Wildlife Encounter in Colorado: Kill or be Killed?

I am hiking across acres of Southwest Colorado with my fabulous best friend, a Black Mouth Cur that I named, appropriately, “Blessing” on our morning “walk” through the fields and woods of the farm where we now live.  It is out … Continue reading

Golden eagle’s rare attack on deer caught on camera



Linda Kerley, Zoological Society of London
A camera trap set up to record tigers snapped three pictures of a golden eagle preying on a young deer in Siberia.

A rare death match between a golden eagle and a young deer was inadvertently captured by a camera trap set up to snap pictures of Russia’s endangered Siberian tigers.

The sika deer (Cervus nippon) was found dead in December 2011 by a researcher tending to the camera trap, which was being used to monitor the habits and movements of tigers in Lazovsky State Nature Reserve in Russia’s Far East.

Conservationist Linda Kerley, of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), recalled that something felt immediately wrong as she approached the carcass.

“There were no large carnivore tracks in the snow, and it looked like the deer had been running and then just stopped and died,” Kerley, who runs the ZSL’s camera trap project, said in a statement. “It was only after we got back to camp that I checked the images from the camera and pieced everything together. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”

The camera trap footage only captured two seconds of the attack in three photos, but it showed quite clearly an adult golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) clinging to the young deer’s back. [Camera Trapped: Elusive Wildlife Caught in Photos]


Linda Kerley, Zoological Society of London
A golden eagle’s unusual attack on a sika deer was recorded on camera in Russia’s Lazovsky State Nature Reserve on Dec. 1, 2011.

“I’ve been assessing deer causes of death in Russia for 18 years,” Kerley said in a statement. “This is the first time I’ve seen anything like this.”

An adult golden eagle can weigh more than 12 pounds (5.4 kilograms) and have a wingspan of about 7.5 feet (2.3 meters). Though they do not regularly prey on deer, the raptors are known for ambitious attacks on large animals, the researchers said. The birds, however, have not been known to attack people, despite what the “golden eagle” hoax video would have viewers believe.

“The scientific literature is full of references to golden eagle attacks on different animals from around the world, from things as small as rabbits — their regular prey — to coyote and deer, and even one record in 2004 of an eagle taking a brown bear cub,” Jonathan Slaght, of the Wildlife Conservation Society, said in a statement. (ZSL and WCS have been partnering on tiger monitoring in the region.)

“In this case I think Linda just got really lucky and was able to document a very rare, opportunistic predation event,” Slaght added.

Kerley and Slaght described the strange case in this month’s issue of the Journal of Raptor Research.

Yosemite Wildfire Update: National Guard Launches Unmanned Drone to Monitor the Fire


wildfire yosemite rimUnmanned drone is the latest tool in the battle against the wildfire raging at Yosemite National Park.

The MQ-1 National Guard unmanned aircraft being remotely piloted hundreds of miles away quickly alerted fire bosses to a new flare-up they otherwise wouldn’t have immediately seen.

(MORE:  Yosemite Forecast Yosemite Fire Among Largest in California History)

“This morning it’s allowed us to see a spot fire,” said Mike Wilkins, commander of forces at the Rim Fire.

The 12-day-old Rim Fire continued to grow, expanding to 292 square miles, and containment remained at 23 percent. But increasingly confident fire officials said they expect to fully surround it in three weeks, although it will burn for much longer than that.

Western Wildfires

Each icon represents one of the dozens of large fires currently burning across the West.

“It’s looking better every day,” said incident spokesman Glen Stratton.

While unmanned aircraft have mapped past fires…

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An Introduction To Bear Awareness. Pt 2 from Lessons Learned As a Novice Hiker

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Felled tree by Marybeth Haydon

Strolling along, enjoying the quiet tranquility of the forest stepping among mild weather, highlighted with a perfect breeze, I duck under a low-lying tree that has slid down the rain-softened mountainside, toppling it across the trail. I check the section that is obscured; I’m ever-snake-aware these days, watchful of my footing, particularly over a larger rock or a felled tree, who knows what’s on the other side? I note that I am sweating profusely as I check for snakes. I don’t like this fear I’ve developed, it’s unhealthy.

As I pass a few piles of bear scat, I’m reminded that I have bear bells in my pack. I’ve never felt the need to use them before but the bells are relentlessly drawing my attention. Finding scat and tracks along this trail is certainly not unusual, why this change of attitude?  The impression is intense enough for me to stop and dig deep into my pack for the bells. I strap them to my trekking poles and continue my most-enjoyable morning trek.

Step jingle, step jingle.
There is sudden, chaotic movement ahead, my heart beats violently; I’m instantly alarmed. Something is just not right, there is an outright panic in the air!  My ears are straining to distinguish the sounds that I hear. I recognize the sound of several hoof beats, at a gallop at that, but there is something far more fearsome, deep, heavy, and threatening. Three panicked deer are charging down the trail, oh man! Do they see me?!  These animals are fast!  I jump to the uphill side of the trail, plastering myself against the rough mountainside.  A huge flying leap from the trail and they swiftly, gracefully disappear deep into the downhill brush.


Photo courtesy Google Images

Then a flat, deep noise that challenges my bladder control. This noise completely rattles my insides, weakens my bones and muscles. Undoubtedly this is a large animal making this noise; the air is motionless and thick with fear.

My fear.

Then what sounds like a smaller animal, makes a sort of baying sound, almost a sheep-like “ba”, but not. Maybe it’s “ma, maw”.  It sounds confused, if that’s possible, maybe frightened. I can’t explain it. Oh snap! More hard, deep and yet with an odd hollowness, chomping. Now I hear oruff, errhh, then a deep, heavy growl similar to the warning growl from a dog. The kind of growl you hear right before it attacks.

I’m suddenly drowning in a whirlpool of fear and panic.
It sounds like a large animal, panting  with angry, heavy stomping and scraping against the earth.  The snorting sounds like a charging bull that terrifies me beyond reason. Huff, pant, eerrhh.  The noise is a psychological stun gun, keeps me from moving. I’m literally frozen in place. There’s chaotic noises among the brush, a different growl, then a howl, almost a yip, like it was injured, definitely a different animal.  Are there two animals fighting? Now there’s heavy stomping, scraping, it’s the larger animal. Instinctive fear envelopes me. I feel as though I’m made of jig-saw puzzle pieces and each piece is about to unhinge from one another.
Silence. Heavy silence. Intimidating silence. Scary silence. Silence that is LOUD.
I look down at my chest to see if I am still breathing because i’m really not sure. Then I close my eyes, I’m trying really hard to refocus, to center myself, to trust my Savior. I’m afraid to look up or to look in any direction. My knees are buckling, an insane thought flashes through my mind: camera.  I immediately dismiss it. I need to preserve myself first! Not exactly a Kodak moment here…

The forest is very, very still. Not a single squirrel stirred, not a single bird chirped, even the lizards sunning their selves have simply vanished. I think even the ants are frozen in their tracks. It’s as if a mega pause button has been pressed throughout the woods, with the entire world in slow motion.


Angry Bear photo courtesy Google Images

Frantic, bizarre thoughts swirl: I think about the sound of crashing ocean waves, about the thrill of riding horseback at a smooth canter, about the stupid mending pile at my home … I need new tires for my car soon … HAVE I LOST MY MIND?
I don’t know how long I stayed plastered against the mountain. It seems as though I am waking up from a deep coma, my mind a little foggy, taking a bit to orient, I don’t trust my legs to support my walking much less standing. Standing still as though I’m part of this rough mountainside seems to be all that I can muster. I need to feel camouflaged. I am rock and leaves and dirt.   I am the mountain.

Seeing nothing swing out from the bushes, no horrified deer charging my way, no more nerve-shattering dinosaur-level snapping sound, just the usual bit of small animal activity. Once again, the world around me is back to normal. Oh, the joy of the “little things” in life!   I realize the threat is gone. Deep breath. Loosen the tight neck, swirling my head slowly.   I reach for my fallen trekking poles. They jingle.
Bear bells.
The bells that I have never used before. Until today.  Thank God for giving me a heads up, for causing me to step aside momentarily.  Who knows what the timing would have been, how this “encounter” may have changed if I had not stopped for a few minutes to strap on the bells?

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Tranquility by Marybeth Haydon

“All those who know Your mercy, Lord, will count on You for help. For You have never forsaken those who trust in You.” Psalm 9:10
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1
Lord, I want others to know just how accessible You are!

Todays Lesson Learned:  The importance of being bear aware and never negotiate a blind trail-corner quietly. You never want to surprise a wild animal, much less a mother bear and cub.  Whether you use bear bells (not my favorite) or chat with your partner, lightly clap your hands as you approach a bind corner, or simply sing softly as you relish your environment, these are all good methods to prevent a surprise for you or the animal.  Pay attention to “warning signs” such as fresh bear scat, a fresh kill, etc. and adjust your trip accordingly. DO NOT HIKE QUIETLY.

Wondering why I (temporarily) developed a fear of snakes?  See my post The Day I Stood On A Western Diamondback Rattler here at   http://ow.ly/j3LdM  Enjoy!

Visit me on Facebook for offers, photos, hiking and wildlife updates!   http://ow.ly/hycIm

You can also visit me on Twitter @MarybethHaydon

HUNTERS & CONSERVATIONIST UNITE? Bighorn Sheep Hunting Tag $45,000-$109,000 FOR ONE! Why?


Ram running up mountain

Hunters & Conservationists Unite: It’s not an oxymoron.  Considering the current economic situation, all were happy to see that the tag sold for more than $75,000.  All of the funds go directly into the big game management fund and get used to further wildlife conservation in California.Surveys for bighorn sheep in the San Gabriel range have been conducted annually since 1979.  The mountain range once held an estimated 740 sheep, which made the San Gabriel population the largest population of desert bighorn sheep in California.  The bighorn population declined more than 80 percent through the 1980s but appears to be on the increase with recent estimates yielding approximately 400 animals.

A California Desert Bighorn Sheep tag sold for $45,000 at the 41st Safari Club International Convention in Reno, Nevada. The tag was sold through the Safari Club International Foundation (SCI Foundation). Each year the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) authorizes the sale of a limited number of big game permits through various conservation organizations to support wildlife programs in the state. All proceeds from the sale will be used to fund conservation efforts in California.



The tag was sold to Jim Craig of Indiana to hunt Zone 2, the Kelso Peak and Old Dad Mountains in San Bernardino County.  The season for this tag will run from Nov. 2, 2013 to Feb. 2, 2014.  Craig has purchased a California Desert Bighorn Auction tag for three years running. He is an ardent sheep hunter and donates to bighorn sheep conservation projects along with buying auction tags.  He cites California’s wildlife management and personnel as some of the best in the West.

Generally, three bighorn sheep, 10 deer, three elk and two pronghorn antelope tags are available for auction annually.

This year’s second Desert Bighorn Sheep auction tag, the open zone tag, will be auctioned at the California Wild Sheep Foundation Banquet in Carmichael, Calif. on April 27.  For more information on this tag go to: http://www.cawsf.org.

What is your opinion on this issue of sacrificing a few to save many?  Please leave your comments on the About the Author tab or Tweat me @MarybethHaydon  Thank you! & My FB is http://ow.ly/hycIm

ALSO: I will be posting photos of this years bighorn sheep survey on my Facebook.  I am one of the volunteers who go out into the field and count the sheep.  It is quite the privilege and delight to see these impressive creatures in their natural habitat, out of harms way.  I have the survey from 2011 already posted on my Facebook, come visit and check it out. Go to Photos, then to Albums.  http://ow.ly/i46ro  (My Facebook is under Wilderness Training)

Media Contacts:
Regina Abella, Desert Bighorn Sheep Coordinator, (916) 445-3728
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (916) 323-1478

FIGHT OR FLIGHT Part One: Animal Behavior

OK, I’M IN THE WILDERNESS, NOW WHAT DO I DO?  . . .  Lions & Tigers & Bears, Oh My!

Ok, no lions and tigers and no Auntie Em either.  But definitely time to explore the practicalities and safety issues of wildlife encounters. Remembering that all wildlife are indeed wild and are extremely dangerous when provoked. So let’s learn how  “not to provoke”.  Also, the more you know and understand equales empowerment, and the calmer and more assured and safer you will be while on trail.

Black Bear. You’re hiking an area that has a lot of switchbacks, blind corners and you’re in bear country. We don’t need to startle mama bear with her cubs, so softly talk or sing, or pray out loud as you near those blind corners. Occasionally check the ground ahead of you for tracks or scat to alert you to its presence.  Their tracks look like bare people feet (at least to me) and their scat is significant and full of berries or fur. If you see garbage or saran wrap in the scat, you have a habituated bear in the area. Time to reconsider your hike. A habituated bear associates humans with food, making them uncharacteristically aggressive and eventually a dead animal by our euthanizng hands. Not to mention at minimum, a rattled you.

bear 3 DSCF2191

Black Bear by Marybeth Haydon

Well, lookie there, a black bear. What to do?  Has the bear seen you? If not, don’t announce yourself and simply detour or turn back. Calmly.  It has seen you? Stop where you are.  Be calm. I know you did NOT bring McDonalds or tuna sandwiches with you, or any food to entice wildlife, so is the bear considering you a food source? If somehow a packed picnic lunch found its way into your pack, remove your pack and toss it on the ground ahead and away from you. Disassociate yourself from it and begin to back away. Do not run or turn your back on the bear; that’s what prey do and loud noises might force it to protect itself. Again, DO NOT RUN, it will stimulate the animals predatory instinct.  Black bears often will bluff charge, it will be difficult, but stand your ground. After it stops a few feet from you, you can continue your backing away and the bear will definitely investigate the pack that you left. Don’t bother going back for it, which is why you pack your car keys and turned-off phone (otherwise  the battery will wear down trying to find a signal while you’re in the mountains) on your person, preferably in a zip-up pocket or safety-pinned to your clothing.  (I had to re-hike a snowy and difficult trail looking for car keys once. Lesson learned.)

Being respectful and aware of the animals comfort zone will go a long way. Another point to remember is that dogs irritate bears. If you hike with an unleashed dog, please change that habit, it’s a danger to Spot and to other hikers. Secondly, as your dog jogs ahead, encounters a bear, it runs back to you for protection. Guess who they are leading back to you? Yup,  Spot just brought you one big unwanted “gift”.

My biggest problem is getting an enounter on film, getting the camera out fast enough to capture the rare moment. And you may want to check behind you occasionally, especially if you’re preoccupied taking pics of your exciting encounter.  Remember, BEAR SIGHTINGS AND ENCOUNTERS ARE UNUSUAL. I have been in the bear country for the majority of my hikes, 2-3 times a week and it took over 3.5 years before I actually sighted a bear. Bear encounters are rare. So relax and have fun!

Snakes. While you’re checking the ground ahead of you for scat to avoid, protruding roots or rock to trip you up (aka ‘speed bumps’), and for anything alive, you may as well look for snakes.  Snakes are shy critters and prefer not to interact with you. They are typically unaggressive. They usually slither away before you’ve approached them since they have sensed your “trespass” by the vibration of your steps. They don’t have ears, can’t hear you so if you’re screaming at it, it’s for naught.  If it’s a rattler and it actually rattled at you, (they do not always rattle) it’s simply warning you that you’re too close. It wants it’s “space”, so give it some.  The last thing a snake actually wants to do is to bite you, as any close encounter with another animal (including YOU) puts the snake at risk as well.

Please, do NOT go chasing after it because you have “great video” especially if it is rattling at you. You are putting yourself and companions at risk and you are needlessly harassing animal life. You have most likely chased it into an area where there are other snakes & while you’re videoing one, you have others who see you as a threat. Quite the picture, isn’t it?  If that isn’t enough incentive, not only is a bite very painful but will run you $100,000 AND UP for anti venom that is if you get to medical within a reasonable time.  More on first aid in Part Two http://ow.ly/gY1UB

Western Diamondback

Western Diamondback Rattle Snake by Marybeth Haydon

Back away and wait for it to wander off. It out-of-the-ordinarily lingers? Then from a distance, toss a few rocks around it, no need to hurt or kill it, and it will move away to the nearest brush or rock hideaway. Or you can stomp your feet, to the snake it will feel like an entire army is approaching, and as shy as it is, off it will go. If it’s injured you may need to pull from your patience reserve, but it will eventually get out of your way. I usually “X” mark the trail dirt with my trekking pole so that on my return I can be aware that there was one at that spot on my way up.  Also, I use my poles to tap the rock in front of me as I descend from a hike since I can’t see what’s beyond or under the rock ahead.  They like to hide in the crevices.  ALWAYS tap-out any log or rock that you intend to rest upon.  For your hiking times you can purchase a pair of *snake gaiters if that will make you feel safer, which I wear when I’m trail-blazing and off trail. Again, my biggest problem with snakes (well, every wildlife encounter) has been getting the camera out fast enough. Even after accidentally standing on a really ticked off & coiled rattler, (NOT RECOMMENDED) I wasn’t bitten, by the grace of God. I repeat: accidentally!  (W.T. the Novice chapter 7) I’ve learned to stay on trail while on regular treks since then!  Do NOT approach or handle snakes, or any of our wildlife. And, generally, a triangular head means venomous. A rounded head, not.  But I’m speaking generally and from experience from within California; I’m not familiar with other states and their wildlife. So do your research before you hike. As a rule, the young venomous snakes, if they strike, in their inexperience tend to over-envenomate which is what makes their bite more dangerous. Keep your distance, please. But no need to be freaked out now that you know their behavior, you know what to expect and how to respond.A Bobcat will most likely run from you, or simply watch you as you pass. They’re the size of a really overgrown tom cat and generally do not pose a threat, but such a sighting is definitely camera worthy!

11-13-09MountainLionEducationAndIdentificationA mountain lion is one creature I strongly doubt I would be saying, “How cool!” if encountered or sighted. Although, I would really prize a photo op with one.

The cougar is dangerous and has been known to attack people and children.  If you’re hiking with a group, all the better. But if you’re the smallest person in the group, you do not want to be last in line. It signals weakness, possible prey to the cougar. In CA, a woman was attacked from behind as she rode her bike along a fairly trafficked trail. The animal was later euthanized.

They are gorgeous animals, big, strong and potentially lethal. They like to be at the highest point, but they also are ground level, under brush for surprise attacks. Even at a distance a brief glimpse should be cause for alarm. Though the cougar is most likely to leave the area, you should group together and travel with caution. If there are repeated sightings, be prepared to aggressively defend yourself and others. Be alert and on guard for the remainder of your hike. Also, the mountain lion is crepuscular, so plan the hours of your hike around that. This is one animal I highly respect and depend completely upon the Lord for help and protection against. He is more than capable! Then I subsequently rely upon my training, research, experience and upon my God-given senses.

11-13-09MountainLionEducationAndIdentification2 If attacked by a mountain lion, appear larger: Raise your arms. If you have trekking poles raise them over your head, appear large. Pick up small children. Throw stones, branches, or whatever you can reach without crouching or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly in a loud voice. Women, lower your voice, sound masculine, decisive. The idea is to convince the mountain lion that you are not prey and that you may be a danger to it. Fight back if attacked: A hiker in Southern California used a rock to fend off a mountain lion that was attacking his son. Others have fought back successfully with sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools and their bare hands. Since a mountain lion usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the attacking animal. Fight back aggressively!

Deer. Believe it or not, they can be aggressive.  Simply keep your distance and appreciate these lovely creatures from afar. Do not approach and feed. If a wild animal appears docile, is bedded down and is allowing you to approach it? There is something seriously wrong and it will most likely attack you in lightening speed.  Leave wild animals alone. If you accidently stumble upon one up close, do not look it in the eye. Stay still, look down, it will take off.


Gray Fox by Marybeth Haydon

Fox, Coyote, Bighorn sheep. These fascinating animals commonly will avoid you, but if you get the privilege of sighting them, I sincerely hope you brought your camera! Fox packs actually use one area for scatting, called a fox latrine. When you see multiple, thin, fur-embedded scat you have probably hit upon a fox latrine. Get your camera ready, they are so fun to watch as they track mice underground!The bighorn sheep will tolerate your presence as long as you are quiet and do not look them (or any animal) in the eye. They feed on the brightest of food, the bright color signals high nutrition. So, when we thoughtlessly release those mylar balloons into the atmosphere, the sheep are dying from feeding on them. FYI.

Coyote, in a pack should be considered dangerous. Pack attack on humans are not a common occurrence. Again, if you’re carrying food, you’re making yourself a target. If approached, toss that Bigmac!

TWO-LEGGED THREATS: And if you routinely hike alone, may I suggest that you carry some sort of pepper spray?

REMEMBER: Preparation is key, watching for danger signs will become habit, a very good habit, and you will be able to enjoy your trek with confidence and calm. Yes it’s wild out there, just not so savage that you should stay away.

* I’m very happy with the snake gaiters that I purchased from Uplanders Warehouse http://ow.ly/gOq8n

Your comments, concerns, personal experiences and information is greatly encouraged!  Your comments may help someone else! Also check back for updates on Part 1 and Part 2 of the Fight Or flight blog. Scroll for my next blog, Part Two.

Click for Part 2 http://ow.ly/gY1UB Discussed in FIGHT OR FLIGHT  Part Two: Signs of Presence, Danger Signs, Precautions, First Aid for snake bite.

Taking the Time To Savor

Small Fall

Waterfall by Marybeth Haydon

In the Wilderness Training series I write about experiencing the unforgettable thrill of summiting high, intimidating mountains; the expedition strenuous and against heart, exhausting, demanding and relentless.  All the while experiencing the desperate need for rest, energy, endurance, and physical ability that is beyond what I’m actually capable of. Pressing-in, pressing onward, a can-not-fail attitude was developed as I struggled for every breath; the high-altitude air so very thin and miserly. I’m also humbled at my desperate need for vital union with Him. Despite the pain and difficulty, I joy and revel in His creation as I climb, captivated with the passing vistas and wildlife sightings. He is with me on my journeys, on the pleasant, no-stress leisure hikes as well as the dry, hot, draining struggle to place one-foot-in-front-of-the other journeys.  Metaphorically and physically.  In sickness and in health HE is there for me. Yes, it is very much like that.

The days destination acquired, the mountains deeply fresh air, is moist and sweet-smelling. The cool marine layer seems to enliven the natural scent from the abundant trees, flowers and native shrubs. I simply stand where I am, taking-in the pleasures of the beauty before me. A slight movement in the tree ahead of me steals my attention, my eyes shift to the source as I remain completely still. I don’t move in case this is something I do not want to frighten away. A small bird has poked its head out from the thick leaves and is looking at me. It cocks its head, twitching sharply, nervously side-to-side to get a better view, studying my position as friend or foe. Apparently, I’m not all that threatening, it zips back into its hide, chirping away.         Just how cute was that?

If I didn’t take the time to simply be still and enjoy the environment, I’d miss these cute moments. I think I have actually developed a relationship with the wilderness. Relationships shouldn’t be on the move or busy, which tends to crowd out the intimate times. Relationship is best when relaxed, unhurried, cherished.

Scotts Broom in bloom

Scottsbroom in Bloom by Marybeth Haydon

In my early travels I was nearly trampled by a panicked and really large deer, that if I had not stopped to listen to the unfamiliar sound of its panicked hoof’s clamoring on rock I would have been severely injured. It’s shoulders where higher than my own. One more step, one more stride and I would have been severely injured. I will never forget the eye-to-eye contact we had as it ran past me into the camouflaging brush on the side of the trail.

How many times have I neglected to turn my ear to His Spirit prompting me, am I continuing to listen for Him? Am I hearing Him daily, hourly, minute by minute before I make a decision, or any turn of the chapters of my life? Only He knows what is truly best for me, and what is or isn’t ahead for me and those who my life will touch, however transient.

So, daily, it’s an absolute MUST: I need to double-check myself: Am I actively seeking His will, and staying on-course? Am I listening to His gentle Voice, and importantly, am I submitted to His Voice, obedient? Do I savor His presence, His leading?   It’s time I be more diligent about this before I offend His Spirit in my hurried, distracted processing of daily life.


How about you?


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