Montana/ Idaho Winter 2012
The season and start of the new year was characterized by above average temperatures and less than average snow fall. Although less wear on the gear and soul there is always a price to pay with mother nature. Does that translate into an above average fire season, drought, tree damage due to beetle infestation etc? The wildlife had an easier winter to deal with as well. Vegetation was easy to come by. Deer and other creatures were found at higher elevations and they were more spread out giving predators such as wolves and mountain lions a harder time to catch their prey. Wolves and mountain lions benefit from deep snow that their large feet can glide on to track and catch their prey. I did find 3 different tracks of lion prints and a very large bobcat in the mountain ranges abutting the Raft River Valley. Northern Owl species such as the snowy owl had an unusual migration period that placed them as far south as Texas and westward as Hawaii ( probable stowaway) because as it was extremely warm in the lower 48- it was epically and fiercely cold with deep snow depths in and around the artic circle extending into Alaska and all through northern Canada.
Indeed the snowy owl did make it’s presence felt in the lower 48. So this winter I covered the arrival by going to their western and eastern destinations. Instead of spending the majority of time in one of my favorite destinations ( Yellowstone), I decided to diversify the scenery to find some of these owls. It will probably be at least 5 years that we see a migration like that again.