Wildlife: has it made any progress?

Eight years ago, I asked an important question:

Why should we bother to protect wildlife if it won’t even pose for a few simple photographs?

In this era of austerity and tough budget decisions, it’s time to determine whether or not wildlife has become more cooperative and more deserving of our tax dollars. Below, my findings from a recent trip to Alaska.

caribou

caribou in Denali

First up, caribou. Like the mountain goats from the Montana trip, they remained distant. However, they thoughtfully positioned themselves against a gorgeous backdrop of snow-capped hills, streams, and endless, rolling fields. Moreover, they were everywhere and easy to find. Good job, caribou.

moose in wonder lake

moose in Wonder Lake

One of my personal goals on this trip was to see a moose. The first sighting was only a moose butt (not pictured), but as the week wore on, we saw many moose, each closer than the last. In fact, the last sighting–a mama moose and her calf on the bike path–was not a picture-taking scenario. It was a “please don’t trample us” scenario.

I applaud the moose for being plentiful. Their territorial behavior, however, needs improvement.

grizzly bear

rug?

Next we have the bears. The grizzly above gets points for proximity, though he should consider showing his face. Not just because people want to photograph it, but because this pose just screams RUG–presumably not an idea he’s trying to evoke.

black bear

Black bear near the train tracks

The black bear has the right idea. Four legs and a head, running around in the snow–definitely not rug material.

cross fox

posing and waiting for squirrels

In terms of actual posing, this cross fox did the best job. He conveniently perched by the side of the road and was very cooperative, sitting still for photos while waiting for a tasty squirrel to come along. A tasty squirrel did, in fact, come along; sadly, his picture turned out rather gory.

puffin

puffin, floating along

Moving on to the water animals, puffins get kudos for their sheer volume and for displaying themselves in a variety of photogenic ways: lined up on the ledge of a rock, flying underwater, and floating around near boatloads of tourists. Their big, orange feet and clumsy-looking take-offs add to their charm.

humpbacks feeding

feeding time for the humpbacks

We saw a group of six humpback whales who put on quite a show of bubblenet feeding. It’s a co-operative way of feeding and very rare, so huge bonus points for that. Furthermore, the bubbles they create tell photographers exactly where the whales are going to surface next.

My only suggestion for the humpbacks is to jump up more.

sea otter

hello, there!

Finally, the sea otter.  This little guy floated right by the boat and gave us a wave. Hello to you too, little guy.

Overall, wildlife has made vast strides since 2004. Unlike my experience at Glacier National Park, the wildlife of Alaska was very understanding of tourists and their desire to take animal photos. And there were no incidents of inappropriate behaviors.

Keep up the good work, wildlife–I fully support my tax dollars being used to preserve your habitats.