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Beartooth are Open

Resuming the hunt for pikas

by Dan Hartman
June 1, 2013

     The Beartooths opened for a couple days last week before snowing shut again this weekend.  I took the occasion to run up one morning and look around.  Along the way I found a blue grouse strutting beside the road.  In another area, I walked in to check on a ruffed grouse drumming log.  There were droppings and a feather so the grouse had been there, but was no where to be seen now.  I searched deeper in the trees and found him feeding on new grass shoots.

     On my way again, I passed by Beartooth Lake.  Two thirds of it was still frozen.  Past Top of the World Store then up the switchbacks to the West Summit I drove.  At 11,000 feet I parked and began glassing for wildlife.

     An eagle soared far down a canyon, a golden mantled ground squirrel scrambled across the snow to disappear in a snow tunnel.  Suddenly pika began calling just below me.  A dark beast ran out into the open and started across the snowfield.  My heart raced! Wolverine!  I took a couple shots then enlarged the image on my camera screen.  Marmont.  Now my heart sank.

     I felt I had lost something, funny thing was, I never had it in the first place.

     What caused the pika to call?  I looked around but found nothing.  The area was mostly covered with snow with rocks sticking out here and there.  I caught movement.  A pika emerged from under an exposed rock.  As I watched, it reached high to nibble at a patch of lichen.  I got my tripod and began photographing the little fella.  I wondered if his haystack was depleted and eating lichen was his only option.

     This is where I started working on my book on pika last fall, and where I'll be working all summer.  It felt good to be back at it again.  It's going to be a fun summer!


Photos

View slide show

Beartooth Lake

Blue Grouse

Ruffed Grouse

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel

Beartooth Pass

Avalanche

Emerging Pika

Pika Feeding On Lichen




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