Pursuing a Playful Pronghorn

by Phyllis J. C. Baker

Equipped with cameras, telescopic lens, tripod, and lots of film, my husband Larry and I set out to capture wildlife pictures in Yellowstone National Park.  It was a warm September day and we were on an adventure.  Our goal was to take some high-impact photographs we could take back to Ohio and share with our local Camera Club.  The club meets monthly and we have friendly competitions to win the coveted nature slide, print, or digital photograph award.

Visitors crowded into the park and when I stopped along the road to adjust my camera and lens on the tripod several tourists approached to ask questions.  Many of the folks were from Germany and were especially interested in the telescopic lens. Just as we began to converse I saw a pronghorn atop a small rise and he appeared to be posing. He was regal in stature and ready to be photographed.  I didn’t wish to be rude, that is not my way, but I did want the photograph. So after a short conversation I bid them “good day,” hastily finished adjusting my lens, and captured the picture I wanted.

The pronghorn watched for several seconds and then disappeared from sight. I picked up my gear and began to climb up the small rise where he had posed. At that time I did not know much about pronghorns.  For example,I did not know that they were the fastest land mammals in the world, can rival cheetahs at sixty miles per hour and sustain a speed of thirty miles per hour for nine miles. Pronghorns  have large eyes and wonderful vision. They can see  predators from faraway which is helpful on the flat grasslands,  According to the literature pronghorns evolved years (after the dinosaurs) alongside fierce predators such as dire wolves. the short-faced bear, and later the North American lion jaguar, hyenas, and cheetah.

As I crested the top of the rise where he had posed, I discovered he was just on the other side of the hill.  When he spotted me with camera in hand he moved lazily along the hill.  He grazed on grasses while casting subtle glances my way.  I moved forward slowly ready to snap another picture.  He moved forward slightly as if we were playing a game of tag and I was IT.

Meanwhile other pronghorns moved in to graze nearby. I don’t intend to attribute human communication skills to animals but I do think we played a game of pronghorn tag in Yellowstone National Park. We continued to follow the herd as they grazed but soon lost sight of our “player.”

I entered his picture in our club competition and was awarded second place.  My friend Carol won first place. The judge noted that her photograph had more environmental impact.

I’m sure that we know who won the game of Pronghorn Tag.


Source: National Wildlife Federation