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Back to the future: A glimpse of spring at the intersection of the wild and built environments


Gearhart nature photographer Neal Maine has been busy photographing bald eagles at Del Rey Beach and elk in the Neacoxie Creek corridor lately—which brought to mind this sequence of photos he shot last June off Del Rey Beach Road.


This elk calf had meandered, with its group, across the road, and its mother had jumped the low wooden fence bordering a piece of property on which NCLC holds a conservation easement (next to our Neacoxie Forest property). Which presented the young calf with a conundrum.


What is this between me and my mother? Can I get through it? Can I get over it? Can I get under it?

“All of our artifacts we put up: these are barriers or opportunities to wild creatures,” Neal observes.


Neal recently watched an elk analyze whether to enter a backyard patio through an open gate. Over several minutes, he watched as the elk stood outside, considering, then put its head in, incrementally moving toward the patio, wondering—Neal imagines—What is this? It’s not a house. It’s not a backyard. It’s not a forest.


“I watch them doing this analysis,” Neal says, “which is what they’re doing: they’re problem-solving or evaluating, in elk-think.” We know what fences are, and why we put them up. To an elk calf, it’s all brand new. “What is it that they’re actually seeing here?”


So back to this calf, which has made its decision.





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