When we think about wildlife viewing trips our minds immediately conjure images of a long coveted African safari, or maybe a sail through the Galapagos Islands. We don’t normally think of the American mid-west.
A travel truism is that we appreciate the far off and discount the nearby. I spent nearly two decades in one of the best cities on earth but didn’t really understand New York as a travel destination until after I left. Similarly, we have some pretty spectacular wildlife right here in the U.S. that often gets overlooked.
The good news is that we didn’t need a reminder to marvel at all the fabulous critters that crossed our path over the past six months. Here’s a partial tribute to what we saw, both great and small.
No animal represents the American west better than the Buffalo. Seeing these hulks of hair and horns, with their oversized heads and humped backs, is like witnessing the American frontier. Having a herd meander through your campground is a travel highlight we’ll long remember.
A Yellow Bellied Marmot poses for a picture.
For some reason I find Wild Horses to be so much more majestic than their captive cousins.
Even the ubiquitous Squirrel captured our attention with their surprising variety: we saw grey ones, red ones, black ones, large ones, and these diminutive ones that inhabit the Rocky Mountains. One thing they all had in common though, is their industriousness. Never have we seen a lazy squirrel.
The same can’t be said of Prairie Dogs. As far as we can tell, they’re the voyeurs of the animal kingdom; spending most of their time perched on hind legs to get a good look at what everyone else is doing. How they survive without obviously foreaging for food is a mystery to me.
We’re told the Pronghorn isn’t a true antelope, but they go by that name as well. We’re glad to see this once endangered species flourishing in the South Dakota plains.
Even Dragonflies are remarkable when you get a good look at them.
Like wild horses, feral Burros are better than the creatures you find at petting zoos and children’s birthday parties or elsewhere in captivity (although we freely admit that the donkey named Simon is a very special critter.) We were lucky enough to have this baby burro cross our path.
I haven’t been able to indentify this guy, who we found sitting on the ruins at Bandelier National Monument; notwithstanding the sign that clearly forbid it.
Mule Deer were pretty regular visitors at our campground in Great Sand Dunes National Park.
Not represented here are the wolves we heard, but never saw, at White Sands National Monument; the wily big horned sheep that wouldn’t give up a good photo; the giant tarantula-looking spider that accompanied Shannon to the Women’s room at Falls Lake Sate Park; the wonderful wading birds and reptiles of the East Coast, as well as other animal encounters too numerous to mention.
It really is a jungle out there; one we’re delighted to have the opportunity to explore and to share.