Behind the local Ranger Station there is a half-section of land that rises for a mile up a fairly open south-facing slope that is used as a summer pasture for the Forest Service pack horses and mules and also as a protected winter range for a sizable herd of mule deer. Yesterday A friend called to tell me that she had recently hiked through the area and found that the deer spending the winter there were fairly mellow and could be approached to within camera range, and so today we went back to get a few photos. Here are some that I brought back, all taken with a 70-300mm lens.
This time of year when the new young of most animal species begin to appear, it is very common for those of us who live here in western Montana to see the fawns of White tail deer. Not quite so commonly seen are Mule deer fawns, and so it was a treat for me to encounter one today. I left early this morning for a hike up to the old look out on Big Hole Peak, and at about the mid point of the trail I saw a beautiful Mule deer doe ahead of me on the trail and I watched her bounce on up the trail then disappear on the mountainside. After another dozen or so strides I discovered this little fawn which I would guess to be no more than a week or two old.
For many thousands of years an apparently successful escape strategy for fawns is to lie flat on the ground, as flat as they can get, and stay absolutely still, which is what this little one was doing, and because they have no scent at that age predators normally will not find them. Usually this happens in tall grass on a hillside or meadow or among downed timber or other disruptions in the landscape, but when this little fellow went into “hide mode”, it did so right in the middle of the trail. I took a few quick photos and circled far around the little one to continue on up the trail, leaving it undisturbed and still completely motionless. Hopefully, next time this fawn won’t try to hide again in plain sight.
Black Bears have not really acquired protective camouflage as so many other animals have, resorting mostly to their resemblance from a distance to a fire-charred log or a black colored rock or even a deep shadow in the forest. This fellow however seems to have successfully hidden himself from some folks in almost the exact center of the photo in my previous post.
I seldom participate in challenges, but Maurice at i AM Safari invited me to post in the current Black & White challenge and I have a photograph that is so similar in its essence to the one that he posted from half the world away that I simply had to post it.
When I was a kid growing up here in western Montana in the mid 40’s, we lived near the edge of town and about a mile away from our house (within my permissible roaming distance) there was a large section of natural prairie which in the spring was very nicely decorated by a profusion of wildflowers, most notably the state flower of Montana, the Bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva). The Bitterroot has always been considered a valuable plant to the native Salish and Kootenai Indian tribes who cooked and ate the roots and large numbers of tribal members came from the nearby Flathead Indian Reservation each spring to camp and harvest roots on that section of prairie. They were very friendly people and were quite pleased to let a little kid like me help them with their harvest, and that became a real highlight for me every spring.
Sadly, that special place has now long been buried under the asphalt , concrete, and brick and mortar of commercial development that some folks call “progress” and Bitterroots have become very scarce. They do still bloom in places on the Reservation though (although not in great numbers), and each June I visit there to see and photograph the flowers.
Bitterroot ~ Lewisia rediviva
In June of 2011 a couple of miles from where I had been photographing Bitterroots I encountered a beautiful young Mule deer buck and was able to capture one of my favorite photos of that species, and probably the only photo in my entire library that I think looks fairly decent as a black and white conversion: a native mulie, perfectly at home in his natural habitat, wondering who or what I am and if I really belong there too.