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Wild Animals You May Know

The visitor who wants to see the wild life at close range must learn to stalk animals just as the Indians did. The majority of visitors cannot control themselves when they see a deer or a beaver or an elk or other wild life. They rush out in the middle of the colony or herd or flock, as the case may be, and begin snapshooting right and left. The result is that they scare the animals and birds away and not only spoil the scene for the next arrivals but actually lose out on their own snapshots. The only way to get good pictures of wild life is to remain perfectly still until the animal, unfrightened by sudden movement or by the noise of a machine, comes close enough for a good shot. It requires great patience and considerable skill to stalk game for pictures. It is one of the most fascinating sports in the world.

Some of the rangers have made remarkable pictures of wild life by following this patient course. Ranger Scotty Bauman, at Tower Falls in Yellowstone Park, established such friendly relations with a colony of beavers that they would let him pet them, though at first they would growl and blow at him in hostile manner. Wild animals live by avoiding enemies. Their safety depends upon their ability to flee. Intuitively they have learned to take no chances. If they are not sure whether or not a newcomer is dangerous, they assume that he is an enemy and take to the woods. The person who wishes to establish himself on good terms with any of the wild animals or birds of the national parks must first let them get well acquainted with him. Mr. Beaver is just like all the rest of his neighbors. He wants to watch the newcomer, and decide about him personally, before he effects any entente. It takes patience, oodles and oodles of it.

Perhaps the greatest beaver city in any of the national parks is one discovered by Ranger Macy in Mount Rainier National Park along the Nisqually River, which is formed by the glacier of the same name. In the icy waters of this stream, the beavers have built a city covering twenty acres—houses, dams, ponds, canals, a maze of engineering. It must have taken several generations of beavers to have achieved that job. This is another instance in which the beavers resemble their human friends. One generation carries on where the other left off, one beaver engineer and his gang complete what a predecessor started. The whole colony stays with the work until the project is completed. One often wonders what unseen and unknown spirit or force guides these little animals, enabling them to stay with their complicated engineering feats without maps or plans or designs until twenty acres is covered with construction. There is no other animal like them, only humans excepted.


Next, in point of thrill they give the Dude, comes the moose. These big animals are really rare beasts even in the national parks where they are protected. The average visitor is excited by a moose track, let alone the moose himself. The moose is a lonely animal. He prefers life in the solitude of the back country. He haunts the marshes at the base of high lakes, or those that play hide-and-seek with the rapids of the mountain streams. He takes his stand in the willows and brush, and when the visitor comes upon him unawares the moose takes one long, scrutinizing look, then turns and bounds into the woods. He who seeks to stalk a moose and take his picture must leave the beaten paths and explore the wilds of Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Glacier, or Mount McKinley National parks.

In Yellowstone in recent years the moose have spread over all parts of the park. Occasionally a mother moose and one or two calves will be seen in the willows along the roads. Bridger Lake, in a region which is proposed as an addition to Yellowstone Park, is a favorite feeding ground of the moose. The moose come to this shallow lake and wade out in the water to browse on lily pads and other aquatic vegetation. They hold their heads under water for unbelievably long periods, while nipping off the grasses at the bottom of the lake. It is estimated that there are eight hundred moose in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, and northern Jackson Hole, adjoining the parks, which is a national monument. At least four hundred more are in Glacier Park, mainly on the western side, and visitors can see them most easily near Lake McDonald. They are seen also in Mount McKinley and Isle Royale Parks.

Another elusive animal is the mountain sheep found in Glacier, Yellowstone, and Rocky Mountain parks, and in Mount McKinley where the beautiful Dall sheep lives. Mountain sheep have also been seen in Grand Canyon Park, and years ago they were native in Sequoia and Yosemite parks, from which areas they were unfortunately exterminated before the creation of the parks. In the Death Valley National Monument, we have the interesting mountain sheep given the name of Nelson in honor of Dr. E. W. Nelson, the famous naturalist. Mountain sheep stay at or above the timberline in the summer time, but are seen in the lower valleys during the winter. In Glacier National Park trail parties see these wary animals almost daily on the trips to Iceberg Lake, Swift-current Pass, Going-to-the-Sun chalets, and other high places. During the wintertime, the rangers feed the sheep around Many Glaciers Hotel to keep them from migrating to the lower levels where they would be killed by the Indians.

In Rocky Mountain Park these wary animals are found near the summit of the Rockies along Specimen and Flattop trails. Occasionally they are seen along the Fall River Road, where it crosses the mountains at an elevation of more than eleven thousand feet. In the winter the sheep come down into the Big Thompson and Fall River Valleys. In Yellowstone the sheep are hard to see during the summer time, except near the summit of Mount Washburn. Unfortunately, unthinking Sagebrushers, seeing these animals early in the morning, chase after them trying to take close-up snapshots, and so drive them out of the region. This is regrettable for it denies the rest of the visitors to Mount Washburn during that day the opportunity to see the bighorn mountain sheep, really a rare sight.

An animal similar in habits to the bighorn sheep is the Rocky Mountain goat. He is seen only by those who climb the high peaks, for the mountain goat loves to perch on crags far above the rest of the animals, with the world spread out at his feet. They are seen most frequently on the high peaks of Glacier Park and on the slopes of Mount Rainier. Being easily frightened, they lead precarious lives.


It is indeed remarkable that they can exist at all on the rare grasses and flowers found well above the timberline and just below the top most snow-capped mountain peaks.

The most familiar animal in the national parks is the deer. Protection from hunters has not only increased their numbers but has made them quite tame and friendly. These gentle, graceful creatures are found in all of the parks, to the great delight of visitors. They are so tame that they have learned to eat raisins, bread, or other delicacies from the hands of visitors. The rangers estimate that there are more than thirty thousand deer in the parks, and many more in areas surrounding the parks. The park deer are of three varieties: the mule deer, so named because of his long, alert ears, the most prevalent species; the white-tailed deer, found mainly in Glacier Park; and the black-tailed deer, seen on the western slopes of Mount Rainier. Eastern species are present in Acadia, Great Smoky Mountains and other national parks and monuments on the Atlantic Seaboard.

Deer are the pets of many rangers and employes in the parks. They come to beg food and in some of the parks have learned to answer the call of rangers to "come and get it," the "it" being oats from the stables. In fact, the deer have become so much at home among humans that they wear out their welcome. In Yosemite Valley they have eaten the flowers and plants about the houses of the employes and rangers and have virtually wiped out the evening primrose, a delicacy which delights the deer's palate. This has raised an interesting problem for the rangers. Conservationists of flowers claim the deer should be ousted to preserve the wild flora. On the other hand, conservationists of animals claim that the flowers were there to feed the wild fauna. So there is the issue. Flora or fauna?

The deer do about as they please, regardless of the rangers. One of the hardest things in the world is to make a deer do something he doesn't want to do. The rangers would much rather capture a bear and get him ready for shipment than box a deer for a trip to a city zoo. The deer does not bite, but he is much quicker and is nervous and strong, and often strikes viciously with his feet when afraid he is going to be hurt or captured. In some parks deer are now so numerous that they can well be spared. There have been cases in and near national forests adjoining parks where the deer have become so numerous that they have overbrowsed the range, stripping leaves, branches and even bark from shrubs and trees in their quest for food. This was the situation in the Kaibab National Forest which borders the Grand Canyon National Park's north rim section. The deer population had to be drastically reduced, and this was accomplished by hunting, for the most part, licenses being issued by the State of Arizona. Since no hunting is permitted in any national park, surplus animals are removed by rangers.

In 1924 a cattleman of Arizona proposed a relief for the Kaibab situation by offering to gather together a band of cowboys and drive eight thousand deer from the Kaibab region down into the Grand Canyon, across canyons, streams, and the Colorado River, and up the steep slopes to the South Rim. At one point it was necessary to drive the deer in single file along a narrow ledge trail for eight miles. It is hard to imagine anything more difficult than the job these cowboys attempted. They were to receive two dollars and fifty cents a head for all deer delivered to the south rim. The rangers advised them that the drive could not succeed, but assisted in every way possible. The cowboys assembled, likewise motion-picture men and newspaper correspondents, and the drive was on. For several days the deer round-up was carried on strenuously but not one deer ever reached the south rim. They simply refused to be driven anywhere.


The rangers later took a more simple, albeit slower, plan of populating the south-rim area with deer. Several small fawns were brought on pack horses and by airplane to the South Rim and were raised on bottles. They did well and now visitors to the South Rim see plenty of deer. For a long time, visitors were treated to an unusual sight of a beautiful doe and a rabbit which formed a strong attachment for each other and were always seen together whether walking, eating or sleeping.

The rangers are fond of these friendly, inquisitive animals and find it hard to understand the enthusiasm of hunters for killing deer. The rangers of Yosemite claim that the deer know exactly where the park boundary line runs. Along the Wawona Road, which parallels the boundary for several miles, the rangers point out plenty of deer on the protected park side of the road and call attention to the fact that there are none on the unprotected side, a few rods away, where the deer can be killed in hunting season. The rangers claim also that the deer, when grazing outside the park, on hearing the report of a rifle will invariably run for safety behind the park line where hunters cannot follow!

A fine animal that was saved from extinction by the scouts, soldiers, and rangers of Yellowstone Park is the Rocky Mountain elk. The elk has long been a favorite victim of hunters because of his great antlers. Outside the parks and mountain country adjoining Yellowstone the elk were virtually wiped out a few years ago. The Yellowstone herds, enjoying protection since the creation of the park in 1872, have increased until it is estimated that there are forty thousand elk in the park and in the seven national forests surrounding the Yellowstone. The elk range over much of the park and are easily seen at a distance by the Dudes and the Sagebrushers.

The elk is a magnificent animal, noble, stately, as large as a horse. The bull elk, adorned with large, well-proportioned horns, is just about the handsomest animal in the parks. When running, he makes a magnificent picture. In September and October, during the mating season, his shrill bugle or challenge, ringing through the crisp air on a moonlight night, is one of the most thrilling sounds of the mountains. The elk, though easily seen at a distance, is wary of humans and the visitor who wants to take his picture must stalk him slowly and cautiously.

Being a grazing animal, the elk will not rustle for food at the higher levels when the snows come. He moves to the lower altitudes, seeking grass. Late in the fall, when the storms become bad, great herds of elk may be seen leaving the park and the adjoining game preserves, moving out into the area where they are unprotected. This is the time when hunting is permitted in the neighboring states. Many elks are killed by hunters, sometimes under revolting circumstances. Often the great animals are mowed down with repeating rifles by hunters behind rocks. There is no chance to scatter. Knowing only the complete protection afforded in their summer haunts, the elk are like lambs slaughtered in a farmyard. The rangers fail to see the sportsmanship of shooting the elk down in herds. Each hunter is allowed but one elk, and it happens at times that after wanton killing there are dozens of animals left on the snow after each killer has selected his victim.


Terrible as are these slaughters, there was one other practice of the hunters that stirred the rangers to even greater anger. That was the practice of extracting the two large teeth from elk which were foundered in the snow, while the animals were too weak to resist. These large teeth were prized by jewelers for good-luck pieces. They were also needed by the elk to masticate his food, and without them he was unable to forage for himself and starved to death. Sometimes the great animals were illegally shot by poachers for their teeth only. The body of the elk was left in the snow, where the hunter ended the animal's life.

Of recent years the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks has co-operated with the rangers to fight the cruel practice of stealing teeth from the elk. Use of elk teeth has been outlawed by the order. Likewise, public-spirited citizens assisted financially in the purchase of several ranches north of Yellowstone Park where the elk can graze under protection during the long winter months under the watchful eyes of their ranger guardians.

Elk are found in smaller numbers in Glacier and Rocky Mountain parks. In the latter park they are the offspring of animals shipped from Yellowstone after the native herds had been wiped out by hunters. Elk once ranged the slopes of Mount Rainier, but this species, larger animals than the Rocky Mountain elk, are now confined to the Olympic National Park, although a few of the other species are known to be within the boundaries of Mount Rainier Park. For many years, in fact until 1933, a band of San Joaquin Valley, or "Tule" elk were maintained in Yosemite Valley. It is a smaller and different species from those of the Rockies and Olympics. The Yosemite band is now in the Owens Valley between Death Valley National Monument and Sequoia National Park.

Antelope may be seen in Yellowstone, Wind Cave and Grand Canyon Parks and in several monuments. These beautiful little animals, fleet of foot and alert of sense, once ranged the plains east of the Rockies in tens of thousands. Now the herds in the parks number about one thousand. They are practically extinct in most states, though in Wyoming, Oregon, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada they have made a notable increase under wisely administered game laws. There are also some bands in California, Montana and Utah. For a time it seemed certain that this interesting little animal was doomed to extinction, but in recent years they have rapidly increased in numbers.

The antelope is easy prey to predatory animals, especially while young. It is an interesting fact that the little antelope is born without scent and his fur so blends into the landscape that it is almost impossible to see him, even at fairly close range. It is said that if the tiny antelope remains still, a coyote can neither see nor smell him at twenty-five feet distance. The antelopes of the Grand Canyon herd were raised by the rangers from tiny kids, captured in northern Nevada. They were reared on bottles near Reno, then were shipped to the park. On their arrival in crates they were strapped on pack mules and taken down the Hermit Trail to the Tonto Plateau. There they have grown to full maturity and are rearing their young naturally. In recent years, these antelopes have moved eastward on the Tonto Plateau and can be seen near Indian Gardens on the Bright Angel Trail.


Because of his grace, color, and beauty, the antelope is a great favorite with amateur photographers, who in their eagerness to get a good snapshot approach the animals without care. Often they try to catch up with the antelope, if they miss their first shot. The photographer who can catch an antelope on the run has not yet been born. The visitor eager to take good animal pictures should come equipped with long-range lenses, or else must learn the patient art of stalking wild life. Any sudden movement frightens wild animals and ruins the picture not only for the photographer but also for others to come. Those who are successful in taking wild-animal pictures have developed a fine technique. The Crown Prince of Sweden, an experienced photographer of wild life, crawled a quarter of a mile on his hands and knees and finally on his stomach to take pictures of mountain sheep on Mount Washburn in Yellowstone.

The photographer must have infinite patience. He must keep his friends out of sight, as well as himself. He must move ever so slowly and cautiously toward the animals, or else sit patiently and wait for them to come to him. Or he can set up his camera in a spot which animals are known to frequent and pull the trigger by means of a thread. The telescopic lens fitted to his camera will help bridge the distance to his "shot." The rangers will give him pointers on where to find the animals and how to get the pictures. Most of the rangers are wild-life camera fans and have taken good pictures. They have found, as the visitors will also, that hunting with a camera is vastly more sporting and exciting than is hunting with a gun, particularly with the light hand motion-picture cameras which show the movements of these inhabitants of the forest.

In addition to the animals already mentioned, there are literally scores of varieties of smaller animals and birds, and also that interesting but not universally beloved group, the predatory animals. The latter include mountain lions, bobcats, wolves, and coyotes—the born killers of the forest, some of which kill for the mere love of killing, the same motive that seems to animate mankind except that the predatory animals do need to kill for food. These animals are seldom seen, with the exception of the "dogs," as the rangers call the coyotes. This species is sometimes hunted by the rangers, not with the purpose of extinction, for the coyotes belong in the wild-life picture of the parks, but for the purpose of curtailing their numbers so that they will not exterminate other species, such as the deer or the antelope. Mountain lions have not been killed in any of the parks for many years, except in rare cases and for scientific reasons. The mountain lion raises cubs but once every two years, and therefore does not increase rapidly. Unless a particularly ruthless killer becomes a menace, the lion is protected. The same is true of the bobcats, lynxes, and wolves. The coyote is a prolific breeder, on the other hand, raising a litter of puppies each year. Hence the coyote is hunted more or less. The purpose of the National Park Service is to preserve the natural status quo between native animals as nearly as possible under the peculiar circumstances by which so many species have been crowded by civilization into comparatively small areas. Exotic species of animals and fish are excluded from all national park areas.

The Dude or the Sagebrusher with a hankering for a hobby that is different will find unique opportunities in the study of the animals and birds of the parks. Living with the denizens of the woods as neighbors, he will marvel at their energy, their persistence. He will wonder at the ingenuity of the steam-heated birds' nests of the Yellowstone geyser basins. He will tremble at the isolation of the osprey's nest atop tall pinnacles in the Canyon. He will laugh at the story of the male osprey whose mate makes him sit on the nest at night so that she can know where he is. The audacity of the grouse family that held up a presidential party while the chicks crossed the road, the lightning quickness of the osprey as it dives into the rapids, returning over the tree tops with a struggling fish in its talons, the genius of the otters who live in winter in warm-water pools just a few feet from icy trout streams, the muskrats that enjoy salad in the wintertime because the warm streams they inhabit keep the grass and plants growing during freezing weather—all these and many more true tales of wild life serve to make up the saga of the great game preserves, the national parks. It is intriguing and stimulating, and many is the visitor who feels the urge, along with the rangers, to take his pen in hand and put it all on paper, perhaps in verse as did a ranger in Sequoia Park after watching the uncontrollable invasion of exotic 'possums into that region:

'Possums from Missouri, that's what the people say,
Moving to Sequoia and now well upon their way.
'Possums coming singly, others come in pairs,
Mothers carrying baby ones in pouches lined with hairs,
Big 'possums, little 'possums, lean ones and fat,
All moving to Sequoia—now what do you think of that?

(From the Stanford University Press edition)

There is romance in the lives and the ways of every one of these animals of the parks. That is there great appeal. Wild life is full of problems, just as is human life. Everywhere there is a plot. Everywhere there is a struggle. Everywhere there is a story. Never before in the history of mankind have three million people a year been able to enjoy it so intimately.


Oh, Ranger!
©1928, 1929, 1934, 1972, Horace M. Albright and Frank J. Taylor
albright-taylor/chap4a.htm — 06-Sep-2004