Sunday, November 12, 2006

Yellowstone National Park - A river runs through it

One of the greatest rewards in photographing wildlife for me is actually in the dramas that I have had the privilege to witness. The photograph is the icing on the cake, but the real thrill comes in the experience. Whether I am watching humpback whales bubble-net feeding, or Orcas chasing and killing a Dall's porpoise, polar bear males mock-fighting, or penguins waddling down the beach, the reward is being there in person to get a true glimpse of wild animals doing things that so few people ever get to see for themselves. It is those rare moments that make all the long hours of waiting and watching so worthwhile.

These images of elk battling in the Madison River in Yellowstone National Park are a perfect case in point. The entire story took over four hours to unfold as a challenging bull elk bugled from a distance towards the bull elk who had control of this harem. The defender actually had time to sharpen his antlers in preparation for the fight. The sounds reverberated from the hills as the challenger closed in and then finally charged. The fighting was fast and furious as these two huge bulls pushed and shoved each other in the river. The fight seemed to favor first the challenger, then the defender as both contestants were very evenly matched.

In the end the challenger was just not up to the fight. The defender held the challengers head underwater and then stood over him as the exhausted and panting bull had to give in. I actually thought the winner was going to drown the loser, but he finally let him up out of the water for air, then stood over the harem as the challenger left. What an amazing drama to watch from start to finish! Caramba!

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