National Geographic : 1976 Dec
racks of antlers, hardly moved at all. Some lay calmly in the snow, chewing their cuds, as we passed only yards away. "What would happen if I stepped off the sled?" I asked Bob. "Oh, then there'd be a stampede. As long as you're aboard, they don't seem to know you're human. But as soon as you walk, you become a hunter-and they've learned over the years to run from hunters." Predators and Prey Keep Watchful Truce Real hunters were about: In the course of the afternoon I counted 14 coyotes trotting across the refuge. The elk paid them no heed - the coyotes rarely bother them, but do clean up the remains of any elk that dies. In an average winter about one percent of the elk die; 75 elk are a lot of coyote food, and indeed these coyotes were the largest, healthiest looking specimens I had ever seen. I watched one hunting mice. For minutes on end he would stand absolutely still, ears pricked forward, head cocked to the side, peering intently at a snow-covered mound. Then all of a sudden he would spring straight up, come down with all four paws together, and bury his furry face in the snow. Three times, when he straightened up, I could see that his speed and patience had paid off. When I returned to the elk refuge in the spring, the annual Boy Scout antler pick-up Jackson Hole: Good-bye to the Old Days? Acres of elk clear a path for the feed truck at the National Elk Refuge, winter home of some 7,500 animals. In summer they mi grate to Yellowstone National Park. To counter overpopulation, about 175 permits, each good for one elk, are issued annually to lottery-picked hunters. Outside the refuges, regular hunting seasons prevail. Coyotes on the 23,972-acre preserve rarely harm healthy elk but thrive on carcasses (below).