Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Elk and Bighorns

Early April isn't the ideal time to visit the parks in the southern Black Hills. The wildlife babies aren't running around yet, and the landscape is still brownish. But I'm still working in Chicago most of the time and my annual 7-week trip to New York City is coming up soon, so I figured today was my last chance before summer to check my trail camera in Wind Cave National Park.

The camera clicked off 3,600 images in my four-month absense. It turned out that only 125 of them had anything interesting in them, and the rest were triggered by shadows and wind. There were images of elk, deer, coyotes, grouse and ravens, none as good as my last batch. The first image below is probably the best of the bunch and shows an elk on Feb. 27 with a thick winter coat. There was still plenty of battery power remaining so I moved the camera 200 yards east, which hopefully will catch the elk and other critters as they come up out of a ravine. I'm guessing my next check will be in September.

The thousands of false triggers did tell me something – it was a warm, open winter. There weren't more than a couple inches of snow at any time, none after Feb. 11. Daytime temperatures were usually above freezing, and it was 80 degrees as soon as March 10, 90 degrees on March 30!

After I took care of the trail camera, my next stop was a campground in Custer State Park where I had spotted some bighorn sheep earlier in the day. Four rams were in the campground, grazing and loafing. I snapped pictures for perhaps an hour, but after a while all four were laying down and acting drowsy. It's the wrong time of year for butting heads. Click on the images to see the respective galleries. There are only three new images in the updated trail cam gallery, but even though I was only there a few hours I got carried away and posted 34 images (mostly bighorns) in a new park gallery.

Cold Elk

Drowsy Bighorn

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