Monthly Archives: May 2010

Elk Grazing in Willow Flats

Elk graze in Willow Flats beneath Mount Moran in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. (Mike Cavaroc)
Elk graze in Willow Flats with Mount Moran in the background in Grand Teton National Park.

The weather’s been doing a lot of interesting things, making it seem as it winter realized what time of year it was and began doing all it could to last a bit longer. I’ve had this shot for a couple of weeks now when it began acting up again, as you can see from all the fresh snow covering Mount Moran in the background. That day I headed up into Grand Teton National Park to find some bears, but came up unsuccessful. Instead I did find a herd of elk grazing near the road in Willow Flats with some impressive, dramatic scenery behind them, courtesy of Mother Nature.
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Bison and Calf in Snow

A bison calf walks alongside its mother after a recent late-May snow in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. (Mike Cavaroc)
A bison and its calf walk through snow-covered sagebrush in Grand Teton National Park.

I don’t normally like to post images of animals with their backs to me, however I think this one makes for a nice exception. Upon driving toward Kelly, Wyoming the other day in Grand Teton National Park, I came across several herds moving around the Gros Ventre Campground. That’s nothing out of the ordinary, but what was a bit out of the ordinary was the recent snow storm that came through. Bison calves are typically in scenes of green grass and wildflowers simply because that’s the only time you see them. While I’m sure I’m not the first person to capture bison calves in a fresh snow, it’s always nice if you get to be one of the few exceptions to the rules, just like this composition.
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Eating Habits of Black Bears in Grand Teton National Park

Black bear cubs search a log torn apart by their mother for food in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. (Mike Cavaroc)
Two black bear cubs inspect a log ripped open by their mother in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

Springtime is a great season to find wildlife in Grand Teton National Park, especially bears, because they come out of hibernation with not only an empty belly, but also a low fat percentage. As a result, they’re hungry and they’re going to eat anything they can find. Grizzly bears will dig up the ground in search of roots, while black bears will eat grass right out of the ground, which is what these cubs were doing with their mother when I happened upon them. After following them for a bit, the mother began ripping apart this log so that they could potentially feed on grubs, ants, termite and other smaller insects. Once they’ve spent a good month or so getting their fat content back up, they’ll lay low for a while, avoiding the crowds that tend to build up in Grand Teton National Park until the fall season comes around and they begin building back up a much higher fat content in preparation for the coming winter.
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Bison Adult and Calf in Grand Teton National Park

A bison mother looks toward its calf near Kelly, Wyoming in Grand Teton National Park. (Mike Cavaroc)
A bison mother looks at its calf near Kelly, Wyoming in Grand Teton National Park

Photographing bison can be tricky depending on the weather conditions outside. If they’re in snow and the sun is shining, you’re either go to have a black bison or blown out snow. For that reason your best shots (as with most subjects) will be in the early morning or evening light. At that time of day the light is softer allowing for a brighter exposure without blowing out the highlights on the fur.

Bison calves are a bit easier since they still have a light coat. This allows for a much easier shot, however bison calves don’t steer clear of the herd very often so unless you’ve got a great telephoto lens, expect to get another adult bison shot.
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Important Reminders When Encountering Wildlife Near the Road

A two year old black bear cub climbs up a cottonwood tree near the Signal Mountain Lodge in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. (Mike Cavaroc)
A black bear cub clings to a cottonwood tree for safety in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

After photographing these black bears for a good hour or so with only two other local photographers near the Signal Mountain Lodge in Grand Teton National Park, the crowds began swarming shortly after that. That’s to be expected any time there are animals, especially young ones, on the side of the road.

While it can definitely be exciting, it’s important to remember that you’re visiting their home. The scene here was bittersweet because each time a car would drive through, it would startle the cubs up into the nearest tree. While it made for excellent shots, the poor cubs were frightened to the point of running for safety simply because someone didn’t respect where they were and drove right through, not caring if they were driving too close to the cubs or even if they were going too fast to make sure the bears felt safe.
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Black Bear Cub Up a Tree in Grand Teton National Park

A two year old black bear cub climbs up a cottonwood tree in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. (Mike Cavaroc)
A black bear cub climbs up a cottonwood tree in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

Spring is definitely in full swing! The last two days have been particularly exciting for me as I’ve begun heading up into Grand Teton National Park a bit more and the young wildlife has begun springing up! In addition to this black bear cub found near the Signal Mountain Lodge, I also found my first bison calf near the Gros Ventre Campground the day before on my way back from discovering that the same great-horned owl from last year I got shots of is most likely sitting on new eggs. I can only imagine it’s going to get better as more and more offspring are born in the still-to-come wildflowers.

I headed up into Grand Teton National Park this morning for a couple of hours and didn’t find anything much worth capturing.
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