One day at Denali National Park, we boarded a shuttle bus for the 54-mile sightseeing ride from our campground to the Eielson Visitor Center. It was an overcast, drizzly day. We were told by our bus driver/narrator that Denali is actually classified as a desert, and the last few rainy days they had been having were very unusual. That information did little to allay my fear of spending most of the day on a crowded bus with no decent photographs to show for it. But I was game.
At least the Caribou were not afraid to come out in the off-and-on rain. At a couple of locations, we saw herds of mostly females and young in the distance. The herd in the photo below seemed to be more interested at the moment in moving rather than grazing.
I was able to spot a young Caribou in this herd. It seemed to be keeping up with three cows in front of it.
At another location we saw a pair of Caribou bulls grazing. They were in the process of shedding their winter coats, but the velvet on their magnificent antlers was still intact.
As I understand it, mature Caribou bulls generally have two main branches on each of their two antlers. Out of the base of one antler (but occasionally both antlers) comes another branch that extends over their eyes and nose. This branch is called a “shovel,” and the next two photos shows the very different shapes of the shovels on these two bulls.
Here is just one more shot to show the enormous width of these guys’ antlers. This is the Caribou in the previous photo.
As disappointing as the weather was, I was pleased to be able, for the first time, to photograph Caribou from relatively close. A little sunlight wouldn’t have hurt, though.
The locations from which these photos were taken are shown on the map below. Zoom in for more detail.