fox diligently tend to her young, I think she says “I’m exhausted!”

On and off for many years in the Spring, red foxes have made a den in the rocky ledges of friends’ rural backyard in the Kansas City. This year, there are two adults and six kits. A fox family consists of a male and female adult, plus their offspring, although sometimes a female from the previous litter will help. The gender of the second adult in this family wasn’t clear. The kits (also known as pups or cubs) may be about three weeks old in these photographs, taken April 5, 2014. They are gray and roundish, but are quickly turning red like their parents. Last year when I saw young foxes in early May, they already looked like smaller versions of the adults.

The foxes are very active in this rural neighborhood, and my friend Pat has seen all sorts of behavior, including adults carrying prey, burying it in leaves and then retrieving it; carrying tiny kits in their mouths; nursing the kits; and grooming behavior. Earlier, one of the adult foxes spent about two hours screaming as he ran around the area, possibly as a way to announce his territory. The screaming was so loud that neighbors called out of concern that something terrible was happening, Pat said.
About Foxes.

Click on a photograph to see a full-size version and begin a slideshow with descriptions.

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Filed under Animals, Kansas, Kansas City

Don’t Be a Silly Goose! Fly South for the Winter!

Whose idea was it to spend winter here?

Recently, I was walking Loki, the family dog, when I saw a flock of Canada Geese (a gaggle ?) on a frozen pond in my Kansas City area neighborhood. It was a beautiful sight. The low afternoon sun cast a golden glow onto the melting water, reflecting the geese and the yellow foliage of grass and cat tails. If you didn’t look too closely, you wouldn’t see the goose poop scattered artistically across the frozen surface. I took the dog home and returned with my camera. The geese don’t like paparazzi, so they headed to the opposite side of the pond.

These geese like the neighborhood.  After a heavy snow, I saw the geese gathered on a golf course, taking advantage of a lack of golfers.

About Canada Geese.

This golf gallery is a gaggle of geese gawking on a golf green (now white with snow.)

This golf gallery is a gaggle of geese gawking on a golf green (now white with snow.)

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Filed under Animals, Biology, Bird-watching, Birds, Humor, Kansas City, Natural History, Photography

Massive Fire Near Yosemite National Park

A giant sequoia towers above visitors to Tuolumne Grove in Yosemite National Park. Tuolumne is one of three named sequoia groves in Yosemite.

A giant sequoia towers above visitors to Tuolumne Grove in Yosemite National Park. Tuolumne is one of three named sequoia groves in Yosemite.

A year ago (September 2012) my husband and I visited Yosemite National Park, a magnificent place.  Here are some photos from the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias, which is near the Rim Fire, California’s fourth largest fire since 1932. It’s burning an area more than seven times larger than San Francisco (about 368 square miles), according to an NBC story. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reported that the Rim Fire was 75% contained Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013.

The Yosemite park staff posted this on its Facebook page: Giant sequoias are resistant to, and thrive on, frequent small fires that naturally burned every several years. In order to protect the giant sequoias from the extremely intense Rim Fire, crews performed some protective work in the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias just over a week ago (as you can see in this video). Since then, firing operations in the area have provided additional protection. So, while fire maps show the Tuolumne Grove within the fire perimeter, the giant sequoias are safe. 

You can see the video by clicking on Post by Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite National Park Facebook Page

Why a Century of Fire Prevention Means Trouble for Yosemite’s Giant Sequoias

Click on any thumbnail to see a much larger size in a slide show, including Tuolumne Signs in a readable size.

Yosemite National Park video.

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Filed under Conservation, Natural History, Photography, Travel

Moose in Colorado

This moose stared back when I was taking its photo in Colorado.

This moose stared back when I was taking its photo in Colorado.

Swedish photographer Björn Törngren posted some photographs of moose in Sweden on his blog, which reminded me that I hadn’t posted my moose photographs from a trip to Colorado in 2012.

When my husband and I visited the Brainard Lake Recreation Area last year, we were surprised to see moose in Colorado.

Moose are relatively new to Colorado.  According to the National Park Service, historical records dating back to the 1850s show that moose were probably only transient visitors to the area that is now Rocky Mountain National Park.  In 1978 and 1979, the Colorado Division of Wildlife transferred two groups of moose (a dozen each year) from the Uintah Mountains and Grand Teton herds to an area just west of the Never Summer Range near Rand, Colorado.  The moose have prospered in Colorado.  There are now more than 2,300.

All of the moose we saw had antlers, so they were all males.

Wildlife enthusiasts set up to photograph a herd of moose at the Brainard Lake Recreation Area in Colorado.

Wildlife enthusiasts set up to photograph a herd of moose at the Brainard Lake Recreation Area in Colorado.

A boy keeps a fairly safe distance from moose grazing near Brainard Lake in Colorado.  Moose are dangerous and unpredictable and often charge.

A boy keeps a fairly safe distance from moose grazing near Brainard Lake in Colorado. Moose are dangerous and unpredictable and often charge.

This is one of my better shots.  The moose were far away and were eating most of the time in tall vegetation.

This is one of my better shots. The moose were far away and were eating most of the time in tall vegetation.

A herd of moose line up to graze in a marshy area at Brainard Lake Recreation Area in Colorado.

A herd of moose line up to graze in a marshy area at Brainard Lake Recreation Area in Colorado.

Herd of moose graze near Brainard Lake in Colorado.

Herd of moose graze near Brainard Lake in Colorado.

National Park Service Information on Moose in Colorado.

Story about moose in Colorado.

Wikipedia: About the Moose.

Drunken moose ends up stuck in Swedish apple tree.

Click on the thumbnails to view a full-size slide show.

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Filed under Animals, Natural History, Nature, Photography

Welcome to My Caterpillar Ranch

I found this Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar crawling in the middle of my lawn and gave it a ride to this fennel plant, where it attached itself with a sling to a fennel stalk.  Some time during the night it shrugged off its skin and became a chrysalis.

I found this Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar crawling in the middle of my lawn and gave it a ride to this fennel plant, where it attached itself with a sling to a fennel stalk. Some time during the night it shrugged off its skin and became a chrysalis.

I used to freak out when I saw a caterpillar on one of my plants. Now, I’m disappointed when I don’t see them. And now how do I feel when I see them? So happy!

Here is a Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar feeding on a dill plant.  The day after I photographed this caterpillar on the dill, it disappeared. I thought it had either died or crawled away to pupate. Then, I found it (I think) crawling in the middle of my lawn, far from any twig to attach itself to.  I gave it a lift on a stick to one of my fennel plants in case it needed a little more food.   The next day I saw it had attached itself to a twig and the day after that it was a chrysalis.

Here is a Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar feeding on a dill plant. The day after I photographed this caterpillar on the dill, it disappeared. I thought it had either died or crawled away to pupate. Then, I found it (I think it was the same one) crawling in the middle of my lawn, far from any twig to attach itself to. I gave it a lift on a stick to one of my fennel plants in case it needed a little more food. The next day I saw it had attached itself to a twig and the day after that it was a chrysalis.

Many of the plants in my garden are members of the carrot family, which are the food source of Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars. I’ve planted bronze fennel, parsley and dill, plus there’s wild Queen Anne’s Lace nearby. So far, the BST butterflies have only laid eggs on the fennel, so I was happily surprised when I found a large caterpillar on a dill plant, which is fifty feet from the rest of my butterfly garden.

The next day the caterpillar was gone, another casualty or was it pupating somewhere? Then I found a caterpillar struggling to crawl in the grass in the middle of my lawn. Where was he going? If he was from the dill plant, he’d already crawled more than 50 feet. I gave him a lift on a stick and stuck him on a fennel plant.  Then he pupated there.

I'm giving a Black Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar a ride on a stick.  I found him in the grass in my lawn far from anywhere to pupate.  Although BST caterpillars can travel a long way, I was afraid he'd be stepped on.

I’m giving a Black Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar a ride on a stick. I found him in the grass in my lawn far from anywhere to pupate. Although BST caterpillars can travel a long way, I was afraid he’d be stepped on.

About the Black Swallowtail Butterfly.

What do Black Swallowtail Caterpillars eat?

I'm amazed that I saw this Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar crawling through my lawn.  If he was from my dill plant, he'd already traveled more than 50 feet.

I’m amazed that I saw this Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar crawling through my lawn. If he was from my dill plant, he’d already traveled more than 50 feet

This is one of the few times I've seen this orange gland on an annoyed Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar.  Usually, the caterpillars are fairly easy-going and don't mind me puttering around.  The black swallowtail caterpillar has an orange "forked gland", called the osmeterium. When in danger, the osmeterium, which looks like a snake's tongue, appears and releases a foul smell to repel predators. I didn't smell anything, so I'm lucky.

This is one of the few times I’ve seen this orange gland on an annoyed Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar. Usually, the caterpillars are fairly easy-going and don’t mind me puttering around. The black swallowtail caterpillar has an orange “forked gland”, called the osmeterium. When in danger, the osmeterium, which looks like a snake’s tongue, appears and releases a foul smell to repel predators. I didn’t smell anything, so I’m lucky.

Here's a Black Swallowtail Butterfly egg on the left.  To the right you can see a spider in its web.

Here’s a Black Swallowtail Butterfly egg on the left. To the right you can see a spider in its web. Butterflies have many predators at all stages in their development.

A Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar rests after a day of eating fennel. It's amazing that a caterpillar can survive and thrive on only one plant.  The orange blobs in the background are cosmos flowers, which the adult butterflies get nectar from.

A Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar rests after a day of eating fennel. It’s amazing that a caterpillar can survive and thrive on only one plant. The orange blobs in the background are cosmos flowers, which the adult butterflies get nectar from.

Here's one of the early instars (or stages) of a Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars. Below you can see a tiny spider in its web.

Here’s one of the early instars (or stages) of a Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars. Below you can see a tiny spider in its web.

I placed the Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar on this fennel plant after I found him in the middle of my yard.  He seemed exhausted from his travels.

I placed the Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar on this fennel plant after I found him in the middle of my yard. He seemed exhausted from his travels.

Below is a beautiful adult Black Swallowtail Butterfly, which I photographed on a coneflower in my garden. In addition to host plants for caterpillars, you also need many nectar flowering plants to attract and feed the adults. Bonus: Nectar flower plants are also beautiful!  From Monarch Watch: Tips on how to start a Butterfly Garden.

Click on any photo thumbnail below to see it full-size and in a slide show.

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Filed under Butterflies, Gardening, Insects, Nature, Photography

Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas

A view of the sunset from Cameron Bluff Overlook in Mount Magazine State park in Arkansas.

Visiting the Cameron Bluff Overlook at sunset in Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas is a great way to end a day.

Sometimes we take our neighbors for granted.   The state line of Arkansas is about four hours from my house, but I’ve visited that state just twice until this May when my husband and I and some friends went to Mount Magazine State Park.

I shouldn’t have waited so long!  It’s gorgeous.  Mount Magazine  is the highest point in the Arkansas with sweeping views of river valleys.  The weather was volatile while we were there with lots of fast-moving clouds, some thunderstorms and tornadoes to the south and west. The park’s Lodge overlooks the Petit Jean River Valley and Blue Mountain Lake.  From the balcony in our room, we could see the clouds sweeping past, and during a storm, lightning flashed in the clouds almost at eye level. I’ll let my photographs do the rest of the talking. I’ll also be posting about a day trip to Little Rock, where we visited the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and the Arkansas state capitol building, and also a post on Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville.

You can find great photographs, trail maps, wildlife and plants facts, lists of activities, lodging and camping details and other information at the Mount Magazine State Park Website Wildlife viewing is great in the park.  Many brochures with wildlife checklists and other information are available at the Lodge and at the park’s visitor center.

About the Arkansas State Butterfly — the Diana Fritillary.

About the Arkansas State Mammal — the Whitetail Deer.

From top left, clockwise are a chipmunk, white-tailed deer, zebra butterfly, Diana Fritillary Butterfly and the ruby-throated hummingbird.  I photographed these animals in Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas in late May 2013.  The White-tailed  deer, the Arkansas state mammal, is feasting on a white oak leaf.  The Diana Fritillary Buttery is Arkansas' state butterfly.  This poor butterfly is very tattered, as is the Zebra butterfly, which is the state butterfly of Tennessee. It's a hard, hard life for butterflies.

From top left, clockwise are a chipmunk, white-tailed deer, zebra butterfly, Diana Fritillary Butterfly and the ruby-throated hummingbird. I photographed these animals in Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas in late May 2013. The White-tailed deer, the Arkansas state mammal, is feasting on a white oak leaf. The Diana Fritillary Butterfly is the Arkansas’ state butterfly. This poor butterfly is very tattered, as is the Zebra butterfly, which is the state butterfly of Tennessee. It’s a hard, hard life for butterflies.

Here's a view from Bear Hollow Trail in Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas.

Here’s a view from Bear Hollow Trail in Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas.

Pink roses grow among the rocks along Bear Hollow Trail in Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas.

Pink roses grow among the rocks along Bear Hollow Trail in Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas.

These sassafras trees in Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas are some of the tallest in the state.

These sassafras trees in Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas are some of the tallest in the state.

This young sassafras tree stands beneath some of the tallest sassafras trees in Arkansas.  Sassafras extract from the roots was a primary ingredient in root beer.

This young sassafras tree stands beneath some of the tallest sassafras trees in Arkansas. Sassafras extract from the roots was a primary ingredient in root beer.

A model of Mount Magazine is on display in the Lodge.

A model of Mount Magazine is on display in the Lodge.

Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas truly is an island in the sky.

Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas truly is an island in the sky.

A section of the Lodge in Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas.

A section of the Lodge in Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas.

We climbed to Signal Hill on Mount Magazine, the highest point in Arkansas.  It's surrounded by trees so there aren't any panoramic views from this spot.

We climbed to Signal Hill on Mount Magazine, the highest point in Arkansas. It’s surrounded by trees so there aren’t any panoramic views from this spot.

 This survey marker plaque on Signal Hill of Mount Magazine from the U.S. Department of Interior indicates the highest point in Arkansas (2,753 feet above sea level) and sits in a 400 square feet stone map of Arkansas.  The stone map was built to a scale of one foot equals 13 miles.  On the stone map, the survey marker is positioned on the location of Mount Magazine.

This survey marker plaque on Signal Hill of Mount Magazine from the U.S. Department of Interior indicates the highest point in Arkansas (2,753 feet above sea level) and sits in a 400 square feet stone map of Arkansas. The stone map was built to a scale of one foot equals 13 miles. On the stone map, the survey marker is positioned on the location of Mount Magazine.

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker birds made hundreds of holes in this sugar maple tree.  Sap oozes from the holes, attracting insects, which the sap-suckers eat. Very clever!  Settlers harvested sap from these trees to make maple syrup.  Forty gallons of sugar maple sap is needed to produce one gallon of syrup.

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker birds made hundreds of holes in this sugar maple tree. Sap oozes from the holes, attracting insects, which the sap-suckers eat. Very clever! Settlers harvested sap from these trees to make maple syrup. Forty gallons of sugar maple sap is needed to produce one gallon of syrup.

There are many beautiful hiking trails on Mount magazine.

There are many beautiful hiking trails on Mount Magazine.

The dining room in the Lodge at Mount Magazine is beautiful with beautiful views.

The dining room in the Lodge at Mount Magazine is beautiful with beautiful views.

Here’s a video with many views of the Lodge at Mount Magazine.

Click on any thumbnail photo to see a full-size version in a new window.

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Filed under Photography, Travel

Birds on a Snowy Day

 Whenever it snows, birds of all kinds flock to our bird feeder.  Most of the birds wait on the nearby trees for a spot on the feeder. Our two cats love the snow, because it's excellent bird-watching.  They seem to know that there's no chance of catching any birds, but they are vigilant anyway.

Whenever it snows, birds of all kinds flock to our bird feeder. Most of the birds wait on the nearby trees for a spot on the feeder. Our two cats love the snow, because it’s excellent bird-watching. They seem to know that there’s no chance of catching any birds, but they are vigilant anyway.

I hate snow, but our cats love it.  It’s great for bird watching.  We got about a foot of snow today in the Kansas City area, and the forecast calls for more.  The crowds at the bird feeder were huge today. I saw five pairs of cardinals, black-capped chickadees, blue jays, doves, nuthatches, a red-bellied woodpeckers and some birds I didn’t recognize. Click on the photos for a better view.

When the snow was falling hard, birds mobbed the feeder and filled the nearby trees as they waited their turn.  When the snow stopped, the traffic thinned out.  In the bottom photo, a cardinal leisurely eats his meal.

When the snow was falling hard, birds mobbed the feeder and filled the nearby trees as they waited their turn. When the snow stopped, the traffic thinned out. In the bottom photo, a cardinal leisurely eats his meal.

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Filed under Animals, Bird-watching, Birds, Photography

Of Elephants and Alcohol

Is this elephant dreaming of the delicious marula fruit as she eats grass at a game reserve in South Africa?

Is this elephant dreaming of the delicious marula fruit as she eats grass at a game reserve in South Africa?

I love fruit, but I’d never heard of marula fruit until a friend (Thanks, Anita!) introduced me to Amarula, a creamy liqueur made in Africa from fermented marula fruit.

Elephants like to eat the marula fruit, which when fermented makes a delicious drink when mixed with cream for humans, called Amarula.  Elephants will eat the fermented fruit, but it's a myth that they'll get drunk.  They couldn't eat enough to get inebriated.  The Amarula Trust promotes Africa elephant protection and social development in Africa.  This elephant sculpture is on display at the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Fermented marula fruit makes a delicious drink when mixed with cream for humans in a liqueur called Amarula. Elephants will eat the fermented fruit, but it’s a myth that they’ll get drunk. They couldn’t eat enough to get inebriated. The Amarula Trust promotes Africa elephant protection and social development in Africa. This elephant sculpture is on display at the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Elephants like to eat marula fruit and are Amarula’s symbol. Folklore through the ages told of elephants getting drunk on fermented marula fruit, but that tall tale has been debunked.  I don’t want to be a party pooper, but elephants couldn’t eat enough fermented fruit to get bombed.  According to a 2006 scientific study cited in Smithsonian Magazine, “Elephants do have a taste for alcohol, but when scientists sat down to look at the claim, they found several problems. First, the elephants don’t eat the rotten fruit off the ground. They eat the fresh fruit right off the tree. Second, the fresh fruit doesn’t spend enough time in the elephant to ferment and produce alcohol there. And, third, even if the elephant did eat the rotten fruit, the animal would have to eat 1,400 pieces of exceptionally fermented fruit to get drunk.”
Smithsonian Magazine: The Alcoholics of the Animal World.

Elephants like to eat marula fruit, but much of what elephants eat is not fully digested.  Here, some marula fruits have passed through an elephant.  The surviving marula fruits might be eaten by other animals or germinate into new trees.

Elephants like to eat marula fruit, but much of what elephants eat is not fully digested. Here, some marula nuts have passed through an elephant. The surviving marula fruits might be eaten by other animals or germinate into new trees.

While the elephants don’t get soused from fermented fruits, elephants are among the many species that enjoy the versatile marula fruit for its flesh and its nut, which is full of protein. The marula fruit and its nut have been important source of nutrition in Africa for eons. The fruit has eight times the Vitamin C of an orange, too. Among the animals that eat the marula fruit and nut are antelopes, including impalas, kudus and nyalas. Baboons, warthogs, zebras, porcupines, vervet monkeys, small mammals and even millipedes also feed on the marula, which belongs to the same plant family Anacardiaceae as the mango, cashew, pistachio and sumac. Browsing animals eat the leaves. Marula nut oil is also supposed to have rejuvenating effect on your skin, so the marula can give you a glow both inside and out. About the Marula Tree and Fruit. About Marula Oil for Your Skin.

While reading this post I recommend an Amarula cocktail, which has a mild creamy citrus flavor. If you can’t find Amarula, you can sip Bailey’s Irish Cream or Kahlua. Drink responsibly, of course!

Amarula.

Amarula.

Here’s My Recipe for a Wild Elephant, which is really a White Russia, replacing the Kahlua with Amarula:
2 oz vodka
1 oz Amarula liqueur
light cream

Pour vodka and Amarula liqueur over ice cubes in an old-fashioned glass. Fill with light cream and serve.
Serves one.
For other recipes. click on Cocktail Recipes. 

In a game reserve in South Africa, baboons congregate in and under a marula tree to eat the marula fruit.  Impala antelope stand under the tree to eat the dropped fruit.

In a game reserve in South Africa, baboons congregate in and under a marula tree to eat the marula fruit. Impala antelope stand under the tree to eat the dropped fruit. Click on the photo to get a better view.

The long-time belief that elephants and other animals get drunk on fermented marula fruit was popularized in the 1974 documentary “Animals are Beautiful People.” Some smaller animals can get drunk from fermented fruit, but people have claimed that the supposedly drunkenness of the animals from fermented marula was staged in the movie, after alcohol had been added to their food.  If so, that’s animal abuse. The narration is over the top, too, but the video does show the types of animals that eat the marula fruit. It also shows elephants shaking marula trees to knock down the fruit.
Scientific American: Do Animals Like to Get Drunk?
Drunken Elephants: The Marula Fruit Myth
About “Animals are Beautiful People.”

The marula fruit on this tree is not quite ripe.  It'll turn yellow.

The marula fruit on this tree will turn yellow when ripe.

Owls don't eat marula fruits, of course, but the branches make a handy perch. And perhaps some unsuspecting creature looking for fruit may become the owl's dinner.

Owls don’t eat marula fruits, of course, but the branches make a handy perch. Perhaps some unsuspecting creature looking for fruit may become the owl’s dinner.

Marula fruit is washed along with sand over a walkway after a rainy night at the South African game reserve lodge where we stayed in January 2013.

Marula fruit is washed along with sand over a walkway after a rainy night at the game reserve lodge where we stayed in January 2013.

I’m going to be party pooper again by listing this new Study from the Boston University School of Public Health that shows links of alcohol to cancer. Darn it!

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Filed under Animals, Drink, Environment, Life, Nature

The Rhinoceros, Critically Endangered

This morning I was stunned to read that 57 rhinos had been killed by poachers in South Africa in January 2013. Nearly all of the rhinos were killed in protected areas, too. I knew that poaching was a terrible problem, but I had no idea that it was this serious. At this rate, the rhinoceros will soon go extinct in the wild. It will be very difficult to keep the species alive in zoos.

We visited South Africa in January 2013 near the region where all of these rhinos were killed. We were lucky to see a rhino the very first day we were there, and now I am so saddened thinking about how this amazing animal may really die out, because of human greed and stupidity. We saw a male rhino spraying, as in the video above, as he moved here and there marking his territory. Soon there may be no rhinos in this territory. (The video was uploaded by “smshapiro” on YouTube.

Why did the rhino cross the road? It was dusk when we saw this male rhino crossing the road, but he wasn't ready to call it a night.  He still had work to do.  Every few minutes he would spray a fan of liquid from his rear to mark his territory.  The Rhinoceros is critically endangered.  Rhinos are being massively slaughtered for their horns to send to the Asian market for a ridiculous medical potion.  The horn is keratin, the same as fingernails. Chew your own fingernails for your dubious medical cure, Idiots, and leave the rhino alone!

Why did the rhino cross the road? It was dusk when we saw this male rhino crossing the road, but he wasn’t ready to call it a night. He still had work to do. Every few minutes he would spray a fan of liquid from his rear to mark his territory. The Rhinoceros is critically endangered. Rhinos are being massively slaughtered for their horns to send to the Asian market for a ridiculous medical potion. The horn is keratin, the same as fingernails. Chew your own fingernails for your dubious medical cure, Idiots, and leave the rhino alone!

Rhinos are one of the Big Five that people look for on safari. How long before you never see them?  The Big Five Game list was coined by hunters in ranking the danger of hunting these animals on foot. At least hunting has been switched to sightings of these magnificent animals, although there are still big game hunts in some areas. (The Big Five are Elephants, Lions, Leopards, Rhinoceros and Cape Buffalo.)

The rhino is killed for its horn, because many people in Asia think the horn has medical properties, but it doesn’t. The horn is composed of keratin, which is similar to fingernails. Why don’t these idiots just chew on their own fingernails. It’ll be just as useful to their health.

Our guide told us that sometimes conservationists remove the horn so that the rhino is spared, because all that the poachers want is the horn. The horn acquires its pointed shape because the rhino sharpens it, otherwise it would be a big lump. I hope the rhinos sharpen their horns on more poachers. Even though I don’t literally believe in curses, people who use rhino horn as medicine should know it is cursed. It’s definitely very bad karma to kill a rhino and to buy rhino horn.

The game reserve we visited doesn’t list rhino sightings, because it doesn’t want to give a heads up to poachers. According to the Associated Press, “A record 668 rhinos were killed in South Africa in 2012, an increase of nearly 50 percent over the previous year. Demand is growing in Vietnam and elsewhere in Asia where rhino horn is believed to have medical benefits despite evidence to the contrary. The horn is made of keratin, a protein also found in human fingernails.”

Elephants are facing similar slaughter for their ivory. Don’t buy ivory, even if the seller claims it is from pre-ban ivory or is supposedly otherwise approved. Buying ivory just encourages the death of more elephants. More bad karma.

57 rhinos killed in South Africa so far this year; 18 suspected poachers arrested

Beautiful Photograph of a Baby Rhino.

We saw this rhinoceros 100 feet from the road.  It's good that the rhino is hiding, even though I wanted a closer look.  It's not safe being around many humans.  The Rhinoceros is critically endangered.  It's being slaughtered for its horn, and it's also losing its habitat.

We saw this rhinoceros 100 feet from the road. It’s good that the rhino is hiding, even though I wanted a closer look. It’s not safe being around many humans. The Rhinoceros is critically endangered. It’s being slaughtered for its horn, and it’s also losing its habitat.

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Bighorn Sheep in Colorado

A bighorn sheep ewe, on the right, prepares to lead the herd on its trek across a highway in Rocky Mountain National Park. The ewe waits until most of the herd members line up and then she begins the procession. The sheep make the journey each day to and from two lakes in a meadow in the park.

Not far from Estes Park in Colorado, bighorn sheep graze in a meadow near two lakes, “Sheep Lakes,” in Rocky Mountain National Park. The herd makes its way to the lakes from the mountainside each morning and then returns to the mountainside in the late afternoon. It’s a beautiful commute. Park rangers and volunteers manage the tourists and the cars on the narrow highway to allow the sheep safe passage.

When the bighorn sheep are ready to cross the highway, park rangers and volunteers clear the road. The sign says no walking, but it also means no parking. This Hummer driver was confused!

My husband and I were among the gawkers in early August for the sheep’s late afternoon procession back to the mountains. I joined the paparazzi jostling for a view from the packed parking lot. Because we had to stand well away from the sheep, I envied photographers with big lenses. One woman pointed to a female sheep hurrying back across the meadow to the herd at the closest lake. Where had the ewe been? What had she been up to? Her lamb ran out to her and then trailed after her. “Mommy, where did you go?”

In the mid-1800s, thousands of bighorn sheep lived in the Estes Valley, but their numbers were decimated by hunters, by degraded environment and by diseases introduced by domestic sheep. At one point it was thought only about 150 sheep lived in the park, high in the mountains. The bighorn sheep in the low-lying areas were gone. It wasn’t until recent decades that through conservation efforts and reintroduction of new bighorn sheep that the population started to increase. About 600 bighorn sheep live in the park now. The herd near Sheep Lakes seemed to be all female adults and their offspring. You can read more about the RMNP bighorn sheep in a link below.

I saw one sheep move up the hill from the lake, and a few stood behind her. Soon, most of the herd was behind her. She waited there, alert, watching us silly humans in the parking lot. Even though we were probably a hundred yards away (I’m bad at estimating distances), she was wary. The rangers and volunteers make sure humans stay back because sheep can be easily stressed. However, later, we saw bighorn sheep grazing by the side of the highway along Big Thompson River, butting heads and knocking each other into the road. They didn’t seem bothered by the traffic at all. I was worried for them!

Eventually, the entire herd at Sheep Lakes gathered behind the lead ewe and then the sheep made their way across the road, where traffic had been cleared. Of course, just as with humans, one grazing sheep was oblivious to the departing herd. She looked up, saw she was alone, and then bolted to catch the herd.

You can click on all of the photos to get a better look. You’ll need to backspace to return to this page.

A bighorn sheep lamb nurses from its mother as the herd lines up and prepares to return to the hillside after a day in the meadow.

Bighorn sheep graze at Sheep Lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park.


A crowd gathers to watch and photograph the bighorn sheep as they graze at Sheep Lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park. The most popular time is when the sheep migrate to and from the hillside over the meadow, which they do once a day.


On the left, a ewe hurries back across the meadow to the herd. In the upper right, her lamb rushes out to greet her. “Mommy, where did you go?” In the bottom right, the lamb follows after its mother.


Bighorn sheep graze on the hillside along the Big Thompson River in Colorado.


About Bighorn Sheep in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Here is a section of a map showing the Sheep Lakes area, where a herd of bighorn sheep graze every day.

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