I really enjoy wildlife. The more wild, the better (well, until I start to look like dinner). I get a bigger thrill out of seeing a deer in the park than I do at the zoo. I get an even bigger thrill seeing a deer in the backwoods than I do at a park. The more remote an area, the bigger the thrill.
Elk are more exciting than deer proportional to their weight. I think there’s probably an algorithm out there that someone has developed to calculate the level of excitement any given creature produces based on their size, elusiveness, rarity, and number of people they encounter in an average year.
Seeing an elk is more exciting both because it’s bigger and because it’s more rare. At least for someone who’s lived East of the Mississippi for most of her life it’s more rare. Where elk can be found in the East, they have been recently reintroduced. They wear large tags around their necks that I suspect say things like “My name is Leroy.”
I don’t know why they look less wild than their relatives in the West, but they do. Even though it’s more likely that you’ll run into an Elk while cruising down a highway in the Canadian Rockies than in Great Smokey National Park, when you see the Elk in Great Smokey National Park, you’ll swear it’s one of the ranger’s pets. The “more rare = more wild” equation just doesn’t hold true in the East.
What all this adds up to is an inappropriate level of excitement about seeing a bunch of elk who live about an hour from Portland. I thought we would have the best chance of seeing the Elk at dusk, so we stopped on our way back from Astoria at the Jewell Meadows Wildlife Preserve. Granted, the website told us that the best time to see the elk was between November and April, but since we weren’t planning to be in Oregon between November and April, we figured we’d better take our chances. Besides, it was pretty much on the way back to my dad’s.
We did not get to see the full herd of 200 elk, but we did get to see a couple dozen elk from a distance. I thought they would be roaming around grazing a bit more than they were–I guess they go to bed earlier on the coast.
For about the thousandth time during our trip I wished I had a lens longer than 400mm. I shot the elk anyway, hoping the resolution of my camera would be enough to allow me to crop the heck out of the photos. Unfortunately, the photos didn’t withstand the crop. Between the motion of me hand-holding the camera and the motion of the elk, the images are just not sharp enough.
Regardless, I’m still glad we stopped to shoot the elk. I’m also glad I was shooting with a camera. 🙂