Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Spring, and Shared Range

Spring has arrived to our western Wyoming rangelands. We’ve already had temperatures in the 40s and snowmelt, with the resulting visit from our old friend mud – which we haven’t experienced for the longest time in our decade or so of drought. It’s been a pleasure to have to throw the truck in four-wheel drive to get in the driveway. No belly-aching from this corner.

The sandhill cranes have begun to arrive, with their crane calls in morning meadows our true sign of a change of season. We’ll (hopefully) have a few more snowstorms through early May, and I’ll be doing a rain dance for a wet spring to bring this arid range fully out of its dormancy.

The sandhill cranes come close to the house, and follow the sheep flock, nourishing themselves on scattered grain from winter feedlines we fork onto the snow.

Pronghorn antelope herds share this range with the sheep, in larger numbers during the winter months, and less in the heat of summer when they migrate to other areas for grazing. The sheep and the guardian dogs are accustomed to their presence as a part of the landscape in which we live.
It’s this time of year when the wildlife migrations begin, as snowmelt allows big game herds to move from lower elevation desert country and begin to follow the receding snow to the high country. Migratory domestic sheep herds will soon follow, using many of the same trails. Millions of hooves have traveled these paths, for eons. Here’s a glimpse of small herds of pronghorn antelope and elk lining out as they trail back north, to the Wind River Mountains.

Spring has arrived indeed.

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