Close Encounters Of The Elk Kind
I enjoy wildlife. While skunks have never topped my ‘interest’ list and meeting a bear or wolf close up and personal would not make my day (at least not in a good way), the observation of most wild things provides me a continuous source of pleasure.
I enjoy recording my adventures. Thus I take a LOT of photos. Granted, what I post makes the focal point at least ‘visible’, but wild animals being ‘wild’ do not stand still, nor do they often come close enough for a really good picture.
I typically experience one or the other. Either the animal comes close enough (like the cow elk which nearly ran me over a couple of years ago or the Sandhill crane which flew up from 10 feet away the other day) OR have my camera ready to use but the subject is farther away than I’d like. One without the other is common. Getting the two together is the real treat!
That is one reason a ‘pet peeve’ or mine (literally) is Bo chasing game. I did not train him to heel (since a dog on my heels would be little help in protecting me should I meet a bear or moose or wolf on the trail), and he is still learning to differentiate between dangerous animals and non-dangerous animals (granted, any animal in the right situation can be dangerous).
Thus, the other day, the ‘big bad wolf’ turned out to be a small herd of elk. Before I realized he was gone, he was off to clear the path. I stepped around a group of evergreens to see him in hot pursuit of a couple of elk. Chewing him out under my breath, I started across the meadow assuming I’d seen all I would see of them that day.
Not so. Bo’s one good trait - if there is a good trait in a dog who chases the game I want to see - is he rarely chases them far. He seems to have this ‘safety zone’. Once they are outside of this area, they are no longer perceived as a threat in his mind.
Thus, in a couple of moments he reappeared on the other side of the clearing. I signed him to return to my side - with the usual “you bad dog” body language. He did. However, I know he was confused by my response. After all, he had just protected me! Fine thanks I gave him!
No sooner had he reached my side than a cow elk appeared - obviously on his trail. I have seen a couple cow elk do this once before - but never a lone cow as in this situation. She was so intent on him, I do not think she really saw me - although I was standing in the middle of the small meadow.
This situation looked to turn out as several before. A close up animal but no way to get my camera! However, this time, the elk cooperated. As she steeped behind a small fir tree, I pulled my camera into position. And, the following is the result.
She came closer
All the time keeping a wary eye on the dogs which, I suspect, were not acting as she thought they should. The whole time they sat quietly by my side - not even flicking an ear as far as I could tell.
So she came closer
I kept expecting her to smell me. Obviously she could see me. Surely she could her the ‘click’ of the camera’s shutter. Yet on she came
- - - - And closer
Until, finally, within about 20 feet of me, she finally caught my scent - and like a wisp of fog in a stiff breeze, she disappeared!
Some days it all works out!
Lady of the Lake