Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pronghorn Delight

Our first full day Out West dawned clear and bright. Driving back on Highway 22 over the Tetons brought us up above Jackson Hole, the valley that holds the city of the same name. Thanks to the clear skies and high pressure, the valley was filled with fog.

Lisa stopped the car so I could take some pictures,

then I shot this one from the car. It was bright and sunny up on the mountain side, but once we hit the fog it was as if the sun hadn't yet arisen.

We had researched for months about what we wanted to do once we got to Wyoming. We picked a hike that started at Jenny Lake and went up into Cascade Canyon and below Mt. Moran. Driving north on Hwy 89 we made a left at Moose Junction (I don't recall the name of the road) and headed toward the mountains.
But before we ever reached Jenny Lake, we spotted a group of pronghorn out in the tall grass of Baseline Flats. We spied a female with two youngsters and I snapped off a few shots.
Hungry little critters, I'd say!

Mom walked off before the duo was finished.

Here they are watching mom walk away. I love the ears on the calf in front, very alert.

The family was soon joined by another adult, possibly a yearling daughter of the nursing mother. I just love the pines in the background, and somewhere behind this ridge lies the Snake River.

I have since learned a bit about pronghorn. Although often called antelope, they are not related. They are only distantly related to deer, descended from a common ancestor millions of years ago. They are actually considered to be the only members of the family Antelocapridae (this I learned from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website). They are the second fastest land mammal behind the cheetah, and can reach speeds of up to 60mph. While both sexes grown horns, the male's are bigger and get that split which gives them their name. Their horns are shed annually.
Like the bison, huge herds of these animals once roamed the plains from Canada down into northern Mexico. But over hunting lead to their near extinction. Now there are around one million and hunting seasons have been re-established.

These two are probably chewing their cud, but I like to think that maybe they're singing "Home on the Range" in two part harmony.

We did eventually make it to Jenny Lake, but this was not the last pronghorn encounter we would have. I heard that these animals tend to be more shy than other species, but I had one of my most memorable experiences of this trip with a beautiful male pronghorn later on when we were in Yellowstone--but that story will have to wait.
Next: Jenny Lake and into the Tetons.

1 comment:

  1. Your photos were so real, so alive, and your commentary was perfect...I felt as though I was right there, could almost feel the crisp air...great blog!