Wildlife Bucket List

When I travel to areas where I know I will have an opportunity to photograph wildlife, I research the area and make a list of the species I want to try and find.  The list I made for my trip to North and South Dakota consisted of a large mammal, a cute “dog”, an antelope and a large horned sheep.  Lets see how I did.

The large mammal was the same American Bison or Buffalo I spent a day with back in January.  This time the weather was eighty degrees warmer in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park with temperatures in the mid-60’s (Fahrenheit).  The individual was a Bison bull who came around a rock formation near the road I was driving on.  His size was impressive as he came within ten feet of the car I was photographing from.

An American Bison bull in the South unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park near Medora, North Dakota.

An American Bison bull in the South unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park near Medora, North Dakota. Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 300mm focal length.

Back in January, the cute Black-tailed Prairie Dogs were no where to be seen as they were safe and warm underground in their burrows.  I certainly could not blame them.  This time I saw large active towns of prairie dogs where there had been snowy wilderness eight months before. The prairie dogs were out and about forging for food with the sentinels on alert who would give an alarm if they sensed danger nearby.

Black-tailed Prairie Dog in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota.

Black-tailed Prairie Dog in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota. Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 400, EV +0.3, 300mm focal length.

Though technically not an antelope, the Pronghorn is often referred to as the only North American antelope.  In reality, it is the only surviving member of the family Antilocapridae which fits the same ecological niche as those antelopes found in Africa but not a true antelope. I came upon the pair you see below as I was driving to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. Pronghorns are fast and can turn on a dime often reaching speeds over 50 miles per hour (80 KPH).  The buck at first tried to scare me off with snorts before herding the female in fast sprints in front of me.  After coming back and forth a few times, they ran out over the grassland they live in.

A pair of Pronghorns race across the South Dakota grassland.

A pair of Pronghorns race across the South Dakota grassland. Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/40s, f/32, ISO 200, EV -0.3, 300mm focal length.

I thought I would not find the large horned sheep.  On the last day before leaving North Dakota, I visited the North unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park which lies about 75 miles northeast of where I encountered the bison and prairie dogs.  I was looking out over a beautiful river bottomland from the Ox Bow Outlook when I spotted them.  I first noticed many white rumps on top of a ridge.  As I came closer, the large Bighorn Ram raised his head and there was no mistaking he was the head of the group of ewes.  A younger male was nearby who may someday challenge the Ram but not on this day.

The large Bighorn Ram looks me over as he protects his group of Ewes.

The large Bighorn Ram looks me over as he protects his group of Ewes. Nikon D70/80-400VR, 1/1000s, f/5.6, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 400mm focal length.

I felt very happy to have seen and photographed all the wonderful wildlife of the northern plains but I got an additional surprise when leaving the Mount Rushmore National Memorial parking facility.  A nanny Mountain Goat and her kid where taking advantage of some of the plants in the landscaping.  I got a nice close up of the little guy.

A Mountain Goat kid snacking on some landscaping at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota.

A Mountain Goat kid snacking on some landscaping at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota. Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/10, ISO 200, EV 0, 300mm focal length.

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24 Responses to Wildlife Bucket List

  1. Mike Criss says:

    Well done Scott. I just drove into Denali and was able to see an abundance of wildlife. Yesterday, I had to stop for a moose walking down the middle of the road.
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  2. Deanna says:

    Wow, all those shots are amazing!! I can’t believe how close that buffalo came to the car. I never really knew what a prairie dog looked like and my kids started cracking up when I said that it looked like a rabbit without ears. 🙂

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  3. giiid says:

    Nice photos Scott. The Prairie Dog looks so sweet, but I am not sure it knows what that word means. The Bison Bull is impressing. What a wonderful wildlife you have captured at these photos.

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  4. Hey Scott. How you like being close to those buffalo? They are huge beasties! Great shots.

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  5. Gerry says:

    Oh, Scott, you had such a good trip! Imagine all those animals in one visit. This must be a very good time to go to the Dakotas. I have to say the buffalo is my favorite, but I’m a sucker for buffalo.

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  6. Karma says:

    I love your wildlife shots! The pronghorns look so very different from anything we are used to seeing that would be classified as an antelope – it seems they were a challenging shot to get! The kid pic is adorable.

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    • I got some of the pronghorns standing stationary, too. When I realized they were not going anywhere, I set up for a slow shutter and did some panning. I got a few of them before they scampered off. They are about half the size of our white-tailed deer and very fast.

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  7. montucky says:

    You did very well, Scott! That’s a darn good collection! The shot of the little goat is really precious!

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  8. Nye says:

    Scott, awesome captured! I love the panning image and the American Bison bull deep rich colors.

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  9. These are all fabulous shots, all magazine worthy that’s for sure 😉

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  10. Kathy says:

    You are always so inspiring. I love the first shot of that bison. What a unique reddish color! I tried to get my first wildlife scenes with the long lens yesterday (the one I’m still trying out.) There was a bald eagle!! I grasped to try to figure out the settings. Away flew the bald eagle! And it did not come back. Sigh. The woodpecker didn’t get close enough either. This is going to take some patience…

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    • The rule of wildlife photography is no matter how long the lens you have on your camera, you need a longer one in the field. 🙂 Half the work is being either patient or stealth enough to get close to wildlife. It is easier in a national park or refugee as the animals and birds are used to people being around.

      Another trick is knowing the animal’s habits. Chances are that eagle will return to where you saw it. Ask your neighbors about wildlife sightings, too. Do you feed birds? They usually stop at the same place before coming down to your feeder.

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  11. Carsten says:

    I hope you are ok now. Going on vacation with your children is just the best. We are very lucky that they want to go with us.
    You have collected a fine series of wild-life shots. Gratulations with the results.

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  12. Val Erde says:

    That buffalo is impressive – particularly his wonderful coat. Do they have ‘hair’ or ‘fur’?

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  13. milkayphoto says:

    Well done, Scott! I really like the energy in the Pronghorns image as well as the ‘family unit’ of the Bighorn Ram and Ewes. Jealous! 🙂

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  14. Pingback: Autumn Highlights « Views Infinitum

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