Archive for January, 2015

Oh Canada! B.C. and Alberta Governments Plan to Kill Hundreds of Wolves

B.C. Wolf in the Great Bear Rainforest

B.C. Wolf in the Great Bear Rainforest.

In another sad attempt by politicians to fix the ecology informed by simplistic cause and effect science that has been proven wrong about 50 years old, the B.C. government has started a wolf kill in which 180 wolves are to be located by the radiocolars some of the wolves wear to make them trackable by scientists, then shot from helicopters. The official idea is to protect the last surviving woodland caribou, which have been severely decimated by … you guessed it: humans, not wolves; habitat loss to be precise.

Here is an idea of how senseless these measures are: The U.S. National Park Service stopped what was cynically called “predator control” in the 1960s, and in fact reintroduced wolves into Yellowstone National Park in 1998. This has been one of the greatest success stories of human animal control of the last decades, simply because it meant less rather than more control of an ecosystem that has developed through co-evolution over millions of years. Not so the B.C. government, or the Alberta government, which has killed over 1000 wolves since 2005 according to Alberta wildlife photographer John Marriott (that is the entire wolf population of Yellowstone and then some each year for the past 10 years!), and apparently politicians are considering stepping up their game by killing even more wolves so that they do not have to stop human habitat destruction. The whole procject is, of course, not only highly unethical, but also scientifically unsound, and pointless. As Canadian researchers have shown in a paper published only two months ago, there has been no effect of the Alberta mass slaughter, other than a thousand dead wolves, of course (see here; the site also gives other good reasons to oppose the killings). A sad day for a country with some of the greatest nature, but sadly not the greatest track record of protecting it – to put it mildly.

So what can we do?

If you are in BC or Alberta, write to your governmen, call them, visit them. Make your opinion heard. If you are neither in BC nor in Alberta that does not stop you from writing to the provincial governments, of course. Since they are not your (or my) representatives they probably won’t care too much about our votes, but they may care about our tourist dollars. After all these pay for the wolf killings. Many voices promising to boycott the two provinces may make a difference. They certainly will not hurt. Tell them you had planned to go to B.C. / Alberta this year and that you are now reconsidering. If you hadn’t consider it, consider it now, then change your mind. Wyoming, Montana and Colorado have beautiful mountains, too, as do the Alps for that matter. And Washington State also has a nice temperate rain forest. Pacific Wild’s website has a link to a preformulated email with the right addresses for B.C. here. Marriott has the Alberta addresses here. The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals also has sample letters and addresses, here and here. All these sites also have more background as well as other links which support the point that the wolf kills are not only unethical but show no effect on the caribou population they are supposed to save.

You can also support the folks at Pacific Wild, Ian and Karen McAlister and their supporters, who have done more in recent years for B.C. than most by donating money to their campaign to stop the wolf kill.

If you cannot give money and do not want to write, you can also sign their petition, which takes about 2 seconds. Over 100,000 others have already done so. It may not make a huge difference, but it certainly won’t hurt.

Thank you for caring about these wonderful and intelligent creatures!


Grand Teton in Winter

My first ever real post (and one that the stats of this page tell me people still come to through search engines) was on Grand Teton National Park, so now, a little over four years later I make another about Grand Teton. And, it will even include another picture of Andy Chambers’ Ranch (though not the Moulton Barn which I called the most photographed barn in America back then). However, even more so than Yellowstone, Grand Teton is a much, much less crowded place in the winter; for most of the photos I was on my own, which is what wildlife photography is supposedly all about, but which in the more popular parks, especially close to the roads, is not the case rather often or at least not for long.

In summer Grand Teton is a “sunrise place,” the Teton Range runs almost entirely from North to South, so the morning light creates rather intense alpenglow on the mountains, which makes it almost impossible to take a bad photo if one is up at the right time. The only trick is finding a suitable foreground. It also means, however, that it is almost entirely impossible to get a good picture of the mountains in the evening, unless really crazy cloud formations happen. In the winter, however, the sun sets so early, and thus so far to the south, rather than the west that you can get some decent light on the mountains till rather late. No comparison to sunrise, but still worth taking pictures of. Since I had fog or snow or clouds 7 out of 8 mornings while I was in the park I am very glad about this (I had at least two good evenings). The rest of the days I was faced with throwing my plans over board and dealing with the kind of light mother nature dished out to me, which is one of the challenges, occasional frustrations, but also rewards of nature photography. To say the least my images are very different ones than the ones I had expected, but some of them are pleasant surprises that, I hope, go beyong the clichés I described in my original post.

So without further ado, a my mix of my images from one morning, two evenings and several attempts to deal with less obviously mountain-centered light in Grand Teton and the National Elk Refuge right next to Jackson.

PS: There is one more post coming up with more photos from Yellowstone after my return from Grand Teton. At this point, however, I have 4253 images which I haven’t really looked through yet so it may take a couple of days.

First Impressions from Yellowstone

While I am currently in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, looking at a moose chewing its cud in the driveway (cf. my previous post), I spent the last days of 2014 and the beginning of 2015 in Yellowstone National Park, and will be going back up on Friday. I’ve been to Yellowstone and Grand Teton three times before for extended periods, but never in the winter, something I have been wanting to do for years, and it is indeed special. It is quite cold, one day it was -33° C (-27 Fahrenheit), which makes photography both less pleasant, particularly when your fingers feel like they are getting frostbitten, and more so, since it is beautiful, pristine, and much less crowded than in the summer so that there is a chance for one on one or almost one on one wildlife encounters, something which in summer is almost impossible if one is anywhere near the main roads. I only spent four and a half days in the park so far, but it has been a fantastic four and a half days with bison (who always look somewhat boring in my summer photos, but gorgeous in the snow), deer, elk, moose, wolves (very far away), pronghorn, big horn sheep, and otters. I have only seen coyotes at a distance and surprisingly no foxes or squirrels, also very few birds.
Below are a few shots from near the Northern road which leads through Mammoth Hot Springs and the Lamar Valley and ends at Cooke City. It is also the only road in the park open to private vehicles during the winter, everything else is open only to snowmobile or snowcoach tours, in case you were planning to come to Yellowstone in the winter as well.
As always, feedback both positive and constructive, and image orders (!) are welcome. Clicking on any of the thumbnails will open an image gallery that you can click through.

Please pardon the number of images, after going through nearly 4000 images I couldn’t decide to cull any more.

Moose in the Driveway

I am currently in Jackson, Wyoming, in a lovely house provided by a friend’s sister in exchange for two prints. Since the weather hasn’t been cooperating these last days, I am spending the afternoon going through images from the past week and a half in preparation for a post about Yellowstone National Park in Winter, waiting for the sunrise which will hopefully happen again tomorrow; the last one was 5 days ago. As I was looking out the window from the living room couch, I saw a moose chewing its cud in the driveway. Of course, today of all days, I’m a photographer without a camera – I knew I shouldn’t have left my cameras in the car.
Not wanting to miss this opportunity, who knows when the next moose will be in my driveway, I snuck out the back way through meters of snow drift, trying to pass the moose without disturbing her. I didn’t quite suceed, she got up and eyed me somewhat suspiciously, but reassuring her that I meant her no harm, I did pass by, almost close enough to touch. While I have been close to moose in the past, this is the closest I have ever been to a standing moose. And man are those animals huge – they put most horses to shame. On my way back I snapped a few shots, and I am happy to report that she is now eating willow bark in the driveway, about ten meters from where I originally saw her, so I cannot have disturbed her too terribly. I’ll regard it as a wakeup call, reminding her that it was time for dinner.

More importantly, however, who else owns a house in a beautiful location with mmoose in the driveway and is willing to do a tradeoff: I offer a print for a week of free boarding, two if you have a hot tub on your roof – I have my standards now, after all.

Moose in the driveway

Moose in the driveway