Posts Tagged ‘Shiras moose’

Isabelle’s Warming Glacier lilies

July 14, 2013

On this adventure I was in hot pursuit of the elusive Glacier Lily (Erythronium grandiflorum). I figured that the best place to find them was near a glacier so Mandy the dog and I decided to head up to the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area to check in on Isabelle, our local glacier and her high mountain wildflowers.

We started at the Brainard Lake Recreation Area which is our closest gateway to the Indian Peaks Wilderness…

We Start At The Brainard Lake Recreation Area

We Start At The Brainard Lake Recreation Area

The Indian Peaks form a dramatic backdrop for Brainard Lake. This Colorado Wilderness Area gets its name from a majority of its peaks having Native American names. Ogallala, Pajute, Pawnee, Shoshoni, Apache, Navajo, Arikaree, Arapahoe, and Niwot Peaks all reach well above 12,000 feet, making for breathtaking views of jagged summits that tower above green valleys and glacial lakes.

Brainard Lake and the Indian Peaks

Brainard Lake with the Indian Peaks Backdrop

From here it was a short hike to the Pawnee Pass Trail which will take us up past Long Lake and Lake Isabelle

The Pawnee Pass Trail To Long Lake and Lake Isabelle

The Pawnee Pass Trail To Long Lake and Lake Isabelle

We were being watched by a “Rocky Mountain Mighty Moose

Rocky Mountain Mighty Moose (Alces alces)

Rocky Mountain Mighty Moose (Alces alces)

Long Lake is a great place to cool off…

Mandy in Long Lake

Mandy in Long Lake

We arrived at Lake Isabelle after a two-mile/3.2 KM hike. The melting snow drifts and the Glacier feed the lakes and drive the wildflowers…

Melting Snow at Lake Isabelle

Melting Snow at Lake Isabelle

The Pawnee Pass Trail continues to climb above the Lake…

Lake Isabelle from the Pawnee Pass Trail

Lake Isabelle from Pawnee Pass Trail

As the trail ascends towards Pawnee Pass on the Continental Divide we encountered lots of receding snow. This is Glacier Lily territory.

There is Still Lots of Snow on the Pawnee Pass trail

There is Still Lots of Snow on the Pawnee Pass Trail

Mandy found another opportunity to cool off…

Mandy Wallows In The Snow

Mandy Wallows In The Snow

I finally spotted what we were looking for…

We Found the Yellow Glacier Lily (Erythronium grandiflorum Pursh)

We Found the Yellow Glacier Lily (Erythronium grandiflorum Pursh)

Yellow Glacier Lilies

Yellow Glacier Lily Trio

The roots of this plant feed deer, elk, and bighorn sheep. Grizzlies have been known to “cook” the roots of yellow Glacier Lilies in the sunshine. They know what the native people have learned: that the roots of this alpine plant aren’t pleasant when raw, but become sweet after a good heating. The roots of the yellow Glacier Lily were so valuable that they became a trading commodity in the Native American culture.

Because the Glacier Lilies bloom so early, they suffer reduced pollination in years of early snowmelt. Such “phonological dislocations” between flowering and pollinator activity are likely to become more common as climates warm. Glacier Lilies are being studied to determine the impact of warming on plants and their pollinators. These vulnerable lilies may become both an early warning and a victim of climate change.

I’m glad we were able to track down this pretty little flower before it’s too warm and too late…

The Last Lilies of the Alpine?

The Last Lilies of the Alpine?

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Rocky Mountain Mighty Moose

August 5, 2011

It was 4:30 am, an hour before dawn, and I was on my way to 8,200 ft/2500m Sprague Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. I was drawn by the vision of a sunrise on the Continental Divide reflected in the placid lake. An hour later I was rewarded for the abbreviated snooze. The backdrop (left to right) consists of Taylor Peak, Andrews Glacier, Hallett Peak, Tyndall Glacier, Flattop Mountain and Notchtop Mountain…

Dawn at Sprague Lake

Clearly I was not alone. Those folks in the canoe were looking at a young bull moose grazing on the other side of the lakebed (look to the left of the canoe at the edge of the shadow in the above photo…look closely…it’s small). So there I went to capture this magnificent sight. I found a suitable hideout in the closest thicket and got this shot…
This was not my first face-to-face with a bull moose  (Alces alces) and I’m smitten. There is something exceptionally compelling about this big, solitary, mostly peaceful, vegetarian giant of the deer species. This ungainly product of evolution has survived despite human behaviour at its worst and because of the recent benevolence of humankind. This is is a story of our redemption.
Since being hunted out of Colorado by 1900 their number has recently recovered thanks to a reintroduction program in 1978 and 1979 by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Two groups of moose (12 each year) from the Uintah Mountains and Grand Teton herds were transferred to an area just west of the Never Summer Range near Rand, Colorado. The Colorado herd (estimated to have expanded from the original 24 to nearly 700 in 1994) is scattered over a range that now extends to Winter Park in the south, and Steamboat Springs to the west. In 1980, visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park saw the first members of the herd that had migrated into the Kawuneeche Valley on the Western side of the Divide. Two thrill seeking cow moose were sighted by rangers on the Continental Divide at the Boulder-Grand Pass just a year later.  Since then their numbers are increasing on both sides of the Park. Who knows, this mighty moose might have left the Valley to strike out on his own crossing a 14,000ft/4267m mountain range to do so. Moose are like super deer.
Here are some moose facts…
Here in Colorado we have a subspecies called Shiras moose (Alces alces shirasi) which are the smallest of the subspecies of  moose. They are also known as Yellowstone or Wyoming moose.
Shiras Moose are the largest mammals of the Rocky Mountains.
The moose has a very thick, strong neck from which hangs a long, round flap of skin and hair called a dewlap, or bell.  This varies in appearance from moose to moose and occurs in both the male and female of the species.  Some dewlaps are fat and up to 20 inches long; some are short and thin; and some others may just be a tuft a hair. Bull moose have been observed contorting their bodies in order to urinate on their dewlap, thereby soaking it in their pheromone-rich urine. It drives the cows mad!
The moose has a top speed of 35 miles (55 kilometers) per hour. Those long spindly legs work well in snow and water too.
Moose are loners by nature and these largest members of the deer family rarely travel with more than one or two other moose companions.
Over a 20-year life span in the wild, bulls may reach a height of 6½ to 7½ feet (2-2.3 m) at the shoulder, and weigh from 800 – 1,600 pounds (360-725 kg). Cow moose are only slightly less imposing at 5 to 6½ feet (1.5-2 m) tall and 600 – 1,000 pounds (270-450 kg).
Both mature males and females can be extremely unpredictable. Rutting bull moose have charged horses, cars, and locomotives. The female is particularly protective of her calf.
The moose is a herbivore and is capable of consuming many types of plants and fruits. The average adult moose needs to consume almost 10 thousand calories per day to maintain its body weight.
Much of a moose’s energy is derived from terrestrial vegetation, mainly consisting of non-grasses, and fresh shoots from trees such as willow and birch. These plants are rather low in sodium, and moose generally need to consume a good quantity of aquatic plants. While much lower in energy, these plants provide the moose with its sodium requirements, and as much as half of their diet usually consists of aquatic plant life.
Here are some more photos from my lakeside hideout…
That’s All Folks! ©Bullwinkle Studios

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