POTD: Road Guard

Road Guard
Yellowstone National Park

This guy was trotting along the road like he owned the place. It wasn’t until I took a close look at the photo that I noticed he was wearing a collar–probably a radio transmitter. Is it just me, or does collaring and keeping track of a wild animal make that animal less wild?

3 thoughts on “POTD: Road Guard”

  1. Knee-jerk response:

    That’s a provocative question you pose. I’m thinking that you’re remembering the fact that by simply observing a subject you’ve changed the conditions under which the subject exists, therefore skewing the results of the observation. But does plotting location points obtained by capturing radio signals transmitted from the animal’s collar on a digital map really change the animal’s environment significantly? I mean, what about the fact that the animal lives in an artificially manipulated environment of a National Park? How does the animal’s environment change when and if it ranges outside the arbitrary boundary of the park? Does the animal notice a difference in the temperament of the humans it encounters depending on which side of the arbitrary park boundary the encounter occurs? What does the experience of being tranq-darted by a human and collared, perhaps multiple times during its life have on the character of the animal? Most of all, the collar ruins the “wild”-life image. That’s sad.

    I would have considered cloning the little hint of collar out of the photo and side-stepped the issue. No, leave the collar visible and start a conversation. That’s the ticket. You got it right.


    1. Thanks for the thoughtful comments Russell. I don’t know how the animals feel about it, but for me knowing their movements are being monitored takes a lot of they mystery out of their lives–and it’s that mystery that contributes to my perception that they are in fact wild animals. The comment you made about the “artificially manipulated environment of a National Park” made me wonder if it’s more or less artificially manipulated than the environment outside the park. Certainly the environment inside the park is more purposely manipulated for the animals sake, but not to the extend that the environment outside the park is manipulated for the sake of humans.

  2. The comment about “artificially manipulated environment of a National Park” is probably coming from my perspective of being a former NPS Ranger (way back in 1981, Olympic NP) although it’s not unique. Parks are manmade constructs. They are sets of arbitrary boundaries inside which a different set of rules exist and are enforced as best we Rangers could. The rules exist because people are everywhere and a large percentage of the people don’t know how to behave in a place where wilderness or “nature” is trying to be preserved. It’s usually an ignorance that is not malicious. Good people (and I believe most are) are hungry for information and education about the “nature” of the parks, thus the tremendous affection for getting within earshot of a Park Naturalist. Unfortunately, many park visitors never get much education while inside a park (shame on our federal government for shorting the funding of our greatest legacy). As a trained geologist, I never tired of teaching visitors as much as I thought they could handle about how the plate tectonics of the earth formed the mountains and volcanoes in the NW and how the glaciers subsequently shaped the peaks and valleys. Fortunately, Olympic has the large active glaciers still working the valleys and what a great classroom I had to teach in!

    The summer I was in Oly, there was a program operating that was attempting to rid the park of the mountain goats, as they are an exotic species in the Olympic Mountains. They came from Alaska before the park was designated, through trades made by hunters for the Red Elk that is native in the Olys. I always had an unvoiced but conflicted feeling about the program because as a mountain lover and photographer, I loved having mountain goats in the mountains. It was so… right feeling. But those dang goats eat everything including many plant species that exist nowhere else on earth. A photo of a red elk is also something to behold. Alas, despite living with the creatures for 4 months, I never got a good photo of the big reds. I did get caught in the middle of a red elk stampede in the rain forest after dark one evening. As you can tell, I survived, but what a story I have to tell about that experience.

    Getting back to your point though, I guess I’d have to agree that a canine with a radio collar, a name/number, and a database record can’t be too terribly wild. The red elk in the Hoh River District, Olympic National Park, that threatened me personally, and eluded this experienced hunter/lensman for 4 months, well, that’s wild.


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