Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Seahawks and sea monsters...

OK. These will be in reverse order, I guess; I don't have the patience to move everything around at this point. Most people who watch the NFL don't realize that the mascot for Seattle's football team--the Seahawks--is actually an Osprey; seahawk is just a nickname. This one is just coming back out of the water after diving, unsuccessfully, for a fish.
You can just see his head; he's just getting upright, readying his wings to fly up and out of there.
Osprey are AMAZING fishers. Unlike bald eagles, which swoop down and grab fish off the surface of the water with their talons, osprey actually dive right in, under the water when they have to.
You can just see the tips of his wings here, immediately after the dive. It was so great to watch this predator; he must have dove 5 or 6 different times. Unfortunately for him, he never caught anything. However, a couple of years ago, I was fishing the Weber River around Coalville, where there were many osprey nesting in the area. And while my friend and I caught nothing, we watched fish after fish being pulled out of the river by these great raptors.
Hitting the water hard for that elusive fish.
They soar around, watching the water for movement and once they find it, they sort of square up and plunge quickly for the water.
Just coming back out of the water. Was so hoping he'd have luck on his side. But alas, he came up empty.
As I was trying to follow him through my lens, I snapped just as a magpie flew across my lens. Thought it made an interesting shot.
Thank you, Mr. Osprey, for an AMAZING performance!
Pelican, just landing.
I love these black birds with the bright yellow eyes!
Like many bird species, pelicans seem to stick to a mate for life. What a cute couple.
Not difficult for me to fathom a close relationship between today's birds and yesterday's dinosaurs.
Trying to scoop up some fish.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Kill so they can kill some more...

Let me preface this entry with this: Hunting for your subsistence is honorable; killing for sport is another thing altogether. I will repeatedly use the term "hunter" in this entry; I am directing the majority of my claims toward the sport/trophy hunters, as I believe they are the biggest enemy of the wolf and ecology in general.

All of you know by now my affinity for nature, for wildlife, and especially for wolves. For the past 6 months, there has been more and more talk about the wolf issue here in the West. As you can imagine by reading my other wolf-related entries, this issue gets people heated. Why do people--specifically hunters--hate wolves so much? Why do groups like Safari International, Big Game Forever, Cabela's, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife and others lobby so hard to get rid of the wolves? There is a pretty simple answer.

If you mention wolves around the vast majority of hunting enthusiasts, your likely to get an earful. They love regurgitating the talking points they've gotten from "sportsmen" shows, magazines, stores, and other hunters. Pick up nearly any hunting magazine around here and you'll find an article or four about how wolf reintroduction has "decimated" the ungulate populations. Now, even though the word decimate literally means to take one out of every ten, the hunter will go on and on about how there are NO elk left; they'll ramble about how they've hunted an area for 20 years and now there are NO elk or deer anywhere. The truth about this claim of decimation is true and it isn't. Certainly, areas where many hundreds or thousands of elk once roamed out of check, are now found to be with fewer elk, but this doesn't mean there are NO elk; it usually means the elk have scattered; moved on to other areas with fewer predators. What hunters won't mention is the fact that, in places like MT, WY and ID, after 15 years of wolves, elk numbers are still exceeding state objectives. If you want to know why this is a very good thing, for the wolves, the land, and the elk, go back to my earlier wolf blogs where I go into more depth on that. To put it simply,
wolves = fewer, more scattered ungulates = stronger, more alert, genetically superior elk = less grazing = more intact ecosystems.

So, why wouldn't hunters want all of that; at least the part about genetically superior elk and more intact ecosystems? Well, hunters have lots of competition. As the hunter prizes that trophy elk, so does Mr. Bear, Mr. Wolf, Mr. Other Hunter and good old Mother Nature. And, this just makes a hunter uneasy about his chances. To Mr. Hunter, superior elk and good ecosystems are all fine and good, as long as he's just about guaranteed to get to shoot one of those superior elk on a "hunt" that is essentially a canned hunt, meaning every odd is in his favor.

Guaranteed? Oh yes. And he'll talk about this issue, as there is some predestined entitlement to kill an elk and hang it on his wall. And he'll talk about how he and his buddies have laid some sort of claim to the elk in the mountains and, thus, should have more to say about it than anyone else. Entitlement? Really? A guarantee? Hmm....I don't remember that part of the Constitution. I don't remember reading or hearing about this guarantee, ever. I do believe that God gave man the beasts of the field to sustain himself. However, there was never a guarantee, or a right, or a claim of ownership over the elk. No, I believe those are God's elk/Nature's elk. We have no more claim on them than does the rest of the biosphere.

About that imagined claim of more right to influence wildlife policies, the hunters will tell you about how more of the money they spend on hunting tags, etc...goes into habitat restoration and game management programs. As far as I understand it, they are correct, and that their money is spent on habitat preservation, restoration, etc...is commendable, by itself. But then, in order to fully respect that, one ought to ask why would hunters spend money on habitat and lobbying the way they do. Do they just love the elk and deer? Are they simply fascinated by the ungulates and never want to see them vanish? Do they believe elk and deer were meant to roam the mountains around us? (Wouldn't that also mean ALL native animals should roam our mountains?) Well, perhaps; it might be a small factor. But what if nothing was in it for the hunter? What if there was no hunting allowed? What if there was no guarantee? Would they still spend their money on habitat preservation and making sure the elk and deer populations thrived? I'm going to go out on a limb here and say NO, they would not. They've shown that what they ultimately want, that great motivating force behind their good deeds, is that they want to kill those elk and deer. They pay their dues so they can kill things. Many of them don't care what; put a living, breathing mammal in front of them and they'll kill it and then pose for a photo with it and then maybe get the thing stuffed and put on the wall, thus ensuring the praise of their friends for years to come.
(By the way, in terms of pure dollars related to wildlife, for every $1 spent by hunters/fishers in Utah, $2 is spent by people just hoping to SEE wildlife.)

Maybe it's just me but, "to hunt" implies having to look around, to scout, to stalk, and maybe to work really hard IN HOPES of finding what you're looking for. If you hunt something, you obviously don't know if that thing is there; you are simply looking for it; no guarantee. Today's "hunting" philosophy: 4WD truck, 4WD 4 wheeler with a winch, camoflauge everything, trail cameras, high powered rifle, high powered scope, paid guides, private property, spending WAY more money for that guarantee than what you'd spend on meat at the store, etc...The truck will maybe get you close enough for a shot; the 4wheeler will get you even closer and will carry out your kill for you; the high-powered rifle will put you "within range" at over a mile away; the high-powered scope will get you even closer; you'll quench that blood lust before you even squeeze the trigger; the guides will take you right to the place where they've been watching the same trophy animal, every day, for months; the trail cam will do your hunting for you so you won't have to move a muscle; all of that "hunting" will assure you that you'll win the pissing contest between all the other hunters on a given year. By the same logic behind the anti-wolf lobby, we ought to kill all bears, kill all wolves, kill all trees--easier to see the elk, make it illegal for any hunter's path to go in an uphill direction; much easier to walk downhill. No, let's take that even further; it should be illegal, come hunting season, for any elk to remain hidden up in the mountains; by law they should be forced out of the hills and within 10 feet of all major valley roads. No, that's not right; it ought to be the law that once an animal has been chosen by the hunter, it must jump into the back of the hunter's truck where it would then be shot dead. Wait, no; only shot to maim itself, so it could go ahead and gut and skin itself on the way to the taxidermist, where it could then finally die. Trophy hunters are practically hunting on farms anyway; everything is basically a canned hunt these days. They don't want fair chase; they don't want it to be difficult; they want it to be as easy as possible to bag an elk with a bigger rack than the one over at the neighbor's house. See where I'm heading with this yet? (By the way, the funny scenarios I've  just painted are very nearly reality in some places like Texas and Africa).

To a wolf, hunting means hunting. They know there's no guarantee of a kill. The only guarantee they have is that, if they don't eat, they won't survive. The average wolf is about 95lbs. They don't have guns, they don't have scopes, they don't have trucks nor 4 wheelers. They have 4 legs on which they must run and beat their prey. They have to out wit an elk to win. They fail miserably on the majority of hunting attempts. But their survival depends on them succeeding some of the time. To bump their chances at all, they generally go after the young or the very old, the sick and the weak, leaving the strongest animals--those with the best health and genetics--to survive and pass on their traits. The way wolves hunt and survive will benefit elk populations, habitat, and vast ecosystems leaps and bounds more than will the high paying, guarantee-seeking hunter.

Why do the hunters want to get rid of the wolves? It's not because they simply love the elk and deer and moose. It's their love of killing the elk, deer, and moose that drives them. Trophy hunters kill wolves so they can kill some more.
To a wolf, hunting means food. They know there's no guarantee of a kill. The only guarantee they have is that, if they don't eat, they won't survive.

In the spirit of most of my hunting friends being from Utah:

*“I do not believe any man should kill animals or birds unless he needs them for food, and then he should not kill innocent little birds that are not intended for food for man. I think it is wicked for men to thirst in their souls to kill almost everything which possesses animal life. It is wrong. I have been surprised at prominent men whom I have seen whose very souls seemed to be athirst for the shedding of animal blood. They go off hunting deer, antelope, elk, anything they can find, and what for? “Just the fun of it!” Not that they are hungry and need the flesh of their prey, but just because they love to shoot and to destroy life. I am a firm believer, with reference to these things, in the simple words of one of the poets:
“Take not way the life you cannot give,
For all things have an equal right to live.”

--Pres. Joseph F. Smith--

“I never could see why a man should be imbued with a blood-thirsty desire to kill and destroy animal life. I have known men—and they still exist among us—who enjoy what is, to them, the ‘sport’ of hunting birds and slaying them by the hundreds, and who will come in after a day’s sport boasting of how many harmless birds they have had the skill to slaughter … I do not believe any man should kill animals or birds unless he needs them for food, and then he should not kill innocent little birds that are not intended for food for man. I think it is wicked for men to thirst in their souls to kill almost everything which possesses animal life. It is wrong.” (President Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, Vol. 1, pp. 371-372)
“Now, I would like to add some of my feelings concerning the unnecessary shedding of blood and destruction of life … And not less with reference to the killing of innocent birds is the wildlife of our country that live upon the vermin that are indeed enemies to the farmer and to mankind. It is not only wicked to destroy them, it is a shame, in my opinion. I think that this principle should extend not only to the bird life but to the life of all animals … because God gave it to them, and they were to be used only, as I understand, for food and to supply the needs of men.” (President Spencer W. Kimball, “Fundamental Principles to Ponder and Live,” The Ensign, November 1978, p. 45)
“Killing for sport is wrong…One day, to while away the slowly passing hours, I took my gun with the intention of indulging in a little amusement in hunting turkeys… From boyhood I had been particularly, and I may say strangely, attached to a gun. Hunting in the forests of Ohio was a pastime that to me possessed the most fascinating attractions. It never occurred to my mind that it was wrong-that indulging in “what was sport to me was death to them;” that in shooting turkeys, squirrels, etc., I was taking life that I could not give; therefore I indulged in the murderous sport without the least compunction of conscience.”  (Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, p.188-189)

*“… The unnecessary destruction of life is a distinct spiritual loss to the human family. Men cannot worship the Creator and look with careless indifference upon his creations. The love of all life helps man to the enjoyment of a better life. It exalts the spiritual nature of those in need of divine favor.”
--Joseph F. Smith--

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Stuff, including Nature Saturday

From Nature Saturday, this was a snow slide across the canyon road. Had to hike the bike over it. I had anticipated it, but thought once I crossed it, I could ride my bike up the road to a favorite trailhead. I was wrong, as most of the road the rest of the way was covered in snow. I finally ditched the bike and just hiked it, which was more relaxing, actually and I was able to take in the beautiful surroundings, rather than just be huffing and puffing trying to pedal up that steep canyon. Anyway, this bike is one of my favorites. It's 20 years old; I bought it barely used in 1995.
This was a couple of weeks ago. We had taken my son to the pond to feed the ducks. I remember my mom taking me and my siblings to the pond to feed the ducks. It just seems natural to take my son there. He loves it. But there was this badass seagull that drug a fish up the shore and was tearing it up. I always say nature isn't always pretty, but then again, it is.
For our 5 year anniversary, big spenders we are, we drove 3 hours down to Capitol Reef, a national park in Utah which is quickly becoming a favorite destination for me. It was beautiful as always, albeit cold and windy. Wish my pics would have turned out better; I didn't have he patience in that wind though. Still, a great trip.
Egyptian Temple, Capitol Reef Nat'l Park, UT
While driving down a dirt road on the south end of the park, we stopped, very randomly to look at some plants. There's rock and cliffs to climb on everywhere you go. I climbed up this rock and found what must be some Fremont Indian ruins. Sort of a makeshift shelter under a huge boulder and, if you look closely, you'll see old corn cobs. A very cool find.
Just some prettiness of the West Desert, Simpson Springs, UT area.

Monday, May 9, 2011


I LOVE days like this, and there's no place that makes me feel more at home on a rainy day than Santaquin Canyon; like being in Alaska again!

Up Santaquin Canyon, there's this part of the narrow road that becomes a one-way across a bridge, under which the river switches to the north side of the road, where a snow slide almost always comes down. This year is no exception, with near record snow pack in the Wasatch Range. I love that stuff like this happens!
Here's the lower end of the avalanche; hard to tell, but the river is raging this week. It was scary walking across that little land bridge made of snow; the thought of it giving way while I crossed with my camera had my heart racing. But sometimes, you've got to earn your good times.
I'm a sucker for shots like this, probably because it takes some manipulation of your camera settings and you can set it up so many different ways. And to me, this is way better quality than that one on the wall at the Chinese restaurant.
Not as pretty but, more of that.
Was a beautiful day for a drive!