Western Wild

Dave Showalter's Conservation Photography Weblog

Sagebrush Sea

Freedom To Roam

February 21, 2014 | 5 Comments

winter range, yellowstone national park

Winter Range : Prints Available

Elk seem to pour from the Garvelly Mountains northwest of Yellowstone National Park. I made this photo while flying with Lighthawk - the aerial perspective needed to show the grand scale of large elk herds moving to winter range. Across the West, ungulates migrate out of deep snow to wind-blown lower elevations, needing Freedom To Roam to forage for survival. 

On a winter aerial mission with LightHawk,flying with friend and outstanding pilot Chris Boyer of Bozeman, sunlight broke through to highlight the tracks of elk flowing from the Gravelly Range. Thousands of elk in herds of hundreds dot the snow-covered Madison River Valley, descending from mountains locked in deep snow to open range scoured by wind. In some areas we could see bare dirt, dug up by elk hooves pawing at the frozen ground. Although the Big Sky Montana landscape feels unbounded, wildlife need vast areas to migrate and find food to survive a long, harsh winter. National Parks, with their perfect borders drawn by man, can’t sustain all of Western biodiversity. It’s up to us to make room.

This mission is part of the Sage Spirit conservation project, supported by iLCP. LightHawk has generously provided all of the flights in over five years of work.

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