OPINION COLUMNS

The Tribes’ wildlife spotting rules

By Kristen Tribe | Published Wednesday, June 28, 2017
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The Tribe crew recently embarked on an outdoor adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, and somewhere between Dalhart and Denver I decided we needed some rules.

I wasn’t looking to enforce an itinerary or schedule meals but instead devised the Tribes’ wildlife spotting rules.

Kristen Tribe

Kristen Tribe

They are as follows:

1. If you see an animal, announce it to everyone.

2. When making announcement, speak clearly, state the name of the animal and point to its location.

3. Do not make false wildlife reports.

These general rules seemed like the most efficient way to spot animals and make sure everyone in our party saw them. No. 3 was meant to eliminate shenanigans that would cause false hope and disappointment.

And guess what? It worked!

Before we even arrived in the mountains, numerous pronghorn antelope were identified and pointed out for all to see. As soon as we pulled into the campground, we saw countless ground squirrels, popping out of holes to squeak greetings, plus we found a few trout right away, my husband and son even managing to catch a few.

At every stop chipmunks seemed drawn to us, and as we eased along Trail Ridge Road headed to the Alpine Visitors Center, I spotted small herds of elk, both bulls and cows, and pointed them out, according to our agreed upon procedures. We “oohed” and “ahhed,” took photos and reveled in our luck.

But we’d seen all of these creatures before, and we had one thing on our minds – bears.

We’d been warned repeatedly since our arrival that bears were active, but we knew our chances of seeing one were slim. Still, we held out hope.

On our last night, we trekked to the Alluvial Fan and then to a picnic area just below. It was empty. No one was around, and the foliage was thick. My husband commented that if we were going to see a bear, this seemed like the place.

But alas, no bear was found.

As we eased onto the road leaving the picnic area, we saw two cars stopped just ahead of us. In national parks, that usually means they see some sort of wildlife. As we pulled up, the cars were slowly driving away, and I punched my husband in the shoulder.

“Roll down your window and ask them what they saw,” I instructed.

He obliged.

And a wife, just as excited as me in the other car, exclaimed: “We saw a baby bear!”

“We’ve been wanting to see one, too!” I squealed. I almost knocked my own hat off.

They told us the direction it was moving on the mountainside, so we eased farther down the road and pulled to the side. We shut off the car, rolled down the windows and waited.

We stared at the mountainside, constantly scanning, looking for movement. I think I held my breath.

And suddenly, there it was – a brown bear meandering along, nosing the ground. I pointed with all my might. “There it is! There it is! Do you see it?” I shook my husband’s shoulder vigorously until he reassured me that yes, he too could see it.

Both kids saw it, too. Mission accomplished.

I’m fairly convinced I willed that bear to appear. Either way it felt like a vacation victory and was a great way to cap off our trip.

I may revise the rules for our next expedition, though. Now I can’t imagine the process without the vigorous shoulder shake.

Kristen Tribe is editor of the Wise County Messenger. She temporarily loses her mind at the sight of any and all wildlife, just ask her kids.

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