Thursday, July 17, 2014

July 16 (Day 197) - Grouse struggles continue, humans vs. wildlife

The main goal for today was to move west from Steamboat Springs, CO to Craig, CO.  I did make several detours with the hope of finding Sharp-tailed grouse. Although I spent time in what looked like suitable habitat, I saw nothing that resembled a grouse today. The big bird highlight of the day was certainly the two Sandhill cranes I found foraging in a field outside Steamboat Springs. There were also dozens of kestrels today. It seemed as there was one on every fence post along my ride. Sonia met me for lunch midway through the day; Its really nice having her here for these few days!

63 miles today after the detours

County Road 46, looking for Sharp-tailed grouse.
They like sage/oak mixed habitat.

Otherwise today was relatively uneventful. I did see a sign along the road that piqued my interest and got my mind working.

At first glance, I was stoked to see that attention was being brought to the apparent abundant wildlife in the area through which I biked today. I thought that since we double fines to protect highway workers, doubling fines to protect animals is only a logical extension of this idea. However, the more I thought about it, the more I think this sign represents a mistaken view of wildlife that many people hold. What I found troubling about this sign is that is designates a "Wildlife Zone". The contradiction is that the entire planet is a wildlife zone, not just areas that we designate. This sign suggests to me that wildlife is a visitor in an otherwise human world when in fact the opposite is true. Humans are part of the natural world, and as such there is no use in trying to delineate human vs. wildlife areas. I understand I might be thinking about this too much, but I generally find that most Americans are generally so disconnected from the natural world around them. It is foreign to them, and in many sad instances, even feared. Many other cultures stress a connection to the natural world. There really isn't any American equivalent to this notion. Yes, some folks are generally interested in and connected to the natural world, but it is for from an American cultural imperative. Wildlife is more often seen as a nuisance or a hindrance to progress and development. I am not sure how to fix this predominant and mistaken view of nature in America, but I do know that stuff like this sure as hell doesn't help. Sorry to get political here, but we all know which group of profiteering fools are leading this charge. If it were up to me, we'd have tons of land just set aside and left to itself. No roads, no visitor's centers, no screaming children, no campgrounds, nothing. Just nature without human interference. We've screwed up so much of the planet, maybe we should just close areas to our destruction. Maybe then we'd have an actual "Wildlife Zone" into which we did't thrust ourselves. 

Tomorrow the great grouse hunt will continue. I will be searching areas south of Craig, CO for Sharp-tailed grouse tomorrow morning. I will be sure to let everyone know how it goes. I am going to sleep like a rock in my Best Western room tonight. There was a big bear in the lobby. I asked him for a quick dance, and Sonia snapped this photo of us!

May  have this dance?

AND....lastly, Sonia brought me the most awesome surprise yesterday. She had a custom license plate made for my bike. It was incredibly clever, and it will surely help raise more awareness about my big year. Such a fantastic and original gift!


  1. Major score on the Best Western -- and especially on the license plate! Why didn't any of us think of that earlier?

  2. Hi Dorian, I'm not sure how convenient it is logistically for you, but I've had mid-summer (August) luck with flushing Greater Sage-Grouse along the Colorado entrance road into Dinosaur NM. There is a lot of good sagebrush here and it is public land along the road, so you can walk stretches that look good. Follow the signs to the "Canyons" area of the NM if you go. Good luck, -- Dave

  3. That Sonja is a clever girl!

  4. There is one group of Americans to which the natural world is the first thought, and that is Native Americans. That is the way they are raised and the tradition they try to continue. They are often seen as "crazy" because of those beliefs, but I always wonder who the crazy ones really are.

  5. I'm thinking "Wildlife Zone" in the context of that sign just means it's a stretch where large numbers of deer happen to cross and become roadkill. By slowing down the traffic they can reduce the casualties somewhat.

    Generally agree about the philosophical discussion of human/wildlife though.