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A Good Day In The Beartooths

Camera Trap
by Dan Hartman

Sept. 30, 2012

With October arriving tomorrow, I took a day off from woodcutting to head up into the Beartooths. I’m starting to feel the end of the season, as Beartooth Pass will close in 2-3 weeks.
As I neared the Work Camp, a bull elk grazed in a meadow. I had already passed several hunters, so I stopped and chased him back into the woods. He may be in someone’s sights in the future, but it’s not going to be right off the road.
At Beartooth Falls a blue grouse sat under an aspen sapling. When I passed Beartooth Lake, I noticed Beartooth Butte cast a perfect reflection, so I stopped and snapped a few photos. A bald eagle has been perched above Little Bear Lake lately. This morning was no different. He left his perch to glide across the valley as I passed by.
I crossed over West Summit and stopped to check the mineral lick. Sure enough eight mountain goats were hanging out. Some relaxing, others licking at the rocks.
I returned to West Summit to work on pikas. I’m partnering with Dorothy who authored, “When The Wolves Returned” to publish a book on the little rock rabbits. This morning I was trying to set up a camera trap for capturing a pika photo from as close as possible. I picked out a spot for the camera then settled down to wait. The wind picked up and soon made the 25 degrees seem much colder. A weasel popped out below me. He chased a pika out of the rocks then moved off down slope. It took fifteen minutes for a pika to emerge again for a look around. Soon four were feeding all around me. A half hour later, a pika finally approached my trap. He sniffed the lens then climbed over the camera. Finally, he moved around to the proper side and looked in the lens. I pushed my remote button. Nothing. The batteries were weak from the cold. I soon found I had to punch the button a half a dozen times to fire once. I continued to work the remote camera trap for another hour or so, while using my other camera to get shots of the other pikas feeding. By than all my batteries were dead so I packed up and climbed up to my car.
On my way home a baby pika crossed the road in front of me. I stopped and opened my window. The little guy was perched on a rock eye level with me. I admonished him for crossing the road. “If a car doesn’t get you, the falcon will!” I scolded him. He cocked his head like he understood.
Wouldn’t you know it, I hadn’t driven 50 yards when the prairie falcon appeared right in front of me.
It seems every visit to the Beartooths brings me a better understanding of its natural ways.I'm beginning to feel a certain kinship with the inhabitants here. From the dependable mountain goats and pika to the unexpected weasel. Even the bald eagle and prairie falcon have begun to reveal their routines to me.

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View slide show

Pika checks out my camera trap

Beartooth Bull Elk

Blue Grouse

Beartooth Lake

Little Bear Lake Bald Eagle

Mountain Goats At The Mineral Lick


My Camera Trap Photo