This story is a bit old but still memorable. Our last full day before Chama and the fire fiasco was filled with huge herds of animals. While we’ve seen plenty of animals this day was unique and special.
First were the elk, probably a herd of at least 100! And it was the mother load. By this I mean that the herd was all females and baby elk, the smallest fawns we’ve ever seen. It was pretty cool to see the little ones run. While the adults run with the most snobbish air of any of the big mammals we see with their noses pointing sky high, the little ones are running all out as is their life were on the line – in many cases it probably is. They are trying so hard though, even though they’re not moving very fast and will obviously tire quickly. The most interesting and sort of sad thing we saw was a subgroup of the herd that let us get too close and as they hurried to get away from us a little one realized it wouldn’t make it past. So it simply lied down on the ground, put it’s head on the ground, and either gave up, was playing dead, or thinking that if it couldn’t see us, maybe we couldn’t see it. Whatever the motivation, we could have walked right over and grabbed ourselves a baby elk. Weird.
And then came the cows, probably another hundred of them. They are likely more alert, but seemingly not as smart. They do seem effective with protecting their young but seemingly every time we come upon their herds, they start trotting away, but always right down the path we are walking. The elk run perpendicular and are gone, but not the cows. We pushed them down the trail for over a mile at times.
While we’re not too scared of cows or elk, we are aware and cautious because they’re huge animals and if they charged, known to them or not, they’d likely win. But on this day, with a bull nearby, the cows got some courage and we had a standoff when the herd turned toward us and stared us down. At this point, we diverted a bit and walked around the herd. They quickly went the other way back up the trail. While this day ended with lots of close contact and no big fights, we are quite confident there will be many more incidences and we will be ready as always with the big herds.