’06, Daddy’s Girl, White Lady and More

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It’s been awhile since I felt the want or need to sit down and write. I guess that’s a good thing actually………….in away. Or maybe it’s because of lack of time due to shifts in focus. The recent release of Nate Blakeslee’s book American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West seems to have reopened gaping wounds that still haven’t healed and to be honest, they most likely will not. A friend of mine posted on Facebook today suggesting that ’06 be returned home to her park, her home, to Yellowstone, and to all of us who loved her. I ‘liked’ the post and commented that no words from me were needed. Since then I’ve read the other comments that have been added to the post and some really stood out to me, some touched me and others reminded me of where we are today.

I haven’t read the book yet. Not because I don’t think it’s a great book, I wouldn’t have purchased it if that thought crossed my mind, but more because my heart can’t take it. I have video documentaries here of her and others and other books and to be honest I can’t read or watch them either. It hurts. All this hard work advocating for living beings that have feelings and emotions not unlike human’s is emotionally challenging and if you’re not careful, dangerous.

Several things came rushing to my mind reading the comments on the post but the most important one was the feeling of being overwhelmed and not seeming to make progress in the right direction. Those feelings have been weighing heavy on me the past couple years; the current issues with wild horses, grizzlies being delisted, managing of wolves being put back in the hands of irresponsible states and more. Then it occurred to me that we aren’t losing ground. We tend to focus so intently on what we want, and only that, without compromise, that we lose sight of everything else and the small victories.

One of the comments came from somebody I have a lot of respect for, it noted that originally there was great thought put into “buying” ’06 back and that after consideration it was decided it wasn’t a good idea. Not because the funds were not available (I think the wolf advocate community has proven without doubt that we can raise money) but because we are giving unethical, selfish, hateful and inconsiderate hunters and poacher’s reason to believe this would be a new source of revenue. In addition to that, I need to add, it also gives them what they want – a sense of CONTROL.

For several years now as an advocate for wolves, grizzlies and wild horses I’ve been called all sorts of horrible names and even been physically threatened and ran off the road. I’ve learned to roll with this and at times find some of it funny enough to laugh about. The best feeling however came when I decided not to sit and have senseless debates with uneducated, hateful and silly trolls and shift my energy and focus to educating those who wanted to learn more and who wanted help in living with, conserving and protecting the animals I am fighting so hard for. I’m the only one who can allow somebody else to control my emotions and if I walk away and not give them that ability, that control, then they will find somebody else to bully or attempt to control.

The past few years I have become great friends with many ethical hunters who have become a very important part of my life. I’ve always said that although I do not hunt I do believe in proper wildlife management; PZP, other forms of birth control, adoption, controlled hunts, hunting to put food on the table. I have come to value their opinions, have learned a lot from them and respect them. We have an understanding of when certain topics probably would be better discussed at later dates, they respect me and my opinions, and to be honest, I know these people would have my back at a moment’s notice because they are old school and value things like integrity, respect and honesty. We’ve had open and emotional discussions on the illegal poaching, baiting and killing of animals who are habituated to people and they all have said that what these trolls have done is given ethical and respectful hunters a horrible reputation and not something they agree with.

I have shared with them different sources to avoid depredation, how to live with the wildlife we have encroached on, the importance of carrying bear spray, what wolves and bears have done for our ecosystem and how if they would take the time to get to know and understand these animals they are not the vicious killers they’ve been led to believe. In return I have learned patience and better listening skills; you cannot change tens of years of traditions and beliefs overnight. I’ve learned more about their concerns so that I understand what they need to be done for them. I’ve learned the large difference between those with ethics and integrity compared to those who are simply unethical, uneducated and full of hate.

I have a lot to learn still but I can sit in a large town hall meeting full of ranchers, hunters and wildlife advocates and am happy to say that within a room of 50 maybe 10 are haters who have no intention of seeing how any good can come from a wolf reintroduction program and of those 10 by the time we leave we might have 4 that leave more open minded who want to learn more. This is possible because of what I have learned from my friends who are hunters and ranchers – who have taught me patience, taught me what they know, shared their concerns and given me the same respect and courtesy. These are small victories and yet massive.

My thoughts on ’06 and bringing her home…………………

Do I think that is where she belongs and should be? Yes. The fact she was called, unethically out of the park on purpose to be murdered by a selfish hater was wrong. Sadly I have yet to meet anyone like this so that I can honestly learn what “drives” them and so I can understand – I can only imagine what fuels so much hatred. But to knowingly and purposefully kill an animal that means so much to so many people, who has done nothing to harm anyone, just shows the lack of compassion, respect and integrity that this person has. Leopards don’t change their spots and if you think this person is going to suddenly change now and happily return ’06 to her home, I think you’re mistaken.

Daddy’s Girl, White Lady, ’06 and more were all loved by all of us. One may have been more special than another for different reasons, but the bottom line is they were all loved just as much. I don’t think many of these wolves if poached or unethically hunted have been returned “home.” My heart says they have never left, their remains may not be with us and in the park, but their spirits have never left and never will. I can say that for one of them, I know this to be true. For ’06, she shows us she is there on a daily basis; the small, black tenacious, lanky pup she left behind shows us that her mom did not raise and leave behind a weak and stupid daughter. Rather she left behind a daughter who is much like her mother; a fighter, survivor, leader and one who has managed to beat all odds. How many times have we thought she wouldn’t recover and yet she shows up a month or two later stronger than the last time we saw her?

When I drive through the park now, I often times have somebody that may have never visited the park before or who may not have known these wolves. As I drive through different areas I share with them where I saw Daddy’s Girl last, White Lady, 755M, Casanova and more. I tell them their stories, how they changed not only the park but the people who have met them. I share how important their lives were and why we fight as hard as we do for them now. I may never see their physical bodies again but their spirits are there helping to guide me to bring others to them.

Once again, this troll is controlling us; he has diverted our attention away from the ones who need us here with boots on the ground fighting for them the most. We might be able to bring their bodies back but at what cost? What distraction? And do we really gain anything from it? In a sad sort of way I’d rather think that ‘06’s physical body is watching that troll daily; reminding him what he did, what unethical hunting really looks like and that one day what goes around comes around. He has to live with it and if it doesn’t eat at his soul here, it will on the other side. I can hope this is true although he has already proven he has no heart.

Everyone that advocates for these animals fights and serves in a different way; none of these ways are necessarily wrong for the most part unless you overstep boundaries. Your feelings on different views and topics may be different than another’s and that’s okay. I have chosen not to spend too much time on trolls like this and giving them control. He hurt us once pretty badly, I’ve licked my wounds, I’ve learned and I’ll come back stronger and smarter – with the pack. I’ll use him as the perfect example to draw others in by sharing his lack of ethics and morals, others like him will eventually turn against him because of the negative attention he has drawn. I’ll use ’06, White Lady, Daddy’s Girl and other’s stories and lives to make more people aware of how amazing, important and special these animals are and how their lives ended due to lack of compassion, lack of education and hatred. Do I want her to be returned home? Yes. But I refuse to give this person anymore control over my emotions, my money or my time when there are wolves, bears and horses that need my attention more.

And something to think about; if you think that this troll won, think again. He murdered the most well known and loved wolf next to Romeo. His unethical actions has drawn a lot of attention; a FB page that has drawn together more advocates than ever before that has spilled over to other FB pages, her stories are known worldwide, she now has a book written about her and soon a movie will be made about her by Leonardo Dicaprio. He may have her physical body but her spirit has made the world aware of how wolves are horribly misunderstood and murdered. He may have taken her from us but he has united the pack and united we are smarter and far more powerful.

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Borrowing Without Permission

Borrowing Without Permission

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            Seems innocent enough, no harm, no foul, you didn’t mean to and you had no idea that image you snapped a copy of with your cell phone or that you were able to copy and paste off the image hosting site or a website that is legally owned by the person who took that image you have just stolen.  However, if you didn’t actually purchase that image, regardless of how you acquired it, you have now just borrowed without the photographer’s permission, a gentler way to explain “stealing.”

Maybe you don’t know me, I see a lot of people at horse shows and some of you I have had a chance to meet, others of you I haven’t had that chance yet.  Some of you I’ve become good friends with, others of you we’ve barely exchanged smiles.  Regardless if I have met you or not, how well I know you, or if you have ever purchased an image from me before – every day I show up to a show I am there to give 200% and I give it all I’ve got to capture those special memories or moments that mean the most to you and that bring a smile to your face.  I show up regardless of the weather, I start when the first horse walks in the gate and I don’t leave until the last competitor walks out the gate for the day (or late at night and even right before the sun comes up the next day).

What many may not know is that for many of the associations I shoot for, I am not paid.  My parents taught me that if I work hard and put my all into something that eventually it will pay off so I continue working at being the best I can be.  So they make sure I’m fed and watered right?  No, not even that and often times at these shows we are on a tight schedule and breaks aren’t even an option.

Why can’t you see the images while we are at the show?  I pride myself in my work and I made a promise years ago not to post images that are embarrassing to you or to me.  I like going through the images to make sure that I like them, there is nothing harmful, to organize them, to look for things that I can do differently.  I want to edit each of your images when purchased; when I took that image I know what I was hoping for, if I were to hire somebody to do all this for me they wouldn’t know what I had in mind or why I did the things I did.  I also want to keep my prices affordable.  If I were to hire people to help me at the shows that do not pay me, I’d have to pay these people with the money made from the sales of images.  They could quite possibly starve to death.

I haven’t yet gotten to the cost of the equipment; the camera, the lens, the strobe lights, the remotes to control the strobe lights, the high speed memory cards, the backup memory hard drives, the computer and the printer.  I haven’t gotten to just paying for my time either; I use my vacation time from my company to shoot shows on weekdays, I put in 10+ hour days not just at the show but days after the show organizing, uploading and editing.  If I say I will be there, I’m there regardless if I feel good or not.  I shot one show 4 days after fracturing my skull in two places with bleeding on the brain in a horse related accident.  I can’t begin to describe the pain I was in those three days but I told them I’d be there and I keep my word.

I’m not telling you this to scare you or to make you feel sorry for me; I love horses and all animals and I love photography.  I wouldn’t be working this hard, giving up my time off, working for 35 days straight, if I didn’t love doing what I’m doing.  Not only am I there for you but I’m also there shooting for ME!  I’m trying to come up with different angles and images that really stand out and speak for themselves.  I think back to how all of this came about 8 years ago and that’s another story that is really for only my closest friends, but this “hobby” has actually saved my life.  I also own 3.25 horses of my own, I’ve shown everything from halter to pleasure to cutting to working cowhorses, I’ve even roped a bit – and it’s safe to say my heart is with the working horses!

So that image you like enough to borrow without permission, you can purchase for about $20 which is less than your entry fees for the day and maybe even the fuel you used to get to the show.  If you like the image that much that you want to use it for bragging rights, please have the respect to treat me like you want to be treated, with respect and courtesy, by actually purchasing that image.  I would never walk into your barn or your tack room and borrow a headstall or saddle blanket without your permission.  Your purchase lets me know I’m doing a great job and that you want me to come to the next show.  You’d be surprised how something that simple can be so uplifting, inspiring and encouraging.  And if you feel that my prices aren’t fair then I encourage you to visit other photographer’s websites to check out their prices, their copyright statements and please send them an email and ask them what they charge to even shoot your event and what that charge includes.  I think you’ll find that I’m actually pretty reasonable.

Thank you for taking a moment to read this, your purchase and for having me.  I really do enjoy what I’m doing and hope that it continues to grow.

 

Laura Tatum-Cowen

Performance Horse Photography

Performancehorsephotography.com

 

 

I Saw A Bear Today

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I Saw A Bear Today

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I saw a bear today.  Not exactly what I was hoping to see so I was disappointed.  I had come here to see wolves.  After a few moments I started to take in my surroundings and I realized if you chose, at any given moment you could clear the mere yards between us and explain this encounter was on your terms.  I was a trespasser in your home.  Instead you continued to graze and look for grubs.  I saw strength, forgiveness and understanding.

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I saw a bear today.  I was standing by my car watching you, watching me.  Your gaze was intense, unwavering.  Then I heard the wrestling of brush behind me and within seconds a cub ran by.  When I didn’t think my heart could take much more, when I realized it wasn’t me you were watching but your cubs, the second one came from behind me.  I saw love, forgiveness, protectiveness and patience.

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I saw a bear today.  I watched as you spent over an hour searching for voles and grubs.  I watched people crowd you and watched as you altered your direction to avoid them.  I saw patience, forgiveness, strength, perseverance and a will to survive.

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I saw a bear today.  I watched as you carried your cub across a river too deep for her to swim.  I watched as you played with her and taught her lessons.  As she raced circles around you, causing you to stumble and stutter step; you reached out, grabbed her, pulled her close and sat on her.  I giggled and laughed.  I saw love, patience, intelligence and compassion.

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I saw a bear today.  This was one of the first days you were out on your own, alone, without your mom to guide and protect you.  I wanted to cry and wished that I could hold you and tell you that you were going to be fine.  I saw fear and worry.

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I saw a bear today.  You’re terrified and alone, so small, not sure which way to run or if you should hide.  You’re calling for your mom but sadly she can’t answer, her heart is silent due to the selfishness of one.  You’re hungry and worried about other big bears in the area but don’t want to leave where you last saw your mom.  I see fear, grief and uncertainty.

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I saw a bear today.  You’ve never known fear like the fear you’ve known today.  You heard an explosion and your cubs fall motionless.  Your instinct told you to get to your cubs and protect them but your fear forced you away, to hide till it was safe.  You call to your cubs but they can’t answer, their hearts are silent because of a lack of intelligence, compassion, courage and selfishness of one.  I see love, grief, concern and uncertainty.

IMG_4103I saw a bear today.  I ask for your forgiveness.  I’m so sorry that some “humans” are unable to share the same compassion and understanding you have shared with me.  I’m sorry that they lack the intelligence to see that you are not much different from humans; that you hunt to provide food for your family, that you protect your children at the utmost cost, that you experience fear and love.  And most importantly………………..you grieve.

“Forgive them Father…………they know not what they do.”

Rantings Of An Equine Competition Photographer

IMG_0230“That’s an awesome picture!  That must be a really nice camera you have?”  If you’re a photographer, either professional or non pro, I’m sure you’ve heard it or at least read it and laughed.  This comment is similar to, “Since cameras went digital I bet that sure made your work easier.”  It seems like technology improved therefore the skill set to accomplish what we do has become much less important.

I specialize in cutting, reining, working cowhorse and rodeo events but have photographed them all at one time.  These events I “specialize” in because I’ve shown these horses and to be honest I might spend some of my weekends watching these events even if I weren’t photographing them.  I love the horses and the talent I find at these shows that much.  My days at these shows are easy; I’m on my feet all day, I log thousands of footsteps on my Fitbit, I seldom get lunch and I can’t remember when the last time was I got to pee.  I get there before the show starts and I don’t leave till the last horse goes and I drive anywhere from an hour plus, one way.  Since 90% of our shows here in Colorado are indoors it’s easy to remember things like checking the white balance, changing the ISO, checking the shutter speed and keeping the F-Stop at 2.8.  One arena has light coming in at one end and dark on the other and another arena has windows at the top of the building so all I have to do is remember to change my settings when the horse goes from one end of the arena to the other or when the sun goes from sunrise to sunset.  The horses are only loping when all this is going on, so it’s fairly simple.  And all of this was self-taught!  I have yet to take any photography classes even online – mostly because I don’t have time.

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After a 2 to 5 day horse show, the work is done.  Well, all but going through the thousands of images, getting rid of the bad ones, organizing the good ones, getting them up online so that competitors can see them, editing and posting the best of the best onto a website and then keeping up on Facebook.  The easiest part of this is probably filling orders.  Did I mention I have a 45 hour, plus a week, full-time job for a nationwide company?  That I also have 3.25 horses, 4 dogs and a pig?  One of the horses I’m wanting to show this year and riding him after work?

So then, why do I  do this?  Again, I love the horses, the talent, the sport.  I love the people I get to meet, some of who become friends that I cherish.  I love sitting and laughing with them at the horse shows.  I’ve been asked if I can change the color of a shirt, open their eyes or the horse’s eyes, and my favorites; can you fix my turkey waddle or make me lose about 30 pounds.  I’m a photographer, not a miracle worker.  But of course I’ll do my best at whatever I’m asked.

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Equine competition photography is no longer about the “traditional shots.”  The photographers who are making it now are those who have had their foot in the door for years and not given up or those who are busting our butts to get in and be better than the best.  We go the extra mile, risk shooting at different angles from different locations, look for something that stands out and look for something nobody else has.  It’s no longer a full frame image of a sliding horse, but maybe just the horse itself or a rear shot of the slide.  It’s more of an art now than simply holding a camera.  It’s trying to find that one image that takes a person’s breath away, something that captures a special moment, something they can’t walk away from.

Other than that, equine competition is a piece of cake!

So the next time you feel like it’s okay not to pay for an order or “borrow” an image without permission (which most the time is completely done innocently), please keep in mind, to photographers like myself this is a job.  A full-time job I take to heart, that I put my heart and soul into and it isn’t easy.

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Just Because It’s Legal Doesn’t Mean That It’s Right

They had a hunting license so it was legal. Marijuana is legal in the state of Colorado now too but it doesn’t mean you get as high as a kite and drive a vehicle. I believe drinking is also legal and we know how many people are killed by drunk drivers each year. Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean that it’s right; how you chose to use that legal right is what makes it ethical or unethical.

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I’m going to put my noted disclaimers here now because I know where this is going to go:

I’m against hunting; guess again. I believe in proper wildlife management and ethical hunting. We owned one of the largest sporting goods stores and sporting gun ranges in Southern California. My family hunts and hunted. My parents were expert marksmen and I’d be willing to bet I can out shoot most of you.

I was recently told I am against ranchers; nice try. I raise and have raised cattle (and sheep during temporary insanity) and horses. It’s been my whole life however it’s not where I intend to die.

I’ve been blessed to have photographed several bull moose and a few cows and calves in a recreational area close to home. When I found this place last year I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I never thought I’d be able to see so much wildlife nearly right in my backyard, I figured I’d still be missing Yellowstone and the Tetons constantly and wondered how long I’d last here. So when I found these moose I decided I would spend as much time as I possibly could with them. This area is a heavily trafficked area; full of hikers, fisherman, campers, walkers, bikers, dogs and kids! After dropping by two weekends in a row and finding out that the moose were smarter than I was I was about to give up. There were so many people there that during the day the moose stayed hidden. Obviously the photographers who had shared the information with me had been photoshopping images…………..and they were awesome at it!

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I finally went up during the week after work one evening and was rewarded for being persistent. I photographed an older bull with his younger buddy for a couple of hours and each time I came back I was blessed to photograph them or other moose I found in the area. I’ve hiked around this area and can’t believe how gorgeous it is and now know why it’s not a secret to all the people who live here. One evening I met a man from Louisiana and when I asked him what brought him to Colorado he said he had come to hike the back country of the Rocky Mountain National Park for two weeks and to photograph these moose; he had heard a lot about them and we shared moose stories for over two hours. I later learned he was a lead biologist in New Hampshire studying moose a few years earlier, these moose here have made a reputation for themselves.

Moose season opened this past weekend. I had no idea; this recreational park and campground are still open and on the many bulletin boards throughout the park that tell you that moose and other wildlife are here and tell you what you can and can’t do around them never made mention that hunting season was open here. Not to mention it’s a public park, hundreds visit each day, who would want to hunt there thinking it would be a good idea. I hope you’re sitting down because they do exist and they are armed.

I’ve been up to this area now over 10 times and during those times I have encountered one park ranger (there are numerous park volunteers and hosts all the time to help and assist the people there). Every time I’ve been up there the parking lots are completely full and cars are placed in lower parking areas, it’s a busy place. On the morning I talked with the park ranger he was not in good spirits. People had crowded one of the larger bulls giving him no way to escape and rather than charge and trample people the bull opted to jump a car; he did so so gracefully no damage was done to the car or the moose. The park ranger was obviously upset for a good reason and explained to me he was seriously considering closing the park down for the rest of the season, this wasn’t the first time and he was afraid things might get worse.

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I went up on Wednesday morning; spent some time with one of my favorite older bulls and a new one I hadn’t seen before. The rut is about to start and one of the bulls was losing velvet and was itchy and agitated. One person was constantly getting within 20 feet of this bull and regardless of being given the stink eye continued this behavior until the moose left the area; there was no aggression and it wasn’t in a hurry, he knew who was bigger and who had control and he had nothing to fear. These moose have become so accustomed to people, cameras, walking sticks, dogs and all the gear that follows that they have basically become accustomed to it all and since they own this forest they have accepted it all.

Saturday morning the normal groups of photographers, hikers and campers had gathered and the moose showed up on time. The only difference this time was a handful of Department of Wildlife (DOW) agents. Photographers took their photos while the other people observed and then a “hunter” lures one of the bulls a very short distance away and shoots him with an arrow, this does not kill an animal instantly and this wounded and scared bull turned and ran right back to the photographers and onlookers who are now in the middle of this whole incident unwillingly. Three other bull moose confused and scared are now running to their companion wondering what has happened and also into the people in the area. I’m wondering what sort of hunter’s safety course this person took because obviously just by looking around, knowing he was within limited feet of the road as well as people in a public area who were there to enjoy their weekend anyone could tell this wasn’t going to go well. Photographers and other onlookers were charged by the confused bull moose and children got to watch as this person gutted this moose in front of them. And those DOW agents – well, the guy had a license so it was legal.

There are a few things that should be pretty alarming here: hunting in a heavily populated, public area that was not closed or posted for hunting season, shooting and injuring an animal so close to a road knowing that crowds of people were yards away and the list can go on. I wonder why the park wasn’t closed during this “event” and the only answer so far is that it is a “multi use area” so technically that means photographers, hikers, bikers and more have every right to be there as well – only they aren’t armed with a deadly weapon. It’s obvious from the park ranger I spoke with weeks prior that the park could have been closed fairly easily. If a national park can be sued by a hiker’s family because a family member was killed in Glacier by an “introduced” mountain goat which was a horrible accident how many of these people who witnessed and were traumatized by this event can sue the agencies for allowing this to happen with visitors being so close by for an honest reason? I’m sure there is an attorney out there close by who would love this opportunity.

The hunter? In my opinion a lazy, unethical, cowardly trophy hunter. Now, now!! Remember my disclaimer above! I’m friends with a lot of hunters, handfuls of them live within 20 miles of me. They see and comment on my images and we talk about these gorgeous animals all the time. Some of them have dared to tell me they would love the chance to hunt one of them. What makes them different from this coward? I have offered to take these guys to show them these animals and they have declined; these animals are in a public area where too many things can go wrong, these animals are habituated to people so it’s like shooting the neighbors horse and they respect me and what I do like I respect them and what they do. There is a huge difference, these hunters are ethical and respectful. We may joke from time to time but there has never been a time that they have not been welcomed into my house and we can sit and respectfully talk to one another about wildlife, hunting and each other’s views without causing hard feelings. To be honest I think they may be afraid to go with me to see these animals because I might show them something they have never seen before and they may not want to hunt one after all. I can hope, this is my blog.

The moose…………………I find it ironic and horribly painful to think that they have become so trusting of people that even when he was shot, suffering and dying he ran to the only place he knew to run, a place he knew he had found trust before…………..to people. Away from the coward that mortally wounded him and to people. If you have any heart and any compassion at all, that should give you something to think about.

RIP handsome. Thank you for sharing your life with me. I am honored and blessed. If not for you and other wildlife like you bringing me through some really dark times of my life I wouldn’t be here now. You won’t be forgotten and I wish we would have done better by you and never allowed you to find trust in our kind.

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I’m Still Here

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I’ve had plenty of encounters with wildlife and I value everyone of them that I’ve had.  There are “encounters” and then there are those special moments that you will never forget.  Ones that stick with you and years later you can recount the entire moment second by second.  Those kinds of encounters are the ones that will change your life and sadly they don’t happen as often as some of us wish they would.

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I thought I saw something on the way back to town, the night before there had been a gorgeous cinnamon black bear in that area and I was hoping that I might see him again.  I was scanning the hillside, driving slowly and I thought I saw something so I stopped.  I was actually in disbelief; there you were starring right at me, down at me, right into my eyes.  You didn’t move and neither did I.  I wasn’t even sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing because you were backlit by the sun and were actually glowing.  The sun through your coat was on fire and outlining your body.  I was afraid to breath much less move for fear you would vanish or I would wake myself up and I wasn’t sure I wanted to wake up.  The girls in the car with me kept asking what I saw and I was afraid to say anything because if they didn’t see you then I would know that I was dreaming.  I finally whispered to them that you were there and they both saw you at the same time.  I was on the wrong side of the vehicle to do anything and told them it was up to them to get the photos because I knew the moment I moved you would disappear.  Sure enough you did but the girls managed to get a few images, none of them were ones to brag about but we could see you in them and that was all that mattered.

You were gone.  I tried to follow you but you had vanished just as quick as I saw you and not even a print left behind.  I heard your message, it was clear, but at the time I wasn’t sure what it meant.  There was no urgency in your movements, your eyes never left mine until you turned to walk away.  The moment was familiar.

We quickly discussed that this moment was ours and we wouldn’t share specifics with anyone.  We didn’t want you pursued and hounded like the others.  Once we got more information we found that you weren’t listed so we decided the next day if given the opportunity we would ask an expert; although the images weren’t the best the expert said they didn’t know you, hadn’t seen you.  That was enough for us.

Your message still didn’t become clear until talking to a friend of mine a few weeks later.  She reminded me of a few things from before and it made sense.  I’ve thought about that moment over and over again since then especially when things start to fall into place.  Your right, things are going to be okay, your still here.

I should be excited as there is good news coming from the valley.  Most of my heart is very excited however I’m also concerned.  Part of the reason I hesitate to talk about this special encounter is because I want her to have peace.  I want her to be allowed to live wild, be herself without being pursued and followed.  Do I want to know she is okay, how she is and where?  More than anything, but at what cost?  It’s not worth the price.  I also know that we, as photographers and advocates, set examples.  If onlookers with less experience and a lot of excitement witness our behavior or hear about something we do because we wanted a closer look and even if we are granted permission it now sets an example that it is okay for them to do so as well.  Eventually all the attempts to catch a glimpse, get an image, causes these animals to change their behavior, causes them to move away.  Where will they move to?  Possibly in a direction that can bring them great harm.  Or even worse, we habituate them, we leave footprints on them because they are young and either it costs them their lives because they approach people and it’s threatening, or worse, they become trusting and allow the wrong person in too close because they have lost the natural fear they were born with.

I have been following you since 1995 and in 2009 my dreams finally came true.  I have planned numerous trips around you because I would love to have the opportunity to see you again however in 2010 I learned how destructive people’s love of you can be.  It puts you in a very dangerous situation in many different ways.  Those are situations that I do not want to be responsible for nor a part of.  I decided if I were blessed enough to be chosen by you that you would present yourself to me and then I would cherish that moment forever.  I’ve been chosen twice now and I remember every second of these moments and I’m happy to say they were on your terms without incident and un-noticed.  I’ve had plenty of other encounters with you that have torn at my heart because of the behavior of others, people who care about you too but don’t realize how much influence their behavior has on you and those encounters only bring me sorrow.

I learned long ago to trust you, the messages you have delivered have come to be each time.  I trust it will be this way again.

Your still here.

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Thank You For The Lessons

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I’ve been so busy the past 7 to 8 months that I haven’t even had time to think about this blog that I started; the horse show photography has taken off, new adventures have come along, more animals have crashed my barn and so much more.  We are gearing up for another wonderful trip and really looking forward to the wildlife, the hiking, the friendships new and old and the adventures.

This has been a relatively hard week for me, it’s been a year now since you’ve been gone.  They say time heals but I’m not so sure that is true.  I think about you nearly every day, I share your stories and the wonderful things you taught me, I think of all the things that I’ve accomplished this year and I want to share them with you but I can’t.  On the other hand I know that you know all that has gone on and I know you’re proud – if not for you none of this would be possible.

I received a message about somebody commenting on my blog a couple weeks ago.  The things he said about wolves were far from nice but then again he’s entitled to his opinion.  I have to say I think it’s a bit funny.  For one thing, you know absolutely nothing about me or who I am.  And it’s people like you who continue to make finding a solution impossible; rather than being a real man and discussing things and seeing both sides you choose to make rude jabs.  For all you know I could be your neighbor, your neighbor’s girlfriend or wife, one of your friend’s girlfriend or wife or the person who saves your life one day.  Your quick to make your comments and run without even knowing anything about me and it’s funny, I’m not much different than you.  Well, I’m not rude or disrespectful and I’m not afraid to have a civilized conversation with “the other side” so with that we are totally different.

My grandparents who I spent a lot of time with owned a sporting goods store and gun range.  Oh my!!  Yes we not only supported hunters, but we also hunted.  We didn’t hunt for sport, the pure joy of killing or out of hatred – we hunted to put food on the table.  My parents taught me how to raise livestock and I still do.  Oh no!  I eat meat.  I can rope, ride and train colts.  I’m not afraid to grab a calf and push them into a chute and I have a great respect for that calf’s momma.  I’ve probably cleaned more pens and barns with my own two hands than most.

I’ve read the comments about how “city folk” don’t know crap about how you “real ranchers” live and need to quit interfering.  Well, I’m not a city slicker and I’m not a stranger to getting dirty and hard work.  I’ve been kicked at, kicked, stepped on, shoved aside, nearly ran over and bucked off with some of the best.  I didn’t go to college but I did finish high school and one of the things my dad taught me was is if I worked hard enough, treated people with respect, was honest and had integrity I’d climb my way to the top.  I’ve done that with 2 of my own businesses as well as the company I work for and call my “real job.”  And when I’m done there I still come home to the ranch and do my chores here.  I’ve stayed up with the sick ones and bottle fed the orphans while many walk away to let “nature take it’s course.”   Personally I think that’s an excuse for people to be lazy and not take responsibility.

I’d be willing to bet I can out shoot you with a revolver or a rifle any day, however I don’t shoot at live animals unless they have brought it upon themselves to harm my animals.  It’s a good thing that I take protective measures before I need to resort to this, that is called “ranch management.”  It’s not about tossing animals out onto green grass and hoping they reproduce, it’s about being responsible and foreseeing the future and what it takes to be profitable without assistance from the government.

My dad fought for your freedom and then came home and continued to “protect and serve” you.  That was another thing he taught me; when a person needs help regardless of who they are or how you feel about them you reach out to help them.  Might be something you might want to think about the next time your so quick to be rude and disrespectful to somebody you don’t know just because they support wolves and grizzlies being on the Endangered Species List and mustangs being left correctly managed on BLM land where they belong.  It would be horrible for one of us “city folk” to drive by you if your buddy shot you in the hip during one of your hunting trips on accident and waved as we drove on by just because we judged you as one of them “horrible, wolf hating ranchers” rather than a human being in need of emergency assistance.  I’m entitled to my opinion just as you’re entitled to yours; neither of them are any less important than the other.  I’m not that much different than you are sir.  I’ve busted my butt to get where I am today and to have the things I have.  I have seen and taken care of things that would make your stomach turn.  Thank God the people in my life have taught me about respect, courtesy and compassion not only for human beings but the animals we share this land with.  I was also taught to stand for the things I believe in and to do it in the right way and I will continue to do so.

So thank you for sharing your story by commenting on my blog the other day.  You have taught me even more very important lessons and I really appreciate it.  I’m more determined now to continue fighting for what I know is right.  The next time you are driving down the dirt road and you pass a white Dodge dually with a woman driving and she waves; that’s me telling you thank you!

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Legacy

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The young black pup woke up and hazily looked around, stretched as long as the small den would allow her to and yawned big. She slowly turned around, wondering where everyone else was and poked her nose outside. She missed her little sister; she had disappeared a few weeks ago leaving her nobody to play with that was the same size she was. Her uncle did a great job trying to keep her entertained but it wasn’t the same.

The sun shined bright outside and made the colors of the trees seem to be a brighter green. She laid back down with her front feet crossed, her head up, taking in all the sights around her. Below in a stand of aspen trees stood a small herd of elk enjoying the mid day shade that the trees provided. She turned her head a bit to the side and lifted her ears higher; in the distance she could hear the small gurgle of a stream as the water rolled over the rocks, rolling some of the smaller ones farther down the hill. In a nearby pine tree there were a couple magpies squawking at each other and every now and then they would turn and watch the pup for a few seconds before they went back to bickering at each other.

All her senses had become much stronger the past couple of weeks and she had grown so much bigger and stronger – she wished that she could go with her parents and the other adults when they left her protected area. Her parents told her she was still too small but soon she’d be allowed. Until then she was not to leave this little meadow that was a safe haven, a meeting spot where they would return with whatever elk or bison meat they were able to take down in a hunt over the past few days. Her little tummy growled; somebody would surely be returning soon with lunch.

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A chipmunk darted out from behind where the pup was laying and ran over to a fallen pine tree that was starting to become part of the earth it originally came from. She wasn’t allowed to leave the safe meadow but while she was waiting for the others to return she could explore and today she wanted to see if she could catch that chipmunk! She bounded out of the den, her legs longer and gangly didn’t always do what she wanted them to and she tripped a couple times as she ran to the log. Just as she reached the log the chipmunk dived down in a small hole on the other side of the log into the soft dirt and pine chips. The black pup quickly went to digging, determined not to let the chipmunk get away. After a few minutes the hole had been excavated but no chipmunk appeared so the pup walked to the other side of the log to see if there was another escape route.

Just below the ridge on the hillside across from the site sat a large black shadow blending in with the shadows of the rocks and trees. It was up wind so the pup couldn’t smell what casted the shadow that was watching her. The shadow belonged to her black uncle who had recently returned home to the valley he had grown up in with several other brothers and sisters. He had spent the past 6 months trying to find his mother who had disappeared when they had gone out on a hunt; when she didn’t return to the pack after a few days his sisters, brothers and father had spread out searching for her. He had found her scent at one point and spent so much time howling for her and hoping she would return. As each day passed without her return he became lonelier and decided to return home hoping to find the rest of his pack.

When he arrived back in the valley he was greeted with happy howls of his black and light grey sisters. There was also a new large grey in the valley now and the small pack was excited to welcome him back as there were two new pups to raise. Since his return one of the pups had disappeared causing them to be more watchful and protective over the remaining pup he was watching. He sunk down low when he heard a noise in the brush behind him; he knew better than not to be vigilant but had been so intent to

watch as the black pup explored and developed her hunting skills. The pup was smart and quick; she was growing every day and becoming more and more pretty. He quickly lay down and melted into the rocks and slowed his breathing, his lip curled as he could hear the padding of paws coming closer, unsure if it might be a bear that was after the pup or another who did not belong here that wanted to bring harm.

Over the top of the hill came another black figure at a nice long trot, in her mouth was the leg of a bison calf. As she got closer he realized it was his sister and he stood up, his head level with his shoulders and his tail wagging side to side. When she got to him she dropped the bison leg at his feet and greeted him, proud of what she was bringing back yet once again. For the past several months this young black female had been helping in the hunts and right after she would eat her fill she would grab a large remaining piece and run back over several miles back to the den to bring the pups food. For awhile it was mostly her running food back and forth while one of the parents watched over the pups, but when her brother returned home he took on the responsibility of pup sitting and training making it easier for the rest of the pack to leave to hunt. She worked hard for her size; she was smaller than the grey wolves in the pack and leaner. However nobody doubted her strength or her loyalty to the pack. She was every bit as strong and determined as her mother was to see to it that this family survived.

The male picked up the bison leg and headed down the hill, the female traveled right behind him only stopping for a moment to get a drink of water from the small creek. Below the site on the other side of the creek two grey shadows appeared and stopped for a moment as they saw the black male and female heading to the safe haven meadow as well. The female put her nose up and let out a long, low howl. The black pup stopped her chipmunk chase and suddenly looked around, excited that her family was coming home! Her tummy was growling and she wanted to play. Seeing her mother a little below the meadow at the base of the hill, her tail started swaying side to side very quickly and she let out the happiest, highest howl she could find………….

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She’s the daughter of a grey daughter of ’06, the Queen of Lamar Valley.

She’s the niece of the black son and daughter of ’06; Spitfire and Prince, the son and daughter of ’06, the Queen of Lamar Valley.

She’s the hope for the people that love the wolves and the Queen of Lamar Valley.

She’s part of a Legacy, the Legacy of the Queen of Lamar Valley, ’06.

Hear the Legacy howl.

I Was Here

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I Was Here

You won’t notice me, I’ll be leaving my mark, Like intials carved in an old oak tree, You wait and see.  Maybe I’ll write like Twain wrote, Maybe I’ll paint like VanGough, Cure the common cold, I don’t know.  But I’m ready to start cause, I know in my heart, I wanna do something that matters.  Say something different.  Something that sets the whole world on it’s        here I wanna do something better.  With the time I’ve been given.  And I wanna try to touch a few hearts in this life.  Leave nothing less than, Something that says I was here, I will prove you wrong, If you think I’m all talk you’re in for a shock, Cause this drink’s too strong And before too long, Maybe I’ll compose symphonies.  Maybe I’ll fight for world peace, Cause I know it’s my destiny, To leave more than a trace of myself in this place.  I wanna do something that matters.  Say something different.    Something that sets the whole world on it’s here     I wanna do something better,  With the time I’ve been given,  And I wanna try to touch a few hearts in this life,  Leave nothing less than,  Something that says I was here,  And I know that I,  I will do more than just pass through this life.    I leave nothing less than something that says I was here, I was here (I was here) I was here.   Wanna do something that matters, something that says I was here

Wanna do something that matters, something that says I was here I was here

Songwriter(s): Gary Burr, Hillary Scott, Victoria Shaw, Hillary Dawn Scott

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Mother Nature and Balance

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Before leaving yesterday morning to take the horses out I quickly jumped online to see if there was any additional information concerning the death of 820F, the 2 year old, grey daughter of ’06 who we lost last year. I was stunned when I saw a post of a wolf that was murdered by a hunter in the Wyoming Bighorns. It wasn’t the post that stunned me; it was who was passing along the information that stunned me. Most of my friends are wolf advocates, wild horse advocates or both. If not then they are friends who love all animals, if they don’t agree with my passion for these animals they are respectful and have no desire to get into debates or arguments over them. We’re adults and can still be friends; out of respect we don’t bring up topics that rub each other the wrong way. A lot of my friends are also wildlife photographers who make money by photographing these animals.

So seeing this information being forwarded by a wildlife photographer I waited to see what the response would be to some of the responses that were coming in. He responded to one person who was obviously thinking the same thing I was; how could somebody who makes money photographing these animals share something like this? His response was that these animals do not belong in the Bighorns and if he saw one he would happily shoot it. That was all I needed to know to end the conversation however I was still included in it and just read in shock some of the ignorant comments made.

For people to “include” a well known ranch in supporting their hatred and opinions wasn’t a smart move. I actually have known the owners of this ranch they claim don’t want wolves there, for years. They have shared with me their sightings (or not) and how they have loved seeing wolves and wish them no harm. Whether or not the sightings on their ranch are true or not, they haven’t reported any problems, no loss of stock and absolutely no concern that they will have any losses. I’m happy to say they are not the only very well respected, very large ranch owners who feel the same way. I’ve actually been invited to two who would enjoy the opportunity to find some proof of wolves being there and both have said they are so allusive, rarely seen and have caused no harm and as long as there is no damage the wolves are welcome there. We’ve even sat and discussed ways to avoid issues and thinking ahead. So this is how hatred and ignorance is spread; like the group lied about PBR supporting them a few weeks ago these individuals are passing on false information to other’s and the fire spreads. Not all ranchers have the hated wolf mentality and for these people to lump these ranches into it isn’t right.

Although the false statements about the ranch noted above should have made me angry that wasn’t the statement that got to me. The winner for the most ignorant comment of the day went to “Get ‘em before they overrun the Bighorns……pretty soon there won’t be any moose or elk up there either…” I couldn’t figure out if I wanted to laugh or cry about this comment. Anti-wolf people (for the most part equal hunters) really need to think about what they say or write before they hurt themselves. The thought that most of them carry armed weapons should scare most of the human population. I can explain; hang on……………

First this comment leads me to believe these people have poor eyesight. I’ve read stories that ranchers have lost both cows and mules because hunters have “mistaken” them for moose! This also concerns me! If they are so excited to pull the trigger BEFORE figuring out it’s a moose or a cow, they shouldn’t be allowed to own a weapon. And if they can’t tell the difference between a moose and a cow or mule, I’m not sure those are the people I want doing “official” counts on the moose and elk population.

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Second this comment really leaves me concerned about hunting “ethics.” You see, you tend to change your story. When asked if there are enough moose or elk up there to issue hunting tags this year your eyes glaze over and the numbers reported are “plentiful” and “increased from years prior.” If you were told that due to the depredation on the herds and the increased number of success in the hunt last year you would happily tell us the numbers are inaccurate and the numbers are better than fine and it’s okay to allow a hunt. Based on the comment made above this would leave me to believe that the moose and elk numbers are very low and the elk and moose seasons should be called off. It sounds to me like we are at risk to make them extinct. It’s the wolves fault of course; they take down the sick or older animals maybe once or twice a week; worst case scenario that is 104 elk per year per pack. Keep in mind at this point we aren’t even sure yet if there are wolves in the Bighorns and I’m just basing this information on the statements you provided. I’m curious as to how many elk and moose hunting tags are issued each year?

I’ve sat with a group of people including hunters who have said there were so many moose in certain areas that they are considered pests and rats and they couldn’t wait till hunting season to get rid of some of them. Of course my hair stood up! I love moose as much as I love wolves and wild horses! I wanted to run off every moose I found in a 100 mile square radius. So in one conversation there are too many moose and in another, when wolves are involved, there are not enough and your worried?

So my question is, based on the information you provided, why when asked about moose and elk population are the numbers great when it comes to allowing hunting tags but when it comes to wolves possibly being in the area are the numbers suddenly declining at a drastic rate? It can’t be both, it can only be one or the other, it either is or it isn’t. This leads me to believe that your numbers are based on what you want for yourself and the numbers change based on what that want is. This concerns me because it’s not honest; if you want me to believe you, you must be consistent with your stories. I can’t support or trust you if you’re not honest. You have obviously seen the populations decline drastically due to the wolves so I’m relying on you for these numbers. I’m not there, I haven’t seen the decline – I only count cows and mules. They tend to be easier to identify and count as they don’t hide in trees and marshes for the most part.

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The runner up comment, “When mankind took over the responsibility of managing this planet from mother Mother Nature it had and still has no idea. Mother Nature did a fine job.” I’m not sure exactly what this meant (and forgive the quote, I only copied what was written)? If you’re trying to say that Mother Nature was doing a fine job until mankind interfered with her, I believe that this is very true. A perfect example was how when mankind eradicated the wolves they not only allowed other species of animals to become weak and sickly, it caused over population in grazing animals that has drastically changed the ecosystem and caused a lot of damage. We’re currently doing it again if you look at what is happening with the polar bears and what is happening to the environment they have lived in for years. If you’re excepting responsibility for mankind making one mess after another that we cannot fix, you’re so right.

If however you’re saying that we were given responsibility of managing this planet and given the right to repeat history by eradicating predators that were here and did just fine long before mankind interfered, I think you are horribly wrong. I personally didn’t ask people to take on this responsibility of Mother Nature Management and I feel we are far from perfecting it. Until we can get rational people with good eyesight from both sides who are not “paid” by one side or the other who have no personal gain on the matter then I don’t think we will ever have a good management system. The fact that biologists were recently “fired” off the board providing information about delisting wolves because they may have provided information that would have hurt the information that hunters and ranchers gave shows exactly how far from perfect mankind’s management is. Mother Nature finds balance and co-existence; as of yet I don’t see mankind doing this much at all.

I’m not one to put this wildlife photographer’s name on here to destroy him. I figure he will do that to himself. It makes me sad that he will sale wildlife and wild horse images to put food on his table and then in the next moment take the very way these animals survive away from them. Eventually we will all lose the ability to see these wonderful animals, there will no longer be a chance to photograph them and he will lose his ability to put food on his own table and he’ll have no one to blame but himself. Maybe at that point we can say Mother Nature found balance?

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