Sunday, June 19, 2011

RMNP, the beetle goes on

On our recent drive to Estes Park, we drove through the Rocky Mountain National Park.

The mountains were breath-taking, at first glance. There's something wrong with them, though. We kept our eyes peeled for wildlife in vain nearly the entire trip. There were elk, at the end. They were just south of the eastern park entrance.

I stretched my camera to maximum zoom, taking several shots of these bulls and some mule deer bucks that were grazing nearby. They were sooo far from the road. Ironically, once we got to Estes Park, there were elk a-plenty.

The path around the golf course has a sign warning of agressive elk during breeding season. The danger didn't bother this golfer who stopped his play to take a cell-phone photo. I'm not sure why there weren't the usual elk in the park. Perhaps it is the lateness of the spring at the higher altitudes. It might be the pine-bark beetles who have rampaged through the park, taking advantage of the drought and warmer winters to invade and kill large stands of trees.

That's what is wrong in the first photo. The snow among the trees at the higher elevations shouldn't be visible. Those are evergreens, not decidious trees that haven't leafed out yet. Most of them are dead.

We saw the same thing at the Dillon dam, huge mountains covered with dead trees.

The Park Service has posted a recent article about the beetle problem.

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