Monday, March 20, 2017

Grand Canyon Village Wildlife!

     Grand Canyon Village Wildlife!
     Spotting wildlife at National Parks is always a good experience for visitors.  Wild animals in panoramic landscapes present good picture taking opportunities.  Wildlife viewing is easy to do at the Grand Canyon Village during the early spring season, because young doe with foals and young Elk feel safe where humans are present, because out in the wild they are under a constant threat from hungry predators, like Mountain Lions, Coyotes and Wolves.  
     Caution must be exerted when watching the wildlife, because it is all too easy to forget that these animals are truly wild.  Many wild animals may look docile, but as soon as they feel threatened their demeanor changes to a defensive stance.  The best defense for a wild animal is to charge at threats that are too close or simply run away.  Even mild mannered herd animals like Mule Deer can become a formidable threat when they feel cornered.  Young Elk can become especially dangerous when approached, because these animals know that they are larger than humans and a human is easy to trample down.  
     Gambling on whether a wild animal will flee, charge or remain docile simply is not worth the risk and people that push their own luck often end up with serious injuries.  The National Park Wildlife Rangers advise that it is best to keep 200 yards of distance between yourself and dangerous wild animals.  Keeping a 100 yard distance from less threatening animals like raccoons, skunks and deer, is usually plenty of space.  Always use a flashlight at night, because Elk sometimes sleep on the ground in populated areas and tripping over a sleeping male Elk will result in being gored by sharp antlers.       
     I was working at a restaurant in Grand Canyon Village last year during the spring season.  My living quarters were in an old building near the Grand Canyon Trail Burro Corral.  The building was also next a grassy field that led straight into the thick forests of the National Park.  This area in Grand Canyon Village was a primary pathway that wild animals followed, so at any time of day or night, seeing wild animals up close was commonplace.  During the daytime, many young doe with foals fed on grass along the pathways in Grand Canyon Village.  These young deer were used to being around humans and they were quite docile when walking by.  Stopping to observe for too much time sometimes spooked the young animals and they would scurry away to a safer distance.  Even so, little Mule Deer foals are so cute that one simply has to stop to admire them.  
     One thing that I noticed was that when the young deer in a grassy area pick up their heads to listen alertly all at one time, it pays too look around for trouble that is on the way.  While chatting with a fellow employee next to a group of young deer that just went into an alert mode, the employee and I looked at each other and said, "I wonder what is spooking the deer?"  All of a sudden a huge young Elk rounded the corner of the building in full gallop and nearly mowed us both down while running scared off into the distance.  We just looked at each other and said, "Wow!  That sure was a close one!  I wonder what got that Elk spooked out of its mind?"  
     Male Mule Deer and Elk are easy to identify by their antlers.  These male herd animals will stand their ground no matter what during the rutting season.  There was a ditch by the railroad tracks that I had to cross on the way to the job everyday and the big Elk liked to wallow in the mud to get rid of biting insects.  Many times that I tried to cross that ditch, I ended up having to take the long way around because a big Bull Elk was in the way.  
     Most of the up close photos of Mule Deer Bucks and Elk with big antlers in the slideshow above were taken while driving to the Grand Canyon Village General Store.  The safety of the car acted as a defensive barrier that these wild herd animals did not mind.  Taking photos of these animals from inside the car is okay as long as stopping the car does not impede vehicular traffic.  Being inside a car is a lot safer than stepping outside when very close to a herd animal with a full rack of antlers.
     This may seem strange, but the most dangerous animal at the Grand Canyon National Park does not have antlers or fangs.  The little gray squirrels may seem docile, but these little creatures carry a variety of nasty diseases, like rabies and the bubonic plague.  On the average, one person is bitten by a squirrel at the Grand Canyon each day.  Most visitors are bitten by squirrels while trying to feed them, even though signs are posted that state that it is against the law to feed wild animals on every path.     
     As one can see, safety cannot be stressed enough, even when in a docile wildlife viewing area like the Grand Canyon Village.  Feeding wild animals is taboo and this will result in a big fine.  If the local wildlife is treated with respect, plenty of great opportunities will arise to view and photograph wildlife up close when visiting Grand Canyon Village during the spring season!

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