Monday, March 30, 2009

High Plateau Critters

Hummingbirds Announce Spring

Have you ever had a hummingbird land on your finger? Since dogs don't have fingers, I only get to watch as Dangerous extends his hand next to the hummingbird feeder. As he waits quietly, the broad tail, black chin, and Rufus hummingbirds buzz furiously around his extended hand. The old curmudgeon's face really lights up when one of the swarm lands on his finger to take a quick drink from the feeder. In a flash, another bird chases the one perched on his hand off and tries to take its place. You know for sure that spring has arrived on the High Plateau when the hummingbirds return.

Even with Saddie, Blue, and me along, the High Plateau riders see all kinds of wildlife. We are always on the look out for four legged critters. Dangerous and his buddies would like to get closer to elk and deer which we often see, but Saddie, Blue, and I have a tendency to scatter them before Dangerous, Utah, or Fremont can get within camera range. When we aren't around, the High Plateau riders can sometimes ride right into the herd. For some reason, these large ungulates aren't a bit afraid of Dottie and Little Guy. Dangerous often tells the story about Dottie refusing to cross a small trickle of water on the Terrace Trail. He figured it was just Dottie's usual fear of mud, and he was concentrating on getting her across. However, when he looked up, it wasn't the stream that had her attention, but a large, six-point bull elk lying under an aspen tree. Without a concern, the bull stood up, laid his antlers on his back, and ambled off into the trees. If I had been with Dangerous, the bull wouldn't have been lying under a tree watching for long. He would have been gone in a flash with me barking at his heels.

Bear Track

Last summer, we were riding one of our favorite trails when Dottie started to snort and prance. Dangerous thought she was just having one of her mare fits. However, Utah pointed out to him a log in the trail that had been recently turned over. It didn't take long to figure out that one of the High Plateau's more elusive critters had passed shortly ahead of us on the trail.

A black bear had been searching for tasty grubs and rolled the log on to the trail. It was the Bear's recent scent that caused Dottie to spin and dance. She was convinced that the bear was going to have her for dinner. In fact, we still can't pass this spot without Dottie giving Dangerous trouble. She still thinks that old black bear is waiting to take a bite out of her.

Dangerous tells me that he has seen bears everywhere but on the High Plateau. We see their sign most places we ride, but unfortunately, we haven't stumbled on to one yet. Dangerous and his buddies remain hopeful, but I am not so sure. I will probably join Blue in the chase, but I really hope we don't catch anything that day.

Pesky Lion

You might notice in some pictures that Dangerous and Fremont Bob are packing. By packing, I mean Dangerous has his trusty Ruger .357 strapped on his hip. The uninformed think the big pistol is protect against bear or lion attacks. Actually, Dangerous likes to carry the revolver for show. He thinks it helps complete his costume. If you question him, he will finally tell you that the gun isn't loaded, and its real purpose is to put an injured horse down rather than to protect the High Plateau riders from predators. The only predator Dangerous and his buddies fear are the two legged kind. They regularly see lion tracks, but the possibility of actually encountering a lion is very slim. In all their years in the back country, Dangerous and Utah have seen one mountain lion crossing the road in the La Sal Mountains near Moab. They keep hoping that one day they will catch another glimpse of the big cat who left the tracks in the picture above.

Wild Turkeys

You probably won't believe me, but one of the most dangerous critters we meet while riding is the wild turkey. You are probably wondering how a turkey can be dangerous. Well, let me tell you that there is nothing like trying to sit a lunging, bucking horse after I have flushed a wild turkey over its head. I have tried to unseat Ole' Dangerous more than once by flushing a turkey under his horses legs. You ought to hear him cuss when 20 pounds of flapping wings and feathers sails unexpectedly over his head, and he tries to control his spooked horse. Don't tell him, but I do it for fun!

Solitary Prong Horn

Every spring, we ride Aquarius Top to check what Utah Jack calls the antelope hatch. We love to see the newly born prong horn fawns with their mothers. You might think that Dangerous and Fremont are risking these newborns lives with Blue, Saddie, and me along. I understand from Dangerous that his dog Abbey almost caught a prong horn fawn that had recently been born, but I have never had such luck. Ten minutes after hitting the ground these prong horn babies can outrun Dottie at any gate she tries. Saddie, Blue, and I consider it great sport to give chase, but by the end of the day the antelope are still fresh, and we sleep well all night long.

Well, I thought you might like to hear a bit about the wild critters who live full time on the High Plateau. I have only mentioned a few. Let me know if you are interested, and I will share some more stories about them in the future. Love to hear from you!


Bluester said...


Tell Dangerous my Boss, Fremont, and I sure enjoy his photographs and he writes pretty good too.


Anonymous said...

Critter stories are welcomed.
Spring in our little part of the High Plateau brought 6 inches of snow, no hummers on the horizon.