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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Mammals of the North Park Area

September 26th, 2011 · No Comments

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The big attraction of the North Park area for Sharon and me last week was the chance to see moose. We had seen them last year along Long Draw Road, but we were greedy for more sightings. We got them.

Actually, Sharon got them. Even while she was driving, she managed to see one when we arrived on Tuesday. Looking through a break in the trees, she saw that moose standing in the water along the far shore of Long Draw Reservoir. Still, it was too far away even with my 100-400mm telephoto lens to capture much of a photo.

On Wednesday and Thursday we looked for moose along the Illinois River in Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge where I had seen them on the two previous trips that I made alone to North Park. No luck.

But as we drove back on Long Draw Road on Tuesday, Sharon looked back as we passed Trap Lake. She saw a dark speck, and with her binoculars identified it as a moose. We drove back half a mile to the only possible place where we could scamper down to the lake. The moose was right there and still enjoying its aquatic dinner.

The time was 6:50 p.m. and the sun was already behind the mountains. But by boosting the ISO setting of my wonderful Canon 7D camera to 3200 I was able to capture these shots without an unacceptable level of noise.

A Female Moose Strolls Along Trap Lake

A Female Moose Strolls Along Trap Lake

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The Moose Pauses in Her Feeding to Check Out the Strangers

The Moose Pauses in Her Feeding to Check Out the Strangers

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While moose are the biggest and rarest mammals we saw in the North Park area, the smallest may be even more beautiful.

A Chipmunk Eats at the Moose Visitor Center

A Chipmunk Eats at the Moose Visitor Center

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On Thursday afternoon we explored a part of North Park that neither of us had ever visited before. Along the western shore of Lake John we spotted this little animal with a tail that we mistook at first for a stick.

What a Tail!

What a Tail!

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When it arrived at its destination — food — it got mostly out of the water, offering us a clear view. We finally decided that this is a muskrat and not a beaver because of its size and its eating during the day. But the muskrat isn’t really a rat, and in fact an earlier English name for it is a musk beaver.

The Muskrat Eats Lunch

The Muskrat Eats Lunch

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We saw pronghorns in many places where we saw sagebrush, the basis of their diet, but which few other animals besides Greater Sage-Grouse can tolerate. While a pronghorn isn’t closely related to the Old World antelope, people often call it one, and it fills a similar ecological niche due to convergent evolution.

A Pronghorn in the Sagebrush Watches Warily

A Pronghorn in the Sagebrush Watches Warily

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Seeing pronghorns was no surprise. I see them often here and in neighboring states. But several years ago on my first trip to North Park when I saw my first pronghorn and wrote that they were “rare,” my friend Tom pointed out my mistake, which still embarrasses me.

A truly rare sighting came at the very end of our trip to North Park. As we left Long Draw Road on Thursday evening after 7 p.m., two porcupines, a mother and baby, crossed the road right in front of us. After we stopped, I ran into the bush after them and captured this shot of the baby.

A Baby Porcupine in the Bush

A Baby Porcupine in the Bush

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What a way to conclude three days in the North Park area!

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