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Ghosts of Harriman State Park

Living the Wild Life

Living the Wild Life is brought to you by The Healing Sanctuary.

Tis’ the season of ghosts and goblins at Harriman State Park. In the early dawn Tuesday morning with the temperature hovering around 20 degrees, I watched a herd of 22 elk standing knee-deep in the Henrys Fork eating the water veggies. Steam was rising from the river creating the scene of ghost-like animals warming their feet in the cold.

The herd bull was also in the water, not eating, but making sure the cows were not responding to several bulls that were bugling in the nearby grove of pines. Ducks, geese and swans were picking up some of the floating leftovers from the feeding elk. It appeared that everything was having a great time, I even found a spot where the Tetons became ghost-like through the fog.

Before the sun came up, all the elk had disappeared into the forest but the songbirds that winter in the mountains came out to sing. Mountain chickadees, Black-caped chickadees and even a Steller’s jay came out to scold me for invading their territory. As I was trying to get some pictures of the jay, almost all the ducks took flight.

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The ghostly Tetons rise above the fog coming from the Henrys Fork of the Snake River. | Bill Schiess,

That could only be one thing – bald eagles – two of them passed over the river and didn’t even seem to notice the ducks trying not to become breakfast for the pair Since deer season was open, they were probably heading for a gut pile to fill their empty stomachs; it had been a long time since they had dined Monday night. Bald eagles are like that, they would rather eat old rotten meat before working hard to get a warm meal, which is not a sure thing.

I watched as several trucks pulling horse trailers made their way out on the meadow toward some bawling cattle when a movement caught my eye. Four ghosts of the forest, mule deer, slipped past me headed for the thick willows along a marshy area. No bucks just does and fawns. Their rut has not yet begun, and the males are probably resting up for the breeding season, which is just around the corner. The predicted storm this weekend may cause them to start sharpening their antlers for some heated battles to come.

I hiked around Silver Lake on my way out of the park, the “Gray Ghosts of the Forest,” the great gray owls remained hidden. I was told that they are usually active in the evening near Golden Lake, but I did not have enough time to go look for them. I may target them one evening next week or just wait for them to move out of the forest and down to the river bottoms this winter.

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The herd bull elk watches over his herd of cows and calves as the mist from the warm water creates a fog on a cold morning. | Bill Schiess,

This Saturday (tonight) the human fake ghosts will fill the park, but the real ghosts of Harriman will remain there until the snow gets deep enough to push most of them out of the mountains. Wherever you see them, it is always a thrill and even on cold mornings, they get your heart beating a little faster. It’s good warmth for the heart and puts a smile in your life.

With the weather changing, finally, I will be putting out my feeders for the fall and winter birds. I will be putting out Black-oil sunflower seeds, sunflower pieces, suet cakes and cracked corn as the Northern flickers have started showing up. It seems like each fall when the first heavy storm moves in, a few rare birds show up. So, I will be visiting Market Lake, Mud Lake and Camas National Wildlife Refuge as well a Beaver Dick Park and my own backyard looking for them. Remember those sacks of songbird feed that contains red millet is usually not used by the majority of birds in this area.

Good luck as you look for natural ghosts and watch out for little fake ones as they visit from home to home. May you be warm and enjoy the predicted storm this weekend; I’m going for another load of firewood before it hits.

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A female Mule deer stops long enough for a portrait as she sneaks past the photographer. | Bill Schiess,
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A Steller’s jay scolds the photographer for invading its early morning routine at Harriman State Park. | Bill Schiess,
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