Sunday, May 1, 2011

A stormy spring

As far as snowfall in the Rocky Mountains goes, this has been a weird winter turning into a fluky spring. Southern Colorado and New Mexico are way below their typical snowfall levels and wildfire season is already kicking into gear. Meanwhile, spring storms are resulting in an above-average snow pack reaching from northern Colorado up into northern Montana. That's good for backcountry skiing, which has been keeping me entertained in western Colorado, but it's turning into a recipe for severe flooding in some areas.

What does this mean for wildlife life the pronghorn that are getting ready to migrate to their summer ranges and give birth to their fawns? The promise of warmer weather and green grass offers a chance to start replacing the fat that was burned trying to survive the winter, but cold, wet spring storms threaten animals whose energy reserves are depleted. Wildlife managers in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana have reported high winterkill amongh deer, elk, moose and pronghorn as a result of "a harsh season of unusually heavy snows and sustained cold in the Northern Rockies," according to Reuters. Pronghorn were hit the hardest in eastern Montana.

Still, we can expect the hardiest prongies, the ones that survive the snowy winter and cold spring, to start giving birth to their fawns later this month. Though I'd rather see fawns out cavorting in the sagebrush rather than cooped up in captivity, I can't help but smile at this photo of two peninsular pronghorn fawns that were born at the Los Angeles Zoo on March 1. These little guys belong to a subspecies of our pronghorn that lives on the Baja California peninsula in Mexico.

Joe and I would like to thank Jeffrey Jacquet, Dr. Jeff Tester, the Cornell University Department of Natural Resources and the David Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future for hosting our recent Pronghorn Passage presentation at Cornell University. And thanks to all the students who came to our talk and lunchtime conversation.

Plus, there is a shout out to Pronghorn Passage in the latest issue of High Country News!

The pronghorn with the Easter basket lives in the Natural Resources building at Cornell University.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pronghorn Passage goes on tour!

Joe is back in the West after months abroad, snow is melting off (and falling back onto) the high country of western Wyoming, and we are taking Pronghorn Passage on the road.

Emilene and Joe's article about the highway crossing at Trappers' Point was published this morning on WyoFile. Read the story here.

Spread the word about these upcoming presentations. All events are free and open to the public. Hope to see you there!

Monday, May 17, 7pm
White Mountain Library in Rock Springs, Wyoming
Hosted by the Wyoming Association of Churches

Wednesday, May 19, 7pm
Domek residence in Cora, Wyoming (call 367-6832 for directions)
Hosted by the Upper Green community

Thursday, May 20, 7pm
Dubois Town Hall in Dubois, Wyoming
Hosted by the Dubois Wildlife Association

Friday, May 21, 7pm
Central Wyoming College, 427 Main Street, Lander Wyoming
Hosted by the Nature Conservancy

The tour is sponsored by the Wyoming Humanities Council.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Upcoming Pronghorn Passage events

With winter slipping toward spring Joe's and my thoughts are turning back to western Wyoming and pronghorn migration that will start in about a month.

In the meantime we'll both be busy before and during the migration. Joe is in Asia camera trapping tigers with Steve Winter and National Geographic. Back in Wyoming, my Creative Writing masters defense of my book about Pronghorn Passage will take place this afternoon.

And we're gearing up for more presentations around the state. I'll be presenting in Cody, Sheridan, and Saratoga in April. When Joe returns to the U.S., we'll present together in Rock Springs, Pinedale, and Dubois. Keep an eye on our presentation schedule at the Pronghorn Passage website. And you can read about the upcoming Cody and Sheridan presentations today in the Casper Star.

Thanks and keep an eye on those pronghorn in your area to see if, when, and where they undertake their own spring migrations.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Presentation at UW

Talked to Joe for a while on the phone yesterday. He is in New York City preparing camera equipment to go on assignment with National Geographic photographer Steve Winter, the same photographer I was assistant to for the snow leopard story in India three years ago. Tomorrow they fly for Thailand. Joe is one step closer to his life dream of becoming a National Geographic photographer. Can't wait to hear about his adventures with Steve in Asia.

Meanwhile, back in pronghorn-land, I want to invite you to come one, come all to a showing of Pronghorn Passage in Laramie!

Wednesday, February 10, 7pm
UW campus, Classroom Building 310

Spread the word. I am hoping for a big turnout.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Presentations and the Domek Fam

It's been awhile so here are the latest Pronghorn Passage happenings. I had a great fall migration fieldwork season, here are two of my favorite pictures. Both of these pictures are from locations that Emilene found during the fall 2008 migration. So I had to wait a year and then set up cameras during this past fall 2009 migration.

These pictures are special to me because they highlight the partnership Emilene and I have on this project, there is no way I could have made either one of these pictures if it wasn't for Emilene showing me where to set up my camera traps. Also, I had a camera at each location for the entire fall migration period and got one "good" picture at each location. It took a long time to get each picture, but in the end, it all paid off.

There are multiple Pronghorn Passage presentations planned for February and this spring, check out this one at the University of Wyoming on February 10th. If you live in Wyoming, you can schedule presentations through the Wyoming Humanities Council. Emilene will be giving the majority of the presentations as I will be out of the country on a different assignment this spring.

And finally, I want to tell you about a family that has helped Emilene and I throughout the course of our project. They have become dear friends to both of us. The Domek family (Mark, Pat, Callie, Sara) live in the Upper Green River Basin in a small cabin that Mark built with local timber. Whenever I was in the southern part of the corridor I stayed at their home, they fed me home cooked tasty meals every single time I showed up. I will never forget the wonderful conversations that we had by their woodstove with tea or wine in hand, these moments will stay with me well beyond Pronghorn Passage.

Here is a picture from this past summer, Sara Pat Callie and I having dinner at the sheep camp near their cabin. Some people say that your life can be measured by the friendships you make, and I believe it.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Antelope on the run...

Last weekend the wind was so strong that even the turbines along the Interstate were shut down to avoid spinning so fast as to come apart. After a long drive west and north I pulled off the highway on a piece of state trust land along the New Fork River. I zipped up my down coat and walked from my car down to the river. Sheltered from the wind by a stand of aspens and willows, I made a little nest in the grass and laid down for a nap. The sound of splashing water woke me up and I lifted my head to see this little group fording the river on their way south to the winter range. Best of luck to you over the coming months, prongies!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Prongie Flight

The fall migration has been moving for the past couple weeks. I've been on the ground and in the air, watching hundreds of animals move south. Last week I flew the corridor with LightHawk and Chris Boyer. Check out this short video I made from the flight.

I wouldn't have the opportunity to photograph the corridor without Chris Boyer and LightHawk, they donate their time and money to get me up in the air so I can photograph and show the general public what the pronghorn encounter during their migration.

Tomorrow Emilene and I are walking deep into the core of the corridor, in the mountainous section of the migration path, we'll probably spend a couple days with a spotting scope watching the antelope move south to their wintering grounds. Most of the leaves are on the ground and winter is coming, this is my favorite time of the year.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Early Snow

First snowstorm of the season ... I left Laramie this morning to drive up to Big Horn where I'd been invited to give a presentation about Pronghorn Passage to three high school science classes. I zipped out of town on wet highways with patches of ice. The farther north I drove toward the Shirley Basin, the more snow-packed the road surface became. Herds of antelope were bunched up along the highway, their tan and white markings blending into the gold grass and white snow on the ground. By the time I reached the little town of Rock River, the light was entirely flat, the surface of the highway entirely white, and the air filled with feathery snowflakes. Because I still had over 250 miles ahead of me and the weather was only getting worse, I decided to cancel the trip and head home.

The sudden turn of seasons that comes with the first snowstorm of the year bends time. Overnight the brisk sharpness of autumn has transformed into a deep winter blizzard. The antelope mark this change in weather by moving from their summer grounds to new territory, as if the year for them is laid out not in months or days, but in passage from foothills to basins.

Joe is already setting his cameras up north in the corridor of the Teton herd, and I'll be heading up there in a couple of weeks to join him. That is, if the weather breaks enough to let me make the drive.

Friday, June 12, 2009

New Video

The spring migration is over and I am waiting for the antelope to start birthing, it's been a great couple months. We made a short video for you, check it out if you have some extra time.

Right now Emilene is canoeing the Jago River in ANWR, hoping to catch a glimpse of the caribou migration. She'll be back in a couple weeks. I had to stay here in Moose, WY for the birthing season, Emilene watched the birthing last summer. I've been working on my computer here in my cabin a lot lately, here is a photo of my pad!!

Thanks for reading, best, Joe

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Into the Mountains

About two weeks ago the Teton antelope had pushed far enough north to follow the Green River up into the Bridger-Teton National Forest. However, one impenetrable barrier still prevented them from continuing to their summer range in Teton National Park: a deep snowpack blanketed about six miles of their migration corridor over the 9,000 foot pass they have to cross in the Gros Ventre Mountains.

Thanks to a week of clear, sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s, the snowpack softened and diminished. My brother and I were camped in the forest near the pass and watched each afternoon as strings of antelope punched their way up through the snow drifts, making trails from one patch of sagebrush to the next. Afraid of spending the night in the snow, at sundown they would turn and run all the way back to the dry land at lower elevations.

Finally, on a Sunday evening, the lead group of antelope reached the pass. My brother and I sat perfectly still next to our tent while 150 antelope quietly flowed past us through the snow. They moved head to tail at a steady pace as if pulled along by their yearning for the summer range. To see antelope in a snowy forest high in the mountains is very unique. We couldn’t believe our luck to observe the heart of the migration happening around us. At the pass they disappeared into the trees. What had been a perfectly smooth snowfield before was stitched with their narrow winding trails.

The next morning I followed the antelope towards Teton Park, while my brother returned south out of the mountains. Check back soon for a video of antelope adventures in the springtime journey to the summer range!