Mountain Storm and a Coyote

Once again I started a day with low expectations and a main goal of getting some fresh air and some exercise. But like many mornings the mountains have a way of  surprising me. First the view of the Sangre de Cristo Range which I assumed would be completely obscured turned out to be magnificent. Our next cold front and ensuing snowstorm is nearly upon us and the storm clouds are already covering the spectacular mountain range. But right at sunrise good fortune greeted me with a break in the clouds and a stunning view of the highest peaks on the range.

Storm on the Sangre

As I was trying to video the beauty of the range, the camera lost focus as it has frequently been doing for a while now. I decided then and there that I was going to figure that problem out and put an end to it! Many cameras these days conceal menu items that aren’t available with the settings you are using at the time so I made sure I was in video mode and began to examine the focus settings. As it turns out somehow this winter I had changed the awesome smart tracking system on the Canon 90D to use single point auto focus which could probably be named dumb tracking. A quick turn of the wheel and click of the button, and the problem is resolved. And I had no idea the timeliness of that bit of good fortune…

Coyote on the Hunt

My next surprise came in the form of an absolutely gorgeous coyote hunting for rodents in the tall mountain grass. He quickly became aware of my presence but decided the hunting was too good for him to worry about me. I watched him for about an hour, witnessing several successful dives into the snow and grass after his prey. He wasted no time gobbling down his catch before continuing the hunt. I was already prepared for the action with my 400mm lens and 1.4x tele extension so I just concentrated on getting the best shots that I could. When I was confident that I had captured the still shots I needed I switched to video and captured some footage of the handsome creature in action. As I watched I wondered how such a beautiful shy creature minding it’s own business while ridding the countryside of those pesky rodents could be the subject of such hatred from his human enemies. The coyote has to be one of the most misunderstood animals in all of God’s creation. People just don’t understand the importance of these predators in keeping balance in the ecosystem of the mountains and surrounding countryside. I hope each and every one of you will call your representative and lobby against fur products and the wanton destruction of these animals.

Coyote on the Hunt

I guess the moral of this story is don’t let your low expectations stop you from going out. So many times I have seen the most amazing things on the days my expectations are the lowest. When it comes to photography, there is no substitute for being there when the action develops!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal! I should mention at this time that this blog post is not sponsored by Canon or any other firm. All equipment used in the making of the blog and video have been purchased by me on my own volition.

Coyote on the Hunt

Distant Herd and Unrelated Rant

Distant Herd of Mule Deer

The sun was shining when I went to take the trash out this morning and warm rays streaming down upon my face tilted the scales towards another hike this morning. I was thinking about just going for a bike ride this afternoon but I know myself too well… If I don’t get moving before about 7:00 I can be pretty sure I’m not going to get going! I’m a morning person, always have been…

Well a few steps down the trail almost had me wishing I had stayed home! It wasn’t nearly as warm on the mountain as it was in my sheltered back yard and the wind was Distant Herd of Mule Deerjust whipping! Fortunately my jacket has a hood or I might have gotten frost bite on my ears. On the other hand, in wind like that I’m pretty sure any ideas of a bike ride would have been abandoned for sure.

Thought it was going to be a photography shut out until just as I was making the final turn to go back to the parking lot. As I scanned the terrain I spotted the mule deer herd in the distance, contentedly grazing on mountain grass. There was no way I was  going to get close to them though, you can see from the pictures that they were well aware of my presence at least 100 yards away!

Now I want to talk about something else that absolutely infuriated me yesterday. Late last light an article by the local online news site Out There Colorado alerted me to a policy enacted by Colorado Fish and Wildlife (CFW) mandating that starting in July a hunting or fishing license will be required to visit wildlife areas. Reasoning provided by CFW states “By policy, state wildlife areas are acquired with hunter and angler dollars, and are intended specifically to provide wildlife habitat and wildlife-related recreation,” said Southeast Regional Manager Brett Ackerman. “This rule is aimed at curtailing non-wildlife-related use of these properties.”.

The policy alone infuriates me enough, but the comments following the piece were even more maddening, the bulk of which lauded the new policy because basically “hunters fund these areas” and hikers and climbers, photographers and tourists have no right to be there. First of all, how is a nature hike or wildlife photography or birding considered non-wildlife use of the land?

Secondly I am sick and tired of the BS spewed by hunters that they are the only ones who have a right to the land because they are the ones who pay for it. A quick check on the Colorado funding page indicates that only 34% of the state budget comes from passes, fees and permits, a figure which does not indicate how much of that 34% is comprised of hunting and fishing licenses versus entry fees, daily and weekly visitation permits, and commercial license fees paid by professional photography and film companies for special use. A full 34%, equaling the entire portion paid for by fees is funded by the Colorado state lottery and Great Outdoors Colorado. The Federal Government kicks in another 10% of the budget of which of course is funded by the U.S. taxpayer and the remaining 22% is funded by additional non-hunting resources.

If you consider only “wildlife management”, which is not defined by the Colorado funding site, 68% is funded by license fees and permits, which again is not itemized so that we can learn how much exactly hunters are actually paying. Incidentally, the Colorado Department of Education devotes half of it’s site to education about birding, hiking, climbing, camping, and wildlife watching without disturbing the animals. I  guess that half of the site will have to be eliminated in favor of only hunting and fishing if this decision is allowed to stand.

The entire premise that hunters pay for public wild lands stems from the North American Model mostly inspired by Teddy Roosevelt over 100 years ago, to protect wildlife and wildlife habitat from over hunting and development. One hundred years ago hiking, mountain climbing, mountain biking, birding, camping and photography were not really a thing and were of course not given any consideration at the time. This article in the Mountain Lion Foundation  gives an indication of how much things have changed in over a century, stating that “94% of total funding for wildlife conservation and management come from the non-hunting public”. Another thoughtful article provided by WyoFile provides a similar figure, indicating that 95% of the funding for wildlife related agencies comes from the non-hunting public. This article from NPR cites a study by U.S. Fish and Wildlife that reveals only 5% of Americans 16 and older actually hunt. Other studies, especially in areas like Yellowstone in Wyoming and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, show just how much revenue the states and municipalities benefit from wildlife tourism, a figure that far exceeds the paltry sums collected by the states from hunters.

The idea that a miniscule 5% of the American populace should control the nation’s wildlife is a concept that has gone the way of the 19th century. It is well past time that the vast majority of nature loving Americans be given a voice in how our wildlife is preserved. Hopefully this egregious ruling will be quickly overturned in court and millions of Coloradoans and out of state visitors will be able to continue enjoying their land in their own way. If we continue to be denied a voice in decisions about our precious wildlife I urge you to make your voice heard at the ballot box. If our wildlife officials won’t listen, we need to vote in officials who will listen.

Wolves in Rocky Mountain National Park

OK, so I know this is a picture of a coyote… But perhaps the reason for that is because wolves in Colorado were hunted  to extinction a long time ago and Yellowstone is a long way from Cripple Creek Colorado 😦

Coyote

Coyote in the Colorado winter landscape

But I just want to throw this out there, if wolves can thrive in Yellowstone, why could they not thrive just as well in Rocky Mountain National Park? Both are huge tracts of rugged land mostly inaccessible to people, both good habitat for wolves. Every year I have to hear the state wildlife people whine that there are too many elk in Rocky, basically they have no competition. The elk there just lay around all the time, sometimes causing traffic jams on the highways and sometimes just wandering into town to hang out with the tourists.

I have read accounts of how wolves have entirely renovated the landscape in Yellowstone once they began to thrive in significant numbers. The elk and deer herds became stronger as the animals were forced to move around and the wolves culled the weaker members. Aspen trees are healthier, forest grasses taller, and because coyotes and fox have to move around more there are more rodents for the eagles and hawks. The entire ecosystem is healed in a process called Trophic Cascade. Coyote-&-Magpie

Tourists and photographers come from all over the world to view the animals in Yellowstone, immensely benefiting local economies. It seems that Rocky Mountain National Park would benefit from the presence of wolves as well. Just throwing this out in hopes that like minded people will join and bring the miracle of wolves to my state. Sure, we might get some argument from the surrounding ranchers but it is my contention that the world does not need those ranchers or their cattle, many of which are living on and spoiling the federal public land experience for others who would also enjoy that land. Perhaps they could learn non lethal wildlife management or just sell some land to create buffer zones between the park and their ranches.

And once again, since the Obama administration caved to the hunting and ranching lobby in Washington, wolves have been unjustly removed from the Endangered Species List. Please go online and donate money, sign petitions, call congressmen, and do whatever it takes to get our beloved wolves (and grizzlies) back on the endangered list. If you don’t know where to find those lists and petitions, please visit my Facebook page dedicated to the preservation of our precious wildlife.

A Culture of Cruelty

That a young man would carry a rifle into a school and gun down his classmates should come as no surprise to anyone living in this century. We live in a culture that celebrates disrespect, violence and cruelty. Unfortunately we are once again witness to the end result of this culture of cruelty with yet another school shooting.

One of the common threads in the many modern trails of death is an early start in a life of violence with cruelty to animals. We read that Nikolas Cruz entertained himself by shooting squirrels with BB guns, and trying to kill or maim rabbits by ramming a stick down holes where he knew rabbits were nesting. Unfortunately there are few protections for wildlife. If his early fascination with animal cruelty had involved cats or dogs, perhaps he might have been flagged sooner as a mentally deranged individual in need of counseling or incarceration.

Which of course begs the question… what makes people who have fun hurting wildlife better than people who enjoy hurting cats and dogs? Wildlife feel pain and are intelligent sentient beings just as domestic animals are, yet there are entire industries developed around the maiming and killing of wild animals. Every day I see pictures of some fool proudly grinning for the camera while some poor creature has spent hours, maybe even days, pacing around a blood soaked perimeter in terror because it is legal to set snares for predators. Why should we believe the person who does this is any more sane than the one who sets kittens on fire for the fun of it? Both are enjoying the suffering of a helpless animal, yet one is locked up for animal cruelty while the other is celebrated and may even get his own cable TV show one day. We are pretty sure the crimes of the one are going to escalate into worse acts of violence, yet how are we so sure that the one who tortures wildlife won’t graduate into worse violence?

It all boils down to one thing, there are too many in our time who do not understand the difference between right and wrong. And the problem is not limited to the minuscule numbers who commit the school murders, evil is pervasive in all segments of society from children in schools to the highest echelons in our government. Those in charge pass and defend laws that make it legal for hunters to send hounds in to tear coyotes to pieces and be torn to pieces by wolves while at the same time banning dog fighting. And they even have the gall to force the taxpayers to cover the financial losses if the so called hunter’s dogs are killed. We have leaders of entire popular movements jumping up and down and screaming about gun control while at the same time advocating for the right to stab a baby in the head on his or her way out of the birth canal, hypocrites.

In these modern progressive times, those who are qualified to teach right from wrong are mocked and shouted down, kicked out of office or sued for their faith which is ridiculed on popular television shows by the revered talking heads who are devoid of any wisdom or understanding. God, right and wrong, the Ten Commandments and prayer are banned from the schools while our children are taught to decide for themselves the difference between right and wrong. Why should we be surprised when children choose evil over good when evil is celebrated over good in the media or the video games that they are glued to every day of their lives? It’s time for us to get a grip on the evil that is overcoming this nation. It’s time to start rooting out evil where ever it can be found, no matter how high the perch from which it is preached. In order to do so however, we cannot forget the Source of the Good and also the source of the evil.

Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Wildlife Paradox

Watching the news last night I saw an interesting example of paradoxical stories that I found a bit disturbing. The first story was about two fishermen who had taken considerable and heroic risk to rescue a doe and her fawn from drowning.

Mule deer in snow

Mule deer in snow

The very next bit was a claim by the city that there are too many deer on the west side. So apparently the city managers in their infinite wisdom could only conjure one solution, which was to unleash hoards of hunters armed with high power bows to “harvest” 200 does and fawns per year, the very animals that the previous men had gone to extraordinary lengths to rescue!

Well it did occur to them that it could be problematic to have hunters skulking about our back yards murdering these peaceful sentient creatures that many families and their children happen to adore, so they thought it might be a good idea instead to have a bunch of armed idiots stalking our crowded parks, killing the animals that are where they are supposed to be so that people can go see them.

Naturally the local bow salesman was all for the idea, and not at all concerned about the possibility of accidentally dispatching a few children and their pets. 

Well the deer are becoming problematic they say. So I did a quick study to ascertain what sort of problems deer might cause. Mostly it appears they like to eat flowers, raising the ire of city people who chose to buy homes in wildlife habitat and are now dismayed to find wildlife there. They also have a tendency to increase car animal collisions. No mention that careless drivers also have a tendency to run down children and pets…

Seriously people… Hunters wandering our parks and neighborhoods? How about some education instead? How about planting flowers that the deer don’t like? How about slowing the car down a little? One lady I tried to slow down as she barreled through a herd of deer screamed at me that she had the right to drive the speed limit… Well, no you don’t. The limit is defined as the fastest speed you can go in optimal conditions. Once there are animals, pets or children nearby the conditions are no longer optimal and you are required to slow down.

How about some common sense and a little live and let live!

Wolves

Today my heart and mind is with the wolves as a new hunting season begins. After being hunted, trapped and poisoned nearly to extinction during the previous century they were saved by the Endangered Species Act and efforts to save them converged upon Yellowstone National Park as new packs were introduced into the wilderness. However, just as they were beginning to thrive, the Bush administration removed them from the list.

Apache the wolf ambassador from the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Foundation in Guffy, Colorado

Apache the wolf ambassador from the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Foundation in Guffy, Colorado

Now, hunting and trapping have resumed with the mindless hatred and ferocity that nearly permanently removed them from the face of the American landscape. Barbaric trapping and hunting practices that would result in felony animal cruelty charges and prison time for the normal citizen are supported morally and financially by the states that promised the Bush administration that they would develop responsible wildlife management plans. These magnificent animals are trapped with barbaric leg hold traps and left for days to suffer in the elements without food or water. In Wisconsin, hounders are allowed to unleash packs of dogs to rip wolves and their pups apart in vicious encounters that often leave dogs dead as well as the wolves they are pursuing. The government encourages it and even reimburses the so called hunters for the loss of their dogs. One famous rocker and gun rights activist advocates shooting the wolves in the stomach with a .22 rifle to prolong their suffering.

I have recently met a new group of online friends who are doing something about it. They are taking the fight for these noble animals to the doorsteps of the capitols in the states where these sadistic activities are advocated. They say “The pen is mightier than the sword.”, so I will be using my digital pen to raise awareness of this group’s activities to win the hearts and minds of citizens in these states. Perhaps together we will be able to bring about change and once again save the wolf from destruction. Subscribe to my S. W. Krull Imaging Examiner news feed to receive free coverage of our fight for the wolves.