They Know More than You Think

I am continually amazed at the level of advanced thinking exhibited by even the least of God’s creatures. Yesterday while out on my photo trek I spotted this beautiful Great Blue Heron on the opposite bank of the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. I pulled my truck up so that it would be hidden behind a boulder where the bird would be unable to see me exit the door. However I was surprised to discover that the great bird had somehow been spooked and had flown off. Glancing around a bit, I saw him further upstream, as I wondered how he had become spooked. So I walked upstream until I had a clear shot through the reeds. Once satisfied that I had captured a nice image I moved further upstream and captured a few more images while the heron remained still.

Great Blue Heron

I continued my approach until I was directly across from the great bird where I continued my photography. I was fairly surprised that he didn’t fly. He was obviously aware of my presence, yet he remained still. I spotted a path across a shallow channel in the river and was able to access a sand bar that took me even closer where I was able to capture the best images of a Great Blue Heron of my entire career.

It was there that I discovered the explanation for the beautiful aquatic bird’s strange behavior. As I stood watching him a great shadow passed over which didn’t go unnoticed by the heron. This is also where my understanding of animal intelligence increased dramatically. The bird saw the shadow on the ground, but he looked up… He knew the threat was not from the shadow on the ground but from the terror in the sky above, in the form of the deadly talons of a massive eagle. There are fishermen lining the banks of this river from top to bottom so the heron understands that people are not a big threat in this environment. He was willing to take his chances with me a few yards away, but as he worried about the eagle he moved a few feet back from the bank into a little cave where he couldn’t be spotted from above.

This exhibits some fairly advanced thinking for an animal, not to mention a bird! First he has to understand the concept of a shadow and the source of the shadow. Then he has to be able to prioritize his threats and take evasive action. He understands that if he is able to block a line of sight from above, the eagle who is looking at the ground for prey will not be able to see him. He has identified a threat and made a plan to evade the threat while tolerating a large foreign being much larger and closer than the eagle above. I find this quite astonishing.

Animals experience joy, grief, fear and pain. If you have ever seen eagles dance in the sky, seen the joy of a wolf pack when a new litter of pups is introduced or listened to the mournful cry of a cow who has had her calf ripped from her side you would know this.

As long as we continue to elect greedy unprincipled men and women to our highest offices, people who’s god is money, who worship on the altar of power for the sake of power, no progress toward higher ideals in our law will be possible.

It’s time for this country to give our four footed and feathered creatures the respect and compassion they deserve. It’s time for America to join the few European countries that have recognized this and given sentient being status to their wildlife and livestock. This would go a long way toward the elimination of trophy hunting and trapping as sport in this country.

Again there are far too many images from today to fit them all in this blog post, so please feel free to follow my Instagram page to see  the rest and much much more!

Also watch my Youtube Channel for a short video clip of the great blue heron!

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.

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.