One reason I go to Parks and wilderness areas is to find solitude. I also go to enjoy various types of scenery. Mountain vistas. Waterfalls. Rivers and streams. Forests.
But another huge reason I head off into the forests and swamps and mountains is to see wildlife. And there are all kinds of animals to define wildlife, but when I talk about that aspect of my journeys I’m speaking about megafauna. These are the larger animals. Things that are not tiny to us.
Most of our National Parks feature habitat that is the very reason that enables us to view such creatures. And in my wide journeys I am always on the lookout for the big critters, and I have varying degrees of luck spotting them.
For big fur-bearing animals I suppose the places like the western National Parks are the best. It’s hard to visit one of those spots and not see the large critters we all think of as designating wilderness. In the east…well, the pickings are slim in comparison. When I’m hiking in the Piedmont or along the spine of the Appalachians, I just don’t see a lot of wildlife. I feel fortunate to spot the occasional black bear. Elk are only now being reintroduced, but I do spot them from time to time. I’ve never seen a bobcat or a mountain lion here in the East. About the only big critters I can count on seeing in the East are white-tailed deer, raccoons, wild turkey, and the two vulture species we have.
But there is one place in the east where I often travel where there is at least as much wildlife as in the west. Maybe more. And that is in the wetlands of the deep South. If I go paddling in the Okefenokee Swamp, or trekking the rivers around the Outer Banks, or cruising the low country of Florida then I can pretty much guarantee myself that I will enjoy a vast bounty of wildlife.
West, East, South. I’ll take what I can get.
|Mullet school. Silver Glen Springs, Florida.|
|Black snake. Virginia Creeper Trail, southwest Virginia.|
|Migrating hawks forming a “kettle”. Linville Gorge Wilderness, North Carolina.|
|White-tailed deer. Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.|
|Coyote/Red wolf hybrid. Great Smoky Mountains National Park.|
|Alligator Snapping turtle. Outer Banks, North Carolina.|
|Cottontail rabbit. Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina.|
|A black bear and I surprise one another. Douthat State Park, Virginia.|
|Bison herd, Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park.|
|Bothersome raccoon. Blue Spring State Park, Florida.|
|Black buzzard, Manatee Springs State Park, Florida.|
|Bull elk. Rocky Mountain State Park, Colorado.|
|Bull elk, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cataloochee section, North Carolina.|
|Grizzly bear, Yellowstone National Park. (Yeah, not a good photo, but I prefer Grizzly bears to be far away.)|
|Manatees. Manatee Springs, Florida.|
|Bull moose. Grand Teton National Park.|
|Key Deer. Big Pine Key, Florida.|
|Osprey. Fort DeSoto Park, Tampa Florida.|