High Altitude Wildlife

At first, high altitude areas look barren. It is like an optical illusion, some of the animals hide very well. Once you learn the trick of it though, you see animals everywhere!

Of course there are areas that are so high that almost nothing lives there, but altitudes from 6-10,000 feet have a lot of wildlife, and are areas that are frequented by hunters in the fall, and camera wielding tourists at other times.

Common animals in the area where we live are elk, deer (white tails and muleys), antelope, bunnies (cottontails), jackrabbits, prairie dogs, ground squirrels, gray squirrels, ferrets of two types, foxes, coyotes, badgers, rattlesnakes, hawks, falcons, golden and bald eagles, and a range of other birds.

Most of the animals are easily visible through the activities of daily life. Just between home and town (an average 1 hour drive over 60 miles), we see almost all of the animals listed. Some of them we see regularly as roadkill, unfortunately, and I must confess to having been responsible for my share of it. I never fail to cringe when I hit something on the highway though, even if it is a nuisance animal like a coyote (which, incidentally, have an unparalleled gamey smell when you get close to one!).

We live in hunting territory. This means you won’t find people who are overly squeamish about hunting antelope, elk, or deer for food. Personally, I feel that you ought not kill it unless you are going to eat it, and I have cut up my share of deer and antelope on the kitchen table.

Those who prefer to hunt animals with a camera will find plenty, at least at the altitudes we live at, to make it worth their while. In fact, some animals make a bit of a nuisance of themselves, eating the shrubbery and leaving droppings in the yard – they wander with equal ease across the sage hills and up and down the streets of town. The top photo on this page is a professional photo. The others were taken by my 17 year old son, or myself, right in our own yard, or nearby. The deer in the neighbor’s yard is one of a set of triplets born two years ago. The mother bore another set of triplets the following spring, and with both sets, made a daily round from one end of town to the other, then back again, grazing on the tastiest bits of shrubbery along the route. We are watching to see if she produces triplets again this spring.

The antelope photo was shot from the front seat of my Nissan. We passed the antelope, turned around, and drove back to pull over on the opposite side of the highway from him. I rolled down the window and made the shot while he stood there waiting patiently. Since I was in the car, I was still part of the car and no threat to him, even though we were very close. This kind of opportunity happens far more often than I am able to take advantage of.

We have seen snowy owls in the headlights of the car at night, and we have surprised bald eagles scavenging on the highway. We have blocked badger holes with boulders before camping, and caught crawdads in the river which we brought home to cook. And we’ve kept the kids in after dusk through three different periods when a mountain lion wandered into town.

Most of the pages of this site are sparse in photos, but this one just had to have a few more, because wildlife is so plentiful in this area that appears so barren at first.