We loved this place for all the wildlife we saw. We went early, arriving just after 6 a.m. The visitor center doesn’t open until 9 a.m., but we wanted to see the wildlife which tends to be out early in the morning. As we started the nine mile drive, the first thing we drove into was the bison area. You can tell you’re in the bison area because there are signs telling you to stay in your vehicle. Very good advise. Besides, you car makes a good wildlife blind from which to take pictures.
The bison (mistakenly called buffalo by some) soon surrounded our truck! It was so exciting and they were so big! There were lots of calves: cute, reddish and frisky. A couple of the bison stopped by a tree for a good scratch. Good thing the tree was stout. What a wonderful start to the drive!
At the time we visited, they had 83 bison including 12 calves. But we also saw three herds of mule deer. One group of three were a mom, last years fawn, and this years fawn that still had its spots. The other herd of three didn’t have any obvious young. And the third group was a bachelor herd of eight males each with a fine rack of antlers still in velvet.
We observed some Swainson’s hawks including a fledgling on the ground being coax by an anxious parent. As soon as people came around the parent would start squawking. It’s good no one got close to the fledgling because Swainson’s have been known to protect their young from humans. Who can blame them.
We saw a large flock of double crested cormorants in a tree and some on the water. We saw white pelicans, gulls, and Canada geese on the water. We took a walk and saw prairie dogs, and a nice looking snake. By the water we found raccoon prints in the mud.
We’d always wanted to see a burrowing owl. They can sometimes be found in prairie dog towns. One of the refuge volunteers was out on his day off and offered to take us with him to look for them. We got to see one! It was thrilling. We were lucky to have found him and lucky the owls hadn’t migrated yet as we were just at the edge of their season. We recommend you, too, go early and be sure to get out of your car for a walk. But not in the bison area! Take a camera. You know you’re too close if your presence changes the animals’ behavior. One visitor got too close to a cormorant preventing anyone, including herself, from getting a good picture. Use wildlife watching etiquette.
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