We live in northern Colorado, about an hour’s drive from the town of Estes Park and adjacent Rocky Mountain National Park. People come from all over the world to view the wildlife. My husband and I like to keep fit by hiking the trails; our big bonus is being able to experience nature and observe the wildlife.
In the late fall the herds of elk migrate down from the high country into the valleys where they are quite easy to observe. Although the big crowds of tourists are fewer than in the summer, plenty of people come out to see the magnificent herds of elk.
Although the park rangers discourage visitors from close-up contact with the elk, people usually persist and get pretty close especially to take photos, but very few injuries occur.
The elk are docile, peace-loving creatures who usually move slowly and calmly , grazing as they roam. It’s difficult to appreciate their massive size until you get close to them.
Last November, as we were leaving the Park, all traffic suddenly came to an abrupt halt.
We were stopped for quite a while before we realized the reason: a huge herd of elk was crossing the road, very slowly and casually. People stopped their cars, some pulled off the road , grabbed their cameras, and took lots of photos. To our great dismay, our camera had run out of battery, so we eagerly watched this herd which numbered around 200. Several bull elk were jousting, clattering their horns to impress the cows. A group of young elk were frolicking together. They didn’t pay any attention to the throng of humans that were watching. It was as if we were invisible.
Although our journey was delayed for almost an hour, we didn’t care. That experience was the highlight of our day. If we only had an extra battery for our camera…
On a previous occasion, we were camera-ready for the action, taking the photo which inspired this original painting. To see more Click this link: Bugling Bull Elk.
Almost all of us look forward to Springtime. Even the skiers and winter sports enthusiasts I know enjoy the warmer weather, longer days and generally more friendly weather. In the area where we live, very close to the Rocky Mountains, springtime can be extremely variable. And by variable, I mean every type of weather from sunny bright days in the 70’s to the most severe snowstorms you can imagine.
Do you know almost all of the severe blizzards in recorded history have occurred in the month of March? The weather experts have told us the severe snowstorms are a result of the warm moist air coming up from the southern US colliding with the cold arctic air coming down from Canada. When they meet–WHAM= big blizzard.
Curiously, the area in which we live (commonly called the Front Range) lies just East of the Rockies, which offer us some protection. In most cases the severe weather only touches us slightly, but dumps tons of snow in the plains to the east; in Kansas and Nebraska. To illustrate how geographic our snow can be; I struggled home one night on the I-25 freeway in a total whiteout, only to find 1/2 inch of snow on my driveway, only 6 miles west of that freeway.
The bottom line is : Springtime in the Rockies is usually a wonderfully welcome change from the winter, but some very ugly winter storms can be quite severe. If you want a guarantee of good weather , visit us after Memorial day.
Kudos to the World Wildlife fund for kick starting a program tin 2010 with the goal of doubling the number of wild tigers by 2022. To see how the plan was working, 120 tiger researchers explored across some of the wildest sections of India and Nepal to assess the status of the project. By using camera traps and lots of legwork, the scientists identified individual tigers by their unique stripe patterns and discovered something amazing: Tiger numbers in Nepal have risen by an estimated 63% in four years!
They concluded the success was due to three main factors: political enlightenment in the region, supported by the Global Tiger Recovery Program which was started at the tiger summit in 2010; the dedicated work of many rangers, forest guards and soldiers protecting tigers and their prey; and the tigers’ increasing birth rate.
“The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation has awarded WWF a $3 million grant ( in November of 2013) for tiger conservation in Nepal. The grant demonstrates the foundation’s commitment to saving one of nature’s most iconic species and strengthens WWF’s tiger conservation gains in Nepal, where we work with the government, other partners and local communities in the Terai Arc Landscape.
This generous conservation grant will toughen anti-poaching efforts, protect core areas for tiger conservation and restore critical wildlife corridors. It will also help local communities by offering support through ecotourism and other economic opportunities in an effort to safeguard tigers and their habitats.
The grant comes on the third anniversary of the historic Global Tiger Summit and its bold initiative to double the number of wild tigers by 2022—the next Chinese Year of the Tiger.
“Time is running out for the world’s remaining 3,200 tigers, largely the result of habitat destruction and escalating illegal poaching,” said Leonardo DiCaprio, a WWF board member. “WWF, the government of Nepal and local communities are on the front lines of this battle and I am hopeful this grant will help them exceed the goal of doubling the number of these noble creatures in the wild. I am grateful for the amazing support our Foundation has received — especially to our partners at Christie’s who helped create an historic night for conservation fundraising with the 11th Hour Auction.”
The grant represents the first funds awarded from the successful Christie’s 11th Hour Charity Auction in May 2013, created by DiCaprio, which raised a record $38.8 million for conservation in a single night. DiCaprio has long been a passionate advocate for the environment and joined forces with WWF beginning in 2010 to launch Save Tigers Now, a global campaign to raise political, financial and public support to save tigers in the wild.
“Leonardo DiCaprio defies expectations in leveraging his voice and influence to restore tigers and their habitat in one of the most hopeful places on Earth,” said Carter Roberts, president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund (WWF). “His foundation is all about delivering real results for conservation on the ground and empowering local communities; nowhere is that more evident than in Nepal. The numbers speak for themselves and we are grateful for our partnership.”
WWF’s partnership with the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation has already yielded results in places like Nepal’s Bardia National Park. Just this year, WWF was part of a government-led tiger monitoring exercise where we found tiger numbers in Bardia had increased significantly from an estimated 18 tigers in 2009 to approximately 50 tigers today.” From; https://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/leonardo-dicaprio-foundation-awards-3-million-for-tigers
We are very fortunate that we live in an age where some courageous people have dedicated themselves to preserving these endangered creatures, so we can hand them down to future generations.
During the late 90’s deep in the Okavango delta region of Botswana, investigators discovered a small pride of lions which they named the Western Pride.
Before we go further , you need to know some facts about lion social behavior. The basic social structure of lions is the Pride: a group of several females and their cubs, all protected by an alpha male and sometimes a few lesser males. Although the females actually do most of the hunting for the group; they all depend on the protection provided by the larger and more powerful males. The more males the pride has, the larger territory they can defend. Lions do have enemies; hippos, rhinos, jackals, hyenas, and even other prides of lions.
What scientists found in the Western pride was a special lioness with a large dark and full mane, and moves almost identically to a mature male lion. They named her Martina; although she has passed on, she has been replaced by another such special lioness known as Mmamoriri, who has been observed to exhibit strong male behavior; including attempting to mount other females. During a battle with another pride, over a buffalo carcass, she was seen to hold off ten other lionesses for four hours, until two large males arrived, attacked her as a male, forcing her retreat.
Since then there has been great speculation as to the cause of this phenomenon, but the effects of this aberration are quite easy to understand. More males enable the pride to be more resistant to attack, defend a larger territory, and improve their chance of survival.
I’ve always enjoyed painting lions. To see more Click Here.
It’s easy to see why so many people are attracted to the zebra’s bold pattern of stripes.
They have been used and mimicked by designers everywhere, and are quite prominent throughout our culture. So they make the Zebra easy to see , but how can that be an advantage, and offer them any kind of protection?
The answer lies in how we ( and their predators) perceive the black and white pattern.
Combined these two contrasting colors, play tricks on our mind. (Black and white are also the most common colors used in optical illusions.) The real confusion begins when the zebras begin to run, creating a pattern that has been named “Motion Dazzle”.
This effect makes it difficult for any predator to focus on them and estimate their speed and direction; thus enabling them to escape. An example of this is the “Wagon Wheel Effect”, where you see a fast moving wheel appears to be stationary or even moving backwards. This occurs because our vision takes “snapshots” frequently and links them together to form a kind of movie, just like a video recorder. When a spoke moves rapidly forward between snapshots, it will look like it is moving backwards because it will be perceived as the following spoke.
Whether or not this is sufficient to protect a zebra from their enemies ( lions) remains somewhat controversial.
What do you think?
Almost all outdoor enthusiasts have an interest in deer, for one reason or another. They are fairly large wild creatures, but rarely demonstrate any aggression toward humans. However, they can cause us some aggravation when they eat the flowers in our gardens
and other types of prize vegetation.
Recently this problem has been becoming more acute, especially in the eastern US. By 1930 our (US) deer population was down to about 300,000. Current estimates of how many there are range up to 30 million. Or, in less than 100 years, they have increased 1000 times Scientists have estimated the ideal deer capacity is about 8 deer per square kilometer. The current average is up to 100 deer per kilometer. That’s way to many.
Our deer populations are increasing, and they are coming into contact with humans more than ever before. This seems to be for several reasons;
• Lack of predators. Their natural enemies, wolves, cougars, grizzly bears, are now extinct in most areas
• Deforestation is helping the deer; since they like edge habitats, e.g. along the edges of roads trees and lawns; namely the conditions we have created in the suburbs.
• Hunting is decreasing. Although hunters killed 6 million deer last year, estimates are that 12 million fawns were born after the last hunting season. Do the math…
Estimates also indicate deer eat 15 million tons of vegetation per year, producing over $240 million in damage to landscapes and crops, mostly in the northeastern USA.
Around 150 people are killed every year by auto collisions with deer.
Even more sadly to me are the damages done to our native ecosystems. One study of a forest in Pennsylvania discovered that over half of all plant species had vanished due to hungry deer. Other studies have suggested that deer prefer eating native to exotic plants, facilitating the spread of invasive plants. This, in turn can lead to a cascading of effects on other creatures. Nesting bird populations can drop due to the loss of specific tree species, since the deer like to eat young trees. Many biting flies and other parasites that prey on deer will increase.
What should we do about it? A $64,000 question. Here are some of the proposed alternatives:
• Reintroducing wild predators: difficult to control especially when the critical area is in our suburbs.
• Promote hunting. Most hunters are interested in bagging trophy bucks, but does are the ones most responsible for increasing the population. There are some studies that demonstrate hunting programs are effective in small areas, but the results over larger areas has not been noted.
• Fertility control have been shown to be effective in fenced groups, but take a long time to produce results.
What is the right thing to do? The longer we delay, the greater the damage is done, to both to us and to our environment. Methods like fertility control take several years; hunting needs to be managed carefully. No matter what course we take, many, many, deer are going to die. The only way to improve their quality of life and our quality of life is to significantly decrease their population.
What do you think we should do? Please give us your comments.
The image you see here is a painting I recently completed of a North American Bison. He is a part of a new herd of Bison, recently released in the nearby Soapstone Prairie conservation area in here in northern Colorado. The purpose of this plan is the reintroduction of the Bison into an area where they lived many years ago. These animals originated from the Yellowstone area, and are genetically pure, not hybridized with cattle, as most Bison have been in the past.
Bison are sometimes incorrectly referred to as “Buffalo”, however buffalo are found only in Asia and Africa; whereas Bison are native to only North America.
Bison once freely roamed the plains, numbering over 20 million, but were decimated when humans arrived on the scene. The Bison were reduced to just over 1000 animals, by the late 1800s, when Bison were killed by the thousands, just for the fun of it. Men would ride trains through the prairie, indiscriminately shooting the bison from the windows of the train.
However, Bison have made a comeback, and now number over 500,000 most of which have been cross-bread with cattle and semi-domesticated by being raised as livestock for many generations.
Finally we have realized that, in order for the bison to continue to survive, they will need our help. By bringing this rare species to the Soapstone Prairie, we now have a wonderful opportunity to reintroduce this historical animal to its original habitat. This painting is dedicated to our new herd of Bison, and restoring the balance of Nature.
To see more North American Animal Art Click Here
We are very fortunately to live very close to one of North America’s grandest wildlife sanctuaries, namely rocky Mountain National Park. This is a great spot for enjoying our favorite outdoor activities, namely hiking, snowshoeing and wildlife viewing, as well as photography. Especially enjoyable is the opportunity to watch the big game; large herds of elk that freely roam the park.
During the summer they are hard to find, spending most of their time at high altitudes to avoid the heat. In the late fall they descend into the meadows to gather for the purpose of breeding. Then is when they attract large numbers of tourists from all over the globe , often stopping all traffic in both directions. Nobody seems to get upset, because wildlife viewing is one of the chief reasons to come to the park. The park rangers are usually at the scene directing traffic and protecting the elk, and making sure that the excited tourists don’t get in trouble or threaten the elk.
Late fall is also mating season for the elk, and the mating calls of the big bulls echo throughout the valley. Conventional wisdom would lead you to think that such a large animal would make a low pitched rumbling or roaring sound, like a bear. But the call of the big bull elk is a very high-pitched squeal. The reason for this is that this sound carries for great distances, announcing to female elk for miles around that that this big guy is ready willing and able to mate.
My painting portrays a Big Bull elk bugling for a mate. If you look closely, you’ll see the warm air from his bugling combining with the cold fall air and condensing to produce steam. It is indeed an honor and privilege to be able portray these magnificent but gentle creatures.
To see a larger version and learn more Click Here
I always enjoy painting a grizzly bear, a magnificent animal living in North America. Did you know that grizzlies once roamed most of western North America extending to the Great Plains? Then humans arrived and gradually eliminated the bears from much of their range. Today only about 1,000 grizzlies remain in the Northwestern U.S., however, they are protected by law. Many grizzlies still inhabit the wilds of Canada and Alaska, but hunters continue to bag them for big game trophies.
Grizzly bears are very rare, and live in remote areas. In Denali National Park (Alaska) I was able to excitedly watch a very large grizzly dig out a ground squirrel from its underground den. It is surprising that the bear would put so much effort into hunting such a small animal. They are omnivorous, eating all sorts of berries, nuts, fruit, and roots, as well as any other animal they can find.
Creating his painting was challenging, since includes a water element, rocks, vegetation and a cute furry critter; a young grizzly bear playfully holding a stick in its mouth. He has an appealing expression on his face. I especially enjoy depicting the interesting fur pattern of the grizzly, the color of which can vary from dark brown to almost blonde.
To see a larger version of this painting and learn more Click Here
Here is a painting I recently completed titled “Arctic Wolf on the Glacier”. It is an oil painting, a medium I haven’t worked in for over 25 years. Although I enjoy doing large compositions of whole body animals, using oil paints presents some special challenges, especially in a painting measuring
There are many differences between using oil paints and watercolor paints. The first difference is that oil paint remains wet, while the artist is working on the painting. So, you must be aware to not put your arm or hand on the wet paint, while moving across the image. Most oil painters use a mall, a long handled rod with a padded bulb at the end, which rests on the easel, holding the other end in the opposite hand, while resting the painting hand on the supported rod. This allows the artist to have a steady hand while painting, without touching the wet canvas. This does work well in theory, but in actuality, as a water colorist for the past 40 years, I am used to touching the painting, while I am working on it. No matter how often I remind myself, I constantly find myself putting my arm on the painting, ending up covered in oil paint.
Another difference is that the oil paint is toxic, as are the solvents required to use the paint, and clean up. Just having an open container of turpentine in the studio will poison the air, and cause many health problems. It is essential to have an air cleaner with a charcoal filter to clean the air. You need to develop safe painting techniques, not putting the brush in your mouth, not eating while painting, not putting your fingers in your mouth, and not, for goodness sake, smoking while painting!
Many commonly used pigments contain toxic doses of heavy metals, for example: Cadmium yellow, Cadmium orange, Cadmium red, Cobalt blue, cobalt violet, and leaded white pigment. Most classically trained oil painters, insist on using leaded white paint for priming the canvas, a very dangerous process. However, most of these important safety measures are fairly easy to perform.
Another way that oil paint differs from watercolor paint, is that the bushes are completely different. Watercolor requires small soft round brushes, usually made of sable or a combination of sable and synthetic bristle. Oil works best with flat hogs-bristle brushes, and some round brushes. Since oil paint is thick, and water color is thin, it requires a different method of applying the paint. Oil painters like the ability to endlessly move the paint around, until they get it the way they like. Watercolor is a one brush stroke at-a-time application style. Watercolor paint dries almost immediately, so you must get it right the first time. There is no going back to change it. Nor can you manipulate the paint endlessly. This is what I really like that about watercolor. On the other hand, I don’t like the way oil paint is so squishy, and movable.
In my opinion, oil paint is less satisfying than watercolor. Oil paint also smells bad, takes too long to dry, and its toxic. Plus, I am able to achieve the same effects with watercolor, as I am with oil paint.
So for all of the above reasons, I am sticking with watercolor as my most preferred medium. I will also use Acrylics on canvas, again with the same visual results as with oil paints. In my opinion, it is not necessary to risk your health using toxic materials, when there are alternatives that achieve the same , or even better results.
To see my paintings Click Here
I have enjoyed painting all big cats, but one of my favorite big cats is the Snow Leopard. Snow leopards are not really leopards, but are more closely related to tigers. They live in one of the world’s most harsh environments, the Himalayan mountains.
The snow leopard hunts the wild Himalayan goat, called a Markor. Snow leopards are very agile; they need to be in order to catch the equally athletic Markor.
What I appreciate about the snow leopard is its beautiful fur. It has lovely markings, and a very long and fluffy tail, which it wraps around itself to help it keep warm. In my view, the eyes of the snow leopard are among the most beautiful of the big cats, greenish blue, and luminous.
I will continue to paint these wonderful big cats; they are an endangered species, and few remain in the wild.
To see some of my Big Cat Paintings Click Here
As long as I can remember Cheetahs have had a special place in my heart. I admire their beauty , grace and speed. They are the fastest animal on the land, capable of accelerating from zero to 60 miles or 96 kilometers in 3 seconds. Even at these high speeds they can
make sharp and sudden turns to get their prey. However, they can only sprint this fast for short distances and must sneak up on their prey to get close enough to catch it with their short burst of speed. Their chases are over in less than one minute.
Their beautiful spotted coat serves to permit them to blend into the grasses, making them hard to see. They also have excellent eye sight enabling them to find their prey which is often well camouflaged by the grasslands, requiring them to hunt solely during the daylight hours.
After making a kill cheetahs need to drag their prey into a hiding place or risk it being stolen by hyenas, lions, leopards or several other creatures. Cheetahs are pretty tough and can survive without water for up to four days.
Cheetahs usually have litters of 2 or 3 cubs, and raise them for about 2 years, during which they learn how to hunt for themselves. They have a life span of 10 tom 12 years in the wild. Males live alone or in small groups, often with their brothers.
Cheetahs are found in central and southeastern Africa, but only less than 10,000 are estimated to be left today. These numbers continue to decrease as more and more land is devastated by humans.
My latest cheetah painting (on the right) can be seen at my website. Click to View.