Grand Canyon Village Wildlife!
Spotting wildlife at National Parks is always a good experience for visitors. Wild animals in panoramic landscapes present good picture taking opportunities. Wildlife viewing is easy to do at the Grand Canyon Village during the early spring season, because the Mule Deer with foals and young elk feel safe where humans are present. Out in the Grand Canyon wilderness they are under a constant threat from hungry predators, like mountain lions and coyotes, so the herd animals tolerate the human presence in Grand Canyon Village..
Caution always must be exercised when watching wildlife, because it is all too easy to forget that the animals are truly wild. Many wild animals may look docile, but as soon as they feel threatened their demeanor quickly changes to a defensive stance. The best defense for a wild animal is to charge at threats that are too close or simply run away. Even mild mannered herd animals like Mule Deer can become a formidable threat when they feel cornered. Young elk can become especially dangerous when approached, because these animals know that they are larger than humans and a human is easy to trample down.
Gambling on whether a wild animal will flee, charge or remain docile simply is not worth the risk and people that push their own luck by getting too close often end up with serious injuries. The National Park Wildlife Rangers advise that it is best to keep 200 yards of distance between yourself and dangerous wild animals, like bears, coyotes and mountain lions. Keeping a 100 yard distance from less threatening animals like raccoons, skunks and deer is usually plenty of space. The minimum distance for non-predator animal viewing is 50 yards, but in Grand Canyon village this rule is impossible to adhere to, because there is so much wildlife present in human traffic areas. Another rule for Grand Canyon Village is to always use a flashlight at night, because elk sometimes sleep on the ground in populated areas and tripping over a sleeping male elk may result in being gored by the long sharp antlers.
I lived and worked in Grand Canyon Village for two spring and summer seasons. My living quarters were in an old building near the Grand Canyon Trail Mule Corral. The building was also next a grassy field that led straight into the thick pine forests of the National Park. This area in Grand Canyon Village was a primary wildlife pathway, so at any given time of day or night, seeing wild animals up close was commonplace.
During the daytime, many doe with foals feed on grass along the pathways in Grand Canyon Village. These young deer were used to being around humans and they were quite docile when walking by. Stopping to observe for too much time will sometimes spook the young animals and they will scurry away to a safer distance. Even so, the little Mule Deer foals are so cute that one simply has to stop to admire them!
One thing that I noticed was that when the young deer in a grassy area pick up their heads to listen alertly all at one time, it pays too look around for trouble that is on the way. While chatting with a fellow employee next to a group of young deer that just went into the heads-up alert mode, the employee and I looked at each other and said, “I wonder what is spooking the deer?” … All of a sudden a huge young elk rounded the corner of the building in full gallop running scared and nearly mowed both of us down while darting off into the distance. We just looked at each other and said at the same time, “Wow! … That sure was a close one!”
Male Mule Deer and elk are easy to identify by their antlers. These male herd animals will stand their ground no matter what during the rutting season. There was a ditch by the railroad tracks that I had to cross on the way to the job everyday and the big Elk liked to wallow in the mud in this place to get rid of biting insects. Many times that I tried to cross that ditch, I ended up having to take the long way around because a big Bull Elk was in the way of getting to the job site.
Most of the up close photos of Mule Deer Bucks and elk with big antlers in the slideshow above were taken while driving to the Grand Canyon Village General Store. The safety of the car acted as a defensive barrier that these wild herd animals did not mind. Taking photos of these animals from inside the car is okay as long as stopping the car does not impede vehicular traffic. Being inside a car is a lot safer than stepping outside when very close to a very large herd animal with a full rack of antlers.
This may seem strange, but the most dangerous animal at the Grand Canyon National Park does not have antlers or fangs. The little gray squirrels may seem docile, but these little creatures carry a variety of nasty diseases, like rabies and the bubonic plague. On the average, one person is bitten by a squirrel at the Grand Canyon each day. Most visitors are bitten by squirrels while trying to feed them, even though signs are posted that state that it is against the law to feed wild animals on every path. Even though the squirrels may seem playful and cute, these little critters actually are the deadliest animals in the park, so it pays to keep some distance!
As one can see, safety cannot be stressed enough, even when in a docile wildlife viewing area like the Grand Canyon Village. Feeding wild animals is taboo and this will result in a big fine, so save the snacks for when you are hungry. If the local wildlife is treated with respect, plenty of great opportunities will arise to view and photograph wildlife up close when visiting Grand Canyon Village during the spring and summer seasons!