Since we were in the area visiting relatives, we decided to make our annual pilgrimage to Alligator River NWR. This is the time of year that you can always see large numbers of tundra swans around the refuge. We have seen black bears here in the past also but I know Alan was hoping to get a glimpse of red wolves even though they are exceedingly rare.
We got there just as the sun was coming up and drove to the Long Curve Road. Shortly after we started our drive we came across a field loaded with swans. However, they were just far enough away that we didn’t think we could get any really special pictures. We did get a few on our way back out though.
Further down the road, we saw a car parked which usually means some sort of activity. When we got up to that car, we saw they were photographing a black bear in the fields. We stopped and took some pictures before moving on and getting even better pictures of a bear, which we nicknamed “Chonk” in the next field. This was a very promising start to the day.
We continued down the road searching for wildlife. We saw bear scat and bears crossing the road to disappear into the brush but not a lot of other wildlife before we decided to turn around and retrace our steps.
We saw multiple cars along the road at the open fields where we had seen the bears earlier. We saw movement quite a distance away in the fields, and from the size of the animals I thought we were seeing bear cubs. Alan urged me to just take a picture and when we chimped it (peaked at the back of our camera), we saw that they were the critically endangered red wolves – six of them! We noticed several of the wolves had orange tracking collars on. With only about 38 of these wolves in the wild, ecologists are keen to keep an eye on these few. We photographed the wolves until they were out of sight and then called it a day. How exciting! I think we fist-bumped each other all the way out of the park and a bit beyond.
Our morning wasn’t quite over however because as we were leaving the park we also sighted a merlin with a catch in its talons. A great day for wildlife photography, and a nice way to end our year.