Saturday, August 29, 2009

Camera Critters: Late August At The Meadow

Late August. Many morning are cool and there is a different feel in the air, autumn is just around the corner. While the taller grasses in the meadows are turning brown, there are wildflowers blooming in the understory of an unmown meadow.


Vipers Bugloss

The whitetail fawns are still nursing from the does, but as time passes there is less nursing activity and the animals depend more on grazing and browsing for nourishment. Now does are less likely to stand for the young animals. If they do, it is usually for a short period.

Whitetail Fawn Nursing In Mowed Portion Of Meadow

The bucks' antlers are completely grown and the velvet is drying. Some of the larger bucks have already shed the velvet, but most have not.

2-Year Old Whitetail Buck With Fully Developed Antlers

This buck will likely shed his velvet soon. The very first stirrings of the pre-rut are occurring, and whitetail movement patterns are changing. Soon the deer will enter the most turbulent period of their lives as the combination of the rut and the advent of hunting seasons bring rapid and dramatic changes in their daily activity.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Elk Rescue: Resolution

Once the tranquilizer kicked in, the bull was easily removed from the entrapping chains. The right antler was broken where it attaches to the skull and had to be removed so that the animal could heal. It seems that the skull itself was not fractured so this should not be a severe problem for the animal, but it is possible and indeed likely that this antler will be deformed in future years.

Removing Damaged Antler

The Antler

Monitoring Vital Signs

Blind Folded

Stump Of Removed Antler

Once the antler was removed, the animal was fitted with ear tags, biological data was collected and an antidote for the tranquilizer was administered to hasten recovery. Soon the bull began kicking and moving his head, and it was time to retreat to a safe distance. Again I was operating the camcorder when he regained his footing, so there are no still photos of that.


WCO McDowell and his fellow PGC employee are to be commended for their professionalism and competence in bringing the situation to a successful resolution. Hopefully the young bull will learn from the experience and avoid swing sets in the future. (Bulls often spar with other bulls, or rub their antlers against trees, etc. It seems likely that this was the cause of the entrapment, as the swing was likely a tempting target and gave a satisfy response to being punched with his antlers, until they became entangled)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Elk Rescue: The Takedown

We continue today with more photos and commentary on the elk trapped in the swings at Benezette School. For more detailed reporting be sure to visit Bradley Myers Photo Blog and his son, Shane's Blog.

I must confess that I do not know the full name or exact position of the first Pennsylvania Game Commission employee on the scene, but I have heard him called Mark and know that he works with the biology aspect of the elk program. To use legal terminology, on or about 08:15 Wildlife Conservation Officer, Doty McDowell arrived on the scene. He is the law enforcement officer assigned to that portion of Elk County. Only certain PGC employees are permitted to use the tranquilizer gun, which was why we had to wait for WCO McDowell's arrival.

WCO McDowell Prepares To Fire

Sometime about 8:25 he assumed a shooting position by a nearby tree, took careful aim, and fired. I have not witnessed a darting before, but have worked for several officers who have done it extensively. Perhaps the technology has improved and things are more predictable now, but I have been told that there is a lot of potential for things to not go exactly as desired. In this case everything went well. I did not photograph the actual firing as I was concentrating on operating the camcorder at this time.

Dart In Bull

Waiting for the drug to take effect

Ready for processing

The critical part of the mission was now accomplished and all that remained was to remove him from the chains, and deal with the damaged antler. Hopefully I will post some photos from the conclusion of the incident tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pennsylvania Elk: Accident And Rescue

It was shortly after dawn on Thursday, August 20th, as I prepared for a morning of wildlife photography. Before I could leave the house, Bradley Myers and his son Shane arrived and told me a bull was trapped in a swing set at Benezette School.

He had already reported the incident so we drove to the scene, taking great care not to spook the bull and cause him to injure himself.


Brad and his son are excellent photographers and also have blogs. Visit Brad at Bradley Myers Photo Blog for a detailed account of the incident illustrated by excellent photos. Also follow the link to his son's blog where you can see video clips as well as still photos.

Bradley and Shane Myers in action

Also Bob Shank of Bob Shank Photography arrived at some point during the morning and photographed a portion of the proceedings. Visit Bob for more photos of the event and other nature photographs as well.

Since they have covered the incident so well, I will try to post some photographs that depict aspects of the action that they have not covered as of yet, or present a slightly different perspective than they captured.

Soon after we arrived, well known local video producer, Tom Murphy arrived. He caught the attention of a passing Game Commission employee, who immediatelytook charge of the situation, and blocked entrance to the area as a crowd control measure. Now we were "trapped" too, but of course we had no intention of leaving.

Crowd Control Measures

It seemed that the longer the situation continued, the more frantic the bull became. In most cases, he was more frightened by vehicles passing by on Route 555, than he was by the onlookers. Our group remained well away from the animal and used powerful telephoto lenses to document the incident. He would struggle for awhile and then rest for a period. With each successive attempt, he became tangled tighter in the chains and finally he went berserk. The following photos are not sharp due to the violent motion. Note in the first photo that the rack still has the correct placement and spacing between the antlers as the bull is starting to fall back from the peak of a leap,but has not yet put the full weight of his body on the antler. In the second, the antler on the right is now broken and the rack is no longer spaced correctly.



In time Wildlife Conservation Officer Doty McDowell arrived and freed the animal. While it was an interesting morning, I would have much preferred that the incident had not occurred in the first place.