Sunday, November 16, 2014

Megafauna from South to West

I spend a lot more time in the outdoors than most Americans. A lot more.

One reason I go to Parks and wilderness areas is to find solitude. I also go to enjoy various types of scenery. Mountain vistas. Waterfalls. Rivers and streams. Forests.

But another huge reason I head off into the forests and swamps and mountains is to see wildlife. And there are all kinds of animals to define wildlife, but when I talk about that aspect of my journeys I'm speaking about megafauna. These are the larger animals. Things that are not tiny to us.

Most of our National Parks feature habitat that is the very reason that enables us to view such creatures. And in my wide journeys I am always on the lookout for the big critters, and I have varying degrees of luck spotting them.

For big fur-bearing animals I suppose the places like the western National Parks are the best. It's hard to visit one of those spots and not see the large critters we all think of as designating wilderness. In the east...well, the pickings are slim in comparison. When I'm hiking in the Piedmont or along the spine of the Appalachians, I just don't see a lot of wildlife. I feel fortunate to spot the occasional black bear. Elk are only now being reintroduced, but I do spot them from time to time. I've never seen a bobcat or a mountain lion here in the East. About the only big critters I can count on seeing in the East are white-tailed deer, raccoons, wild turkey, and the two vulture species we have.

But there is one place in the east where I often travel where there is at least as much wildlife as in the west. Maybe more. And that is in the wetlands of the deep South. If I go paddling in the Okefenokee Swamp, or trekking the rivers around the Outer Banks, or cruising the low country of Florida then I can pretty much guarantee myself that I will enjoy a vast bounty of wildlife.

West, East, South. I'll take what I can get.

Mullet school. Silver Glen Springs, Florida.

Black snake. Virginia Creeper Trail, southwest Virginia.

Migrating hawks forming a "kettle". Linville Gorge Wilderness, North Carolina.

White-tailed deer. Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Coyote/Red wolf hybrid. Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Alligator Snapping turtle. Outer Banks, North Carolina.

Cottontail rabbit. Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina.

A black bear and I surprise one another. Douthat State Park, Virginia.

Bison herd, Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park.

Bothersome raccoon. Blue Spring State Park, Florida.

Black buzzard, Manatee Springs State Park, Florida.

Bull elk. Rocky Mountain State Park, Colorado.

Bull elk, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cataloochee section, North Carolina.

Grizzly bear, Yellowstone National Park. (Yeah, not a good photo, but I prefer Grizzly bears to be far away.)

Manatees. Manatee Springs, Florida.

Bull moose. Grand Teton National Park.

Key Deer. Big Pine Key, Florida.

Osprey. Fort DeSoto Park, Tampa Florida.


Vicki said...

I'm with you all the way. The wildlife is amazing, regardless of country.

Great shots. That raccoon looks as if he's laughing at you.

James Robert Smith said...

That raccoon was the biggest asshole we've ever met, as far as animals go. We finally realized it was a female, and pregnant. Within minutes of our arriving at our campsite it turned over our cooler before we could unload it into our travel trailer and ran off with a package of high quality hamburger. Later, it poked its head into our trailer while we were relaxing, watching TV. My wife screamed at it and scared it away. After that, it stole one of my wife's shoes that she kept by the door. Just out of mischief, we suppose.

We reported the raccoon to the park office and a ranger came out and set a trap, which only succeeded in catching an opossum. If they had caught her they wouldn't have harmed her. Just moved her somewhere else in the park.

I blogged about it a couple of times. Just do a search for "the little asshole" or "asshole raccoon".

Vicki said...

Ha ha... what do you expect from a pregnant female?

She was really scared of you with your broom, wasn't she? ;-)

I had to laugh at the scrub jay eating the trap bait. As you say, stupid humans.

James Robert Smith said...

She laughed at me and my stupid broom.

She had already made out big-time with the hamburger. That was four patties of really high-quality meat. We'd bought it at a high-end grocery just before heading out. We put the cooler on the ground, turned around for a minute, and she dashed out, opened the top, knocked over the cooler and dashed off into the brush.

She was a handful.

That's okay. What a cool experience.

We also met a really personable young raccoon at a state park in West Virginia. It turned our empty cooler over on top of itself (it was a very young racoon--less than a year old and obviously just off on its own). We were staying in a park cabin. After I got the cooler off of it, it sat by the screen door waiting to be invited inside. Like a puppy. And we realized that other park guests must have actually allowed it inside! They're very cute and all that, but they get rabies more than any other common wildlife. It is not smart to allow them to get close. Plus, feeding them often ends with the animals being killed somehow.

Vicki said...

As cute as raccoons look, I know their behavior leaves a lot to be desired. I've been following Raccoon Willie's YouTube channel, which is always entertaining. But man, what a mess one raccoon can make.

Thankfully, we don't have rabies in Australia. Fingers crossed it stays that way.