Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mile High Weekend

I'm going to start with some not excellent cellphone photography of a most excellent bull moose that we caught out in the open this past Friday in the Indian Mountains Wilderness above Tabernash, Colorado. So there you go. I only risked life and limb to creep up on this mighty bastard as he munched his riparian seaweed lunch so I could get within 75 yards or so and still just barely within the functional range of my Blackberry Tour 9630. Check out the resolution of 3.2 megapixels at 800% magnification. Impressive no? No.

But the moose, now that was really something. Too bad I couldn't capture it with the available state-of-the-art technology, but he seemed very at home there in central Colorado. Which is odd because he doesn't belong, not really. Moose in Colorado, like the mountain goat, is a man-made artifact. Someone in the late '70s, probably at the compelling behest of John Denver, who seemed authoritative, felt the place would be better off with some appealingly rustic immigrants and before you know it the wilds were populated with strange new beasts. This about a century after grizzly bears and wolves were extirpated from the area.

This wasn't the only human-affected oddity we observed in Colorado over the weekend. May I present the second (glimpses of which are also visible to the careful observer in my moose shot):

Here we have lodgepole pines, the ubiquitous conifer of the American Rockies, dying en masse thanks to pandemic mountain pine beetle infestation. Scientists concerned with the problem, which has killed vast swathes of Colorado forest (among other western states' groves) aren't entirely sure but believe the balance slipped out of control as a result of global warming, which shortened winter and expanded the window of time during which beetles may feed on the trees without die-off due to cold weather.

It was awesomely sad to see mile after mile of Colorado forest where I'd guess 85% of the trees were dead, withered and orange. Devastating forest fires are the inevitable next step and we may be witnessing the extinction of the lodgepole pine, which couldn't adapt too man-made global warming. The thriving moose, on the opposite tack, is a hopeful reminder that nature will survive it's encounter with humanity and its impact on evolution.

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