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June 11, 2005

Advanced wildlife photography

In comments over at Dharma Bums, Dread Pirate Roberts repeats a jackalope-related urban legend, to wit:

jackalopes are VERY camera shy.

This is one of those stories that starts out as a misunderstanding of motive and ends in a misrepresentation - though in DPR's case I'm certain it's unintentional - of the true character of a wild animal.

It's not that jackalopes are camera-shy. On the contrary: Jackalopes very much enjoy being photographed. They just tend to have very exacting standards when it comes to the skill of the photographers they allow to portray them. They don't stick around to be snapshot by just any schmuck with a Polaroid. They insist on a modicum of skill.

Fortunately, I myself am a consummately skilled wildlife photographer, so it was a bit of kismet when a jackalope wandered into our yard in Richmond a few years back. He was a fine four-point buck, lured to our little yard by the tasty lettuce in my raised beds.

He was spooked by my sudden appearance, but intrigued by my obvious facility with my little digital point-and-shoot. Though he hid momentarily behind a shock of ornamental grass, his curiosity soon got the better of him. Within a few minutes, once he'd gauged the scope of my talent, he warmed up considerably.

Becky, who'd been watching the initial encounter through the rear window, came out into the yard with a little treat to offer our guest. Only a bit of persuasion was needed: he gladly accepted.

Jackalopes are the rarest of the rare among North American mammals. Decades of hunting for the barroom taxidermy business has severely depleted their numbers. It was truly a gift to meet one in the wild, even if that "wild" happened to be a neighborhood in a decaying California city. The encounter is a memory I shall always treasure.

Posted by Chris Clarke at June 11, 2005 09:51 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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Tasty little critters. Here in Montana, we prefer to cook them over a bed of open coals and serve them with an icy cold mug of Moose Drool. Contrary to ancient lore, though, the powdered antlers of large male jackalopes will not restore vigor to your long-dormant manhood. (In the unlikely event that your manhood needs to have its vigor restored.) Nevertheless, an elixir brewed from powdered jackalope horn and ponderosa pine needles is an excellent cure for the runs. You can also brush your teeth with it in a pinch.

Posted by: tost at June 11, 2005 10:33 PM
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I've always been curious about them too since I've seen them for sale in the meat cabinets up here in Montréal. In Vermont, where I grew up, you could hear them in early morning quiet as the males whacked their antlers on trees during the spring mating season. Though I've tried to photograph them too I've never been fast enough. Thanks for your great work.

Posted by: jonz at June 12, 2005 05:08 AM
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we are envious of your superior photography skills. i am kinda sensitive about that "any schmuck with a polaroid" crack tho. maybe our new camera will convince our jackalope of our sincerity and skill. its antlers are not in danger here, altho who's to know what advancing geezerhood will bring in the way of either malady mentioned by tost.

Posted by: dread pirate roberts at June 12, 2005 08:43 AM
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Ooh, there's going to be a lot of upset jackalopes, then, if the postcards in my collection are anything to go by. A good number of them are _terrible_ pictures. o.O

Posted by: Rana at June 12, 2005 09:52 AM
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Chris, that's utterly amazing. I can't believe that Becky agreed to get so close with that carrot.

Seriously, I can't believe she agreed to it.

Posted by: Vicki at June 12, 2005 02:01 PM
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Eww. Look at him, though: he's got that dead-eyed, glassy stare, and he's holding himself in that rigid posture. You should be afraid. Expect him to come sneaking back mindlessly some evening for a diet of fresh brains. Mmmm, braaaaaaaains.

Posted by: PZ Myers at June 12, 2005 02:03 PM
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We really need to enact some protections around those fellers and do something to educate people. As a species they're being beaten to death by ignorant rural merchants who think the antlers have an ability to enhance a person's sense of humor.

Posted by: murky at June 14, 2005 06:15 AM
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Yeah but that's clearly a Western jackalope. It's the Eastern jackalope that's so camera shy.

Posted by: Rurality at June 14, 2005 02:35 PM
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