As you are aware, there was a big push to get through the “Birds of Yellowstone” before the end of the year. The reason for that is I wanted to get to the larger mammals inhabiting that incredible national park. Rest assured, my camera wasn’t just pointed at our feathered friends (well, at least not ALLL the time). Nope, we were constantly on the lookout for those animals we do not get to see much back here in Illinois. Let’s start with those fleet of foot Pronghorns. This is somewhat in tribute to being the first animal to greet us as we passed through the Yellowstone Arch. Immediately off to the right, grazing in the fields, was a couple of Pronghorns pretty much oblivious to our presence.
The above shot is actually on of my favorites from the Yellowstone collection. It was taken in full on Beast mode (400mm) letting us reach out and virtually touch them. This is one of those poses that I affectionately call “The Predator’s View”. For those people locked in the concrete world or worse, PETA members, the eye position gives away the disposition of the animal. Forward eyes generally signify the predator (find a mirror) where the prey have eyes positioned on the sides to increase their field of vision. It may be pointing towards a companion, but it definitely knows where we were. Note, I was also pleased to get some glint in those big black eyes.
A close second in the favorites category is the shot below. Once again you get a feel for it’s field of vision yet it was content enough to continue breakfast while we were busy snapping shots. This lack of interest is probably due to being acclimated to the two legged creatures, although the fact that it can out run my ass without breaking a sweat probably gives it more confidence than your average turtle. For the record, they can run at 30mph for 15 miles with a burst of up to 70mph. According to Wikipedia, this makes it the fastest land mammal in the Western Hemisphere.
At first I thought the antler nubs above the eyes in the previous picture indicated it was a young male. Not being an expert when it comes to non-feathered animals I did a little research. Turns out that females actually have horns as well (up to 3″) where males tend to have larger ones (up to 6″ and then another 9″ during summer fall which it sheds in the winter). The other distinguishing feature of males is a small black mane. Based on that I will have to go with this being a male.
Hit the Jump to see the rest of the Pronghorn pictures
Let’s contrast that with the pronghorn below. On first impression, this one just seems to have the female characteristics. It could be the cute eye lashes that are throwing me off, but at this point, the guess is female. I can’t see any nubs and the main appears to be more tan in this shot.
Personally, I think those eyebrows make the shot! According to the National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Rocky Mountain States (a very handy reference to the area based on being fairly small, yet comprehensive), These Antilocapra Americana (although not an actual Antelope) prefer Lowlands and higher meadows – dry open grasslands with sagebrush and bunchgrass and prairies East of the the Rockies. Let’s just put a big affirmative check mark on that statement.
Speaking of (well, more like typing), here is a male displaying the extra 9″ inches of antler with the forward prong.. and thus … drumroll… Pronghorns.. now you know the rest of the story. Mr. Buck is busy giving the stoic somber look the female pronghorns swoon over.
but they can have a more playful side when they think their out of camera view – note to animals, when the Beast is out… you better head pretty far out into the field to be out of camera view.
Since we are all about tidbits of information here at Lifeintrigued, Pronghorns are apparently crappy jumpers to the point where they will often go under fences which is causing some farmers to replace their bottom fence wire with barbless line if not removing it entirely.
Here are two pronghorns enjoying a stroll through the morning light.
How about some more facts from our friends over at Wikipedia. Apparently these Pronghorns have a life expectancy of around 10 years. I wonder if this holds true in a setting where wolves have been introduced. Although, wolves can only burst up to 35 or 38 mph where these guys hit that at cruising speed. Guessing the wolves are only getting the the babies, sick and damaged from this species. It looks like man was the big population limiter hunting them down to about 30,000 in the 1920’s. Thanks to conservation efforts their numbers have been restored into the 500,000 to 1,000,000 range which is pretty healthy for a species. I think I accidentally called the female in this picture fat causing her to take offense.
So that was it for the Pronghorn in Yellowstone (as in the ones good enough to show anyone). On our way home we took a drive through Custer State Park to see what kind of wildlife was hanging out there. On our previous trip we encountered a fair number of bison and wanted to see where it was at now. Unfortunately, they have been hit with a disease/bug outbreak which is killing all their trees. That made the scenery a little disappointing, but we did encounter a small group of Pronghorns on the road.
The lighting was really harsh, so it was a struggle to get anything worth looking at. The buck above was busy corralling his harem of females. The picture below was one of the larger ones and was more timid that the ones in Yellowstone. She tended to keep an eye on us and cautiously walked across the road in front of us.
Here you can see the buck in the background directing his harem across the street. For the curious, they breed in Mid-September and have a gestation period of 235 days (surprisingly long).
That’s all boys and girls, your wildlife lesson has come to its end. Hopefully you enjoyed the pictures, we sure had fun taking them. If you want to see the full versions, feel free to stop on by the EddieSoft Galleries over at Smugmug (link here).
Now to start work on the next set of Yellowstone animals … maybe it’ll be the bears… or maybe not!