The Wind River Canyon is a gorgeous emerald green right now. Wildflowers are blooming, birds are singing and building nests, the buzz of hummingbirds can be heard, wild roses scent the morning breeze, and a tiny wren sings by my bedroom window. The beautiful orange orioles are always a welcome sight each spring. But most important of all, the babies of wild animals are glimpsed by the sharp eyed, or the very lucky.
Everyone feeds the wild birds, yet sometimes there are unforeseen consequences. We attract birds here in the canyon that may not be observed anywhere else; a Rose-breasted Grosbeak was seen here yesterday!
It really isn't our fault that others are attracted to the goodies we put out for the birds, even if they are really, really cute.
After living with and photographing wild animals of all kinds for twenty years in the Wind River Canyon, something's changed. While I'm not exactly Dr. Doolittle, I have been know to "talk to the animals" with my own unique sound and whistles. Many birds come to know and trust me, and this is inspiring, to say the very least. For the past two years I've been working with, and getting to know, the Marmots that live in the area. It has taken untold hours of patience to get them to trust me even a little bit. I suppose they have good reason not to trust anyone; they've been systematically slaughtered for over a century.
Marmots are the most inoffensive of creatures; they're actually chubby ground squirrels. They never seem to fight, even for a food source. When the food is obviously limited, they never compete or argue, they share equally all the time; even in mixed age groups. They don't growl or hiss competitively like domestic household pets. Marmots share in a way that is atypically human, and they don't smell bad. They seem to enjoy company and greet each other affectionately. An older adult Marmot is always watching for trouble, and gives a crazy-loud whistle to warn the others of danger.
Imagine our surprise when they found the sunflower seeds we put out for the wild birds. They're vegetarians and just love the seeds, and dry dog food that is mostly ground corn; which we thought was funny.
Last night I set up a photo-shoot with the baby Marmots that were born just a stone's throw away from my cabin door. I worried that they might be frighted by the big, black lens and camera; stay calm and move slowly. These young, baby Yellow-bellied Marmots just came out of their deep underground nests the first week in May. They obviously trust me as I was only ten feet away; a place I've sat before with them and the adults. It was a lot of fun and a real-life natural high that only nature's wild things can deliver. Living here in this magical canyon is a gift and sometimes even a surprise or four. These baby Marmots are about the size of an eggplant, but a lot more adorable. I used to "hunt" them, too; and I feel real guilty about that now that we are "Living with Marmots in the Wind River Canyon."
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