Photographs by Frank

11 October 2021

Elk Rut and Prairie Dogs (2021 Road Trip)

Filed under: Mammals,Road Trips,Wildlife — Frank @ 8:02 PM

Our usual route east, towards home, from Western Montana is US Route 2 which runs across the country just south of the Canadian border. This time, we decided to try a different route… a series of state routes numbered 200. We picked up Montana 200 in Missoula (the route starts a bit farther west, at the Idaho border) and eventually continued on the contiguous North Dakota 200 and Minnesota 200 until we were in the Duluth area. This week-long, roughly 1,100 mile trek took us across the central parts of those states. We saw lots of prairie and not a lot of people.

The drive was interesting and quite different from the drive on US 2. The towns along route 200 are generally much smaller and farther apart than the towns along US 2. I think that this is because of the railroad… US 2 generally follows the railroad while the 200 route does not.

The drive was interesting, but I did not make many successful landscape photos along the way. I guess that I did not find a muse in the high prairie. However, I did photograph wildlife in two locations.

Back in 2017, we spent a few hours at the Slippery Ann elk viewing area of the C.M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in central Montana. This trip we stopped and spent the night. The elk rut was in high gear (as it was at more-or-less the same period in 2017) and we spent a late afternoon and early evening watching and photographing the action… it was fascinating. The bugling continued after it got dark and, in fact, went on all night. We were hoping to photograph again in the morning before moving on but the elk were in the woods and thickets nearer the river rather than out in the open by the road. We could hear them but not see them.

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Elk Rut #1
Elk Rut #1
Elk Rut #2
Elk Rut #2
Elk Rut #3
Elk Rut #3
Elk Rut #4
Elk Rut #4
Elk Rut #5
Elk Rut #5
Elk Rut #6
Elk Rut #6
Elk Rut #7
Elk Rut #7
Elk Rut #8
Elk Rut #8
Elk Rut #9
Elk Rut #9
Elk Rut #10
Elk Rut #10
Elk Rut #11
Elk Rut #11
Elk Rut #12
Elk Rut #12

The second wildlife opportunity along this section of the trip was unplanned. We pulled into a campground in the north unit of Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota one evening. As I wandered the environs looking for landscape photographs (an endeavor complicated by power lines), I heard odd noises coming from a fenced in pasture abutting the campground… the sound was almost, but not quite, avian. I wandered over the found that the noises were emanating from prairie dogs!

I made one photograph through the fence (the first one shown below) but by the time I found a better vantage from which to photograph (a matter of maybe five minutes) the light had faded and there were zero prairie dogs to be seen! Of course, they were all back out-and-about the next morning and I made many photographs of these amusing creatures.

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Prairie Dogs #1
Prairie Dogs #1
Prairie Dogs #2
Prairie Dogs #2
Prairie Dogs #3
Prairie Dogs #3
Prairie Dogs #4
Prairie Dogs #4
Prairie Dogs #5
Prairie Dogs #5

1 Comment

  1. ALL of the elk pictures are spectacular! You captured them well.

    Comment by Joe Kennedy — 11 October 2021 @ 8:58 PM

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