Thursday, February 5, 2009

Peek-a-boo with a Badger

Yesterday was one of those days that everything came together for me just about perfectly. I had plans to be out all day photographing wildlife in Central Washington, the weather was amazingly calm, warm, and sunny so I didn't freeze like usual, and the wildlife kept surprising me to make it a memorable day! I first spent the better part of 4+ hours at the Oak Creek Wildlife Area just west of Naches. It was remarkable to find virtually no snow around but it didn't matter as the California Bighorn Sheep were down at the feeding area where they have been inconsistent with their visits this winter. Wildlife officials feed them bags of pellet size feed which is rich with vitamins and also allows them to treat the animals so they don't get diseases from domestic sheep which can be fatal to them. It was a great show! Then it was another couple of hours watching 1050 elk (yes, you read that correctly) all gathered at the wildlife area headquarters area on US 12 enjoying the warm sun, tussling with a fellow critter when bored, and waiting for the handouts from the feeding trucks. Bald eagles soared and perched on the basalt cliffs around here as well (they are natures clean-up crew for the unfortunate few elk who don't survive the winter).

But what stuck in my mind the most as I came back last night was my drive home over Ellensburg Pass via the Wenas Road, a wonderful 20'ish mile long paved and gravel road cutting over Umtanum and Manastash Ridges connecting the Wenas and Kittitas Valleys, taking you right through the Wenas Wildlife Area and L.T. Murray Wildlife Area. Not far from the trailhead for Umtanum Creek Falls (see Best Desert Hikes-Washington for more details) I spotted a beautiful Badger scurry down the hill just as the sun was getting low in the western sky. He dove into his burrow, but then for the next 10 minutes played peek-a-boo with me as I had the opportunity to not only see my first Badger in the wild, but photograph it! I'll get back to sharing a bit of my time with the Bighorn Sheep tomorrow -- I'm still too pleased with my time given me by this friendly daytime Badger buddy!