Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Animals of Estes and Rocky Mountain National Park

As I mentioned earlier today, my family and I stayed at Estes Park a few nights ago.  During the day, we hit up the nearby Rocky Mountain National Park.  We saw a few different animals, a few of which I unfortunately was unable to get pictures of!  Here I will tell you all about the animals that we saw there!
First off, we went over to Lake Estes.  Despite the cold and the wind, probably a hundred or so geese, ducks, crows, and ravens were all scavenging around in the shallow water and the muddy areas.  We also saw a bald eagle, but unfortunately it was too far away for us to get any pictures.  Right before that, though, we spotted a muskrat (a little, water-loving rodent) swimming through the water!  It was really super cool, as it was an incredibly powerful swimmer!  We were walking along next to it, taking a ton of pictures and videos, but the muskrat was easily keeping pace with us!  It was swimming against the current, as well as against the wind, but somehow this rat-sized creature was able to forge ahead!
The muskrat swimming!
This is how far the muskrat swam!  It was certainly more than 100 yards, all keeping up with us!  CRAZINESS!
When I ran out in front of the muskrat to get pictures of it up close, it ducked into its burrow.  We were able to pinpoint the entrance because right out in front was a whole pile of what looked like chewed off crayfish pincers! 
The pile of chewed crayfish parts outside of the muskrat burrow
Some chewed parts on top of a rock

Here is a video of the muskrat swimming:

Muskrat Swimming Against The Current

We also saw a lot of elk, as we have talked about before.  Here are some more pictures that my mother took in the morning, around the same time that my Primos Truth Cam was picking them up, too!
The elk drinking on our first morning there!
An elk drinking on the first morning
When we first saw the elk right next to our cabin, a male mule deer walked right next to my mother and I, no more than ten feet from us while we were next to the river!  It was really cool, but a little sad to see how comfortable these animals are around humans.  Made for a good photo op, though!
The mule deer
That's our cabin, right there!
A male elk on the first night there, around the time that we saw the mule deer from above.  It was eating from a bird feeder!
While we were on our walk around Lake Estes, we passed by a male elk with a harem of four females on the golf course.  Here are some of those pictures!
The harem of female elk off to the left, while the male is grazing on the right
The male elk
The female elk
Another shot with the female elk off to the left and the male elk off to the right
And finally, a herd of elk in Rocky Mountain National Park!
Finally, although no one but my father saw it and we got no pictures of it, while we were driving in Rocky Mountain National Park at around 4:00 or so in the afternoon/evening, we almost ran over an ermine (also known as a stoat or a short-tailed weasel)!  Apparently it was adorned in its winter fur which, much like the arctic fox, changes with the seasons to blend in with its environment!  The ermine, along with otters, badgers, other weasels, and the wolverine, is a member of the family Mustelidae, colloquially referred to as the "mustelids."  The mustelids, in turn, are members of the superfamily Musteloidea, which we have discussed in the past.  It is within this superfamily that you will find coatis, raccoons, skunks, and red pandas

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