A lot can happen when you’re just minding your own business in the wilderness. Especially if you are willing to find an area with a high probability of activity and just wait…sometimes for hours.
While waiting on a bobcat along the Madison River one day, I had a brief insight into one of the many tragedies and comedies that play out everyday in Yellowstone. Several of us photographers were just standing around trading stories and waiting for the mysterious cat to appear. Someone noticed a snowshoe hare darting across the opposite riverbank and those of us close to our gear fired a few shots and it was gone. No big deal really and I figured my images were probably blurry. I checked the back and thought maybe I captured one image. Nothing destined for National Geographic but a snowshoe none the less so I didn’t delete it.
An hour or so later we heard some ravens squawking as they flew down the river corridor engaged in aerial acrobatics. One raven had something whitish and pink in it’s beak. Being fairly close to West Yellowstone my first thought is they had found a napkin with some ketchup on it for french fry dipping. I hadn’t snapped an images since the hare left and thought this would be good practice shooting fast moving, erratic ravens and I could use an image of them with trash for one of my talks on our impact on the ecosystem so I started firing away.
Once the ravens had moved on I checked the back of my camera to see if I could tell what they were fighting over. It was a snowshoe hare’s foot! I was in disbelief. I checked several other images and that was exactly what it looked like and not a napkin. Questions flooded my mind. Could this really be the hare we had just seen heading the directions the ravens arrived from? Had we just witnessed the last moments of this animals life? How many could be in the area? What are the odds?
As we immerse ourselves in the out of doors our awareness gradually changes to meet our new surroundings. Sight and hearing become more acute and even a change in wind direction becomes noticeable. We slowly become aware of the many juxtapositions taking place all around us in the natural world. Dramas are being played out, animals are fighting for survival and the landscape is constantly and harmoniously changing. Rivers sometime braid and unbraid right in front of us acting out archaic stories for those willing to sit and observe.
Sometimes taking in all of Yellowstone is like having someone pour out a box of puzzle pieces and ask you to put it all together having only seen the box briefly. Many times if you are conducting a thorough naturalist breakdown of the scenario you arrive at more questions than answers. It’s the nature of the business.