When I travel to new places, the people that have lived in the area enjoy sharing their knowledge of the region. This is the information I soak up. I’ve had so many new experiences, but seeing an animal for the first time is probably my favorite. When I was at Mesa Verde, CO, I told all the shuttle drivers what animals I had never seen before in the area. They couldn’t wait to find one for me. One night we pulled off the road on the way home from work, and I saw my first bull elk. The only word I could use to describe it is majestic.
My dog found our first tarantula. I looked out in the yard one day and thought she was nose to nose with a mouse. When I stepped outside, imagine my surprise to see a huge hairy spider! While at work, a co-worker spotted a black widow. Before one of the braver employees gently captured it to take it outside, the worker pointed out the red hourglass marking that the spider carries and allowed me to take a picture. While I have fear, I am also fascinated.
Bently and a tarantula
In Death Valley, CA I watched a rattlesnake poised to snare a chipmunk lose the capture and slink away. The local I was with thought the snake would probably retreat to a bush nearby, and he was right. He knew enough about the nature of the snake to tell me how close I could get. What a thrill! While in Nevada, I once pulled up beside a rattlesnake coiled on the road. I could tell by the rocks scattered around it that other people had seen it, and tried to get it to move. I started wondering if it was dead. Suddenly, its tongue darted in and out. I was so startled I drove off quickly and missed a great close up. I can still picture it in my mind though, and see that tongue.
Big Horn Sheep
I have found the tracks of bighorn, and then saw them alone, and by the dozen. I have watched pronghorn race across a field. The second fastest land mammal, and I am witnessing it running! Growing up in Pennsylvania I can’t number all the times deer have darted across the road while I was driving. But, when a pronghorn did it, it was a whole new experience. Living in the desert, feral burros, said to have originated from the original miners in the area, roamed the town. I never got tired of taking their picture.
I drove hours one day in the hope I would see wild horses near Area 51. Just when I decided that if I were to see any, I should be in the right area, and there they were! I can picture them again, watching me and one of them coming further forward, making sure I kept my distance. I stayed long enough to see them running, and the dust kicked up by their hooves.
Until I get to an area, I have no idea what is going to excite me and become one of my obsessions for the season. Since I arrived at the Grand Canyon a few weeks ago, I have seen both male and female elk almost daily. Mule deer are also a constant presence. The Abert squirrel, with its tufted ears and white tail, teases my dog mercilessly running and jumping tree to tree. Each region has animals that are common across the United States, but with variations in the markings and color. It provides a new experience to observe and learn about each.
I have seen the Amargosa Toad which is only found within a 12 mile vicinity of the Oasis Valley. In Death Valley I saw pupfish that are the last known survivors of a species that died in the ice age. I also saw my first roadrunner there. Meep, meep! At Mount Rushmore I saw mountain goats and in the same state saw bison roaming the Badlands, and Custer State Park.
I learned at the Grand Canyon that the California condor was re- introduced to this area in 1996. Can you imagine being able to see, and possibly photograph, one of the rarest birds in the world? My eyes are on the sky.
By Diane Moore
All photos by Diane Moore
Burros in NV