The Jackrabbit is one of the few animals that changes color with the seasons and, the whiter the snow, the whiter the Jackrabbit becomes until its ears are the most visible part of it. The one pictured above is only partly white, probably because there is not much snow yet.
These two images are of a Jackrabbit that recently came into our yard and settled in beside a fence post for the day. It has been living in a world of snow for a month or more and is so white that it is barely visible against the snow. As soon as spring comes and the snow begins to disappear, it will gradually return to a grey color for the summer.
We don’t have many Jackrabbits at the present time because their predators have become so numerous. Seventy years ago, when the there were no wolves and the coyote and fox populations had been reduced to manageable numbers, Jackrabbits were very numerous. In the middle of winter there would be dozens of them around rancher’s haystacks. There would be so many that they would eat into the bottom of the haystacks a foot or more. They would also get out on the highways at night where they would be run over by vehicles. Since that time, several methods of coyote and fox control have been banned so their numbers have increased to a troublesome level. Wolves have been brought back and predator bird numbers have risen dramatically so that Jackrabbits are seldom seen anymore. For that reason, we are always pleased to have one come to our yard for protection.
The Regal OneANTELOPE
We have antelope in the area most of the time and they often pass by or graze near our house but this beautiful buck antelope stayed nearby most of one summer. Unlike many wild animals, antelopes seldom become nuisances or cause any damage. They graze in the fields but seldom enter into yards, gardens or flowerbeds. Unlike Whitetail deer, they don’t often cross, or hang around on, highways so not many of them are killed on highways or cause expensive damage to vehicles.
WHITETAIL BUCKS (Cute but destructive)
These yearling Whitetail bucks look cute and innocent so anyone who hasn’t had experience with them is unaware of their tendency to enter yards or gardens and destroy a wide variety of vegetation. Even when they have thousands of acres of hayfields and native grass to roam through and graze, they will jump over fences and crawl under gates to get to gardens and flowerbeds. Sometimes they will eat the flowers or vegetables but very often they will simply bite them off and leave them laying on the ground. They will bite the tops and small branches off of young trees, leaving them deformed and struggling to survive. I have had them jump over a four foot fence to get to young pine trees and rub their horns on the trees until the tree is completely stripped of branches and most of the bark peeled off of the trunk. A tree that I had kept a woven wire guard around and carefully tended for ten or twelve years was completely destroyed overnight by a Whitetail buck. I will try get a picture of the destroyed tree included in this site.
Besides their destructive nature, they are notorious nighttime travelers and cross highways again and again besides grazing along highways often. As a result, they are often hit by automobiles, killing the deer and causing thousands of dollars of damage to the vehicle. On a two mile stretch of highway near our house there are six to ten deer killed each winter. Sometimes there are human deaths when a driver wrecks the vehicle by attempting to avoid hitting the deer.
Deer are prey for several other animals, including coyotes, wolves, cougars and eagles.
This young Pine tree was killed
overnight by a Whitetail buck.
Mule deer are very similar to Whitetail deer except that they are a little bigger, are taller at the shoulders and are less intrusive. I think they are more majestic in their appearance. Mule deer do the same destructive things as Whitetail deer but are not as persistent about getting into yards and gardens.
One of my favorite wild animals is not unique to the Rocky Mountains. The Porcupine is actually common in many areas but it most certainly has its place in the Rockies. I like the Porcupine because of its docile and non-aggressive manner. They do everything in slow motion and never attack other animals. The harm they do to other animals is purely defensive. Other animals, such as cows and horses, will often approach a Porcupine out of curiosity and, since the Porcupine is incapable of moving fast, it takes a defensive position and if the larger animal puts its nose too close it gets slapped by the Porcupine’s tail. Contrary to some tales, a Porcupine cannot throw its quills but has a tail loaded with quills and one quick slap can leave a dozen painful needles in the victim. Dogs and Coyotes are frequent learners of Porcupine defense because of their desire to harass and kill smaller animals. What usually happens is that when the canine animal tries to harass Porky it gets slapped with some quills which angers the canine. The canine tries to retaliate by biting Porky and gets a mouthful of quills. Readers find a description of the results of this in the book, “Socks”. Most animals that get quills in their nose and mouth die if the quills aren’t removed. Usually they die because they can’t eat but the affected areas also fester and become infected which often causes death also.
Because bark is a large part of their diet, Porcupines kill trees and shrubbery. They kill many fully grown Pine trees by chewing off a band of bark all the way around the trunk of the tree. This is not usually a problem out in the forest where there are lots of trees but can have serious consequences in yards and orchards. I have seen places in the forest where they have killed acres of trees.
More entries will follow as time permits, such as moose, coyotes, beaver, skunks, raccoon, eagles, etc.