Dar Warner - Scratchboard Artist - Nature and Wildlife Art

Animal Encounters
(Animal encounter photos are available upon request.)

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Backpacking in the back country of Yosemite
  Being in the backcountry has always proved to be inspirational for me. Your senses are on hyper alert because you never know what could happen. Such as the time I was backpacking in the high altitude, backcountry of Yosemite and was charged by a black bear. It was twilight when we reached the edge of Long Meadow where we would camp for the night. We were trying to counter-balance our food with a rope over a high limb (now they have

portable bear proof food containers, although it might be difficult to carry when you’re backpacking). As the light started to fade I saw two eyes set wide apart ( which means that’s how big the head is and must be a pretty big animal) staring at us from across a small creek. Then I saw another pair of eyes glowing in the dark. They were side by side when suddenly one went to the left and one went right and we realized they were circling us, which was unnerving. Since you always hang your food away from your camp, we were not next to our tents or equipment. We heard rumblings and approached the camp. They had already rummaged through it. Their claws punctured our water canteens and all the water was running out into the ground. There was a momentary feeling of panic until we remembered we had extra bottles that were empty and a water purifying kit, with a stream nearby. As we turned around we saw a large black shape running straight towards us. We lifted our flashlights and then we could see a large bear heading in a run right for us. Without realizing it, my leg was up and ready to run. My friend yelled, “Don’t run!” We were banging pans and acting bigger than we were, ready to drop and cover if she didn’t turn off. At the last second she turned off. My legs turned to jello!

Earlier that morning a ranger said they had a couple of bad boy bears, who were trying to bluff people out of their food when setting up camp. They had been keeping an eye on them. He told us to get pass Cathedral Lakes and camp in Long Meadow, which would be beyond their problem area. We hiked so hard that day just to reach Long Meadow, which was much further than we planned to go. Apparently the bear’s territory was more far reaching than expected.  

“Grizzly Bear and the Raven.”

That night they rushed our camp a few more times. My husband started a fire in a concrete fire ring. So glad it was there in the middle of nowhere. With that the bears decided to give up. With exhaustion setting in everyone got in their tents and cozy sleeping bags. Everyone except for me. I was gathering twigs and placing them in x’s around our tent. When my husband looked out he looked surprised and asked me if there was something I wasn’t telling him. He asked if all the x’s were a hex! Rather indignant I said no and explained the bear will step on them, they’ll break and I’ll know. He said, “Oh, great. The moment before they eat you, you’ll know.” I dropped the rest of the twigs and turned in. In our little flashlight tent I whispered to him that I hadn’t counted on this type of behavior from bears and I wanted to pack back out the next morning. Someone must have heard me because they started discussing who would get to buy our brand new equipment. Reluctantly, my husband agreed.

Winter and Spring Sharing Spaces at Logan's Pass
  The next morning I unzipped our flashlight tent, crawled out and when I stood up I saw the most amazing site. Sunlight was streaming through the meadow and the entire meadow was full of wildflowers. Color was everywhere and what seemed like a creek or river in last night’s twilight was really just a meandering stream. Across the meadow was a huge granddaddy bear and he couldn't care less about us. There were no parking lots, no buildings, nothing but flowers, acres of flowers, a little gurgling stream and majestic mountains.

I felt like I had gone to heaven and decided right then and there we wouldn’t go back. We’d go on and cross over that mountain range that lay ahead. Going on was the best decision I made because other bears were respectful, left us alone and the rest of the trip was every bit as beautiful.



On another trip to Canada, my bird dog and I were hiking in Banff National Forest. We were hiking not far from camp when suddenly we ran into a wolf only 20 feet away. All three of us stopped in our tracks and seemed frozen in time. We were downwind of him so he looked as surprised to see us as we were to see him. He was a white timber wolf and his fur was tipped with black. His size was immense and he looked even bigger as he stood on top of this boulder right in front of us. He looked incredibly healthy and I couldn’t help but be awestruck by his power and beauty. My heart was hammering in my chest like a fast drum beat and my mind started racing. It’s funny what runs through your mind at times like this, such as statistics. Wolves have 600 pounds of pressure in their jaws, dogs have 300 pounds of pressure. Wolves of course are wild and my dog doesn’t stand a chance. And oh yes, where’s his pack? Thank God he appeared to be a lone wolf. I know only seconds were passing but everything slowed down and it seemed like eternity. Even though my heart and mind were racing I didn’t make a move, neither did my dog and not a sound was made. All three of us seemed to just be frozen from the shock of sudden awareness. The whole forest was silent and you could hear a pin drop until the call of a bird filtered through the air. I slowly looked down at my dog just to make sure I had a good hold on him and that was all the wolf needed, a signal that I had broken our locked stare and was non-confrontational. He must have leaped off the side of the boulder because seconds later he was gone and I never heard him touch the ground. We retraced our path back to camp and left that area. It belonged to him and his kind. The memory is burned in my mind and in my mind’s eye I can still see him standing on his boulder, looking at us.



Other animal encounters have been just as memorable to me. When scuba diving in Hawaii we swam right next to two giant sea turtles. They let us swim with them for quite a long time. We were so close to them I could reach out and touch them if I tried. I slowly stretched out my hand. They looked back at me and in a flash they were gone. I couldn’t believe how fast they were in the water. Later that day we swam in a coral reef on the other side of the island. We came upon a baby octopus, who immediately inked the water in front of our faces and we couldn’t see a thing. It was just enough time for him to make his get away. Not far off another scuba diver noticed a hole in a rock formation. He unwisely stuck his extra regulator down the hole and shook it. I didn’t like what I was seeing and decided to stay far away from this guy. The next thing I knew a four foot brown ribbon of wiggling energy exploded from inside the hole and swam right past the diver to get away from him and ran right into me. This huge moray eel was staring right into my face about a foot to two feet away from me. I tried to not hyperventilate and tried to blow out my air, but I went straight to the top and so did the moray eel. Neither one of us backed up and he swam all the way to the top with me looking right at me. I guess he was scared, too. Then he saw another rock formation and darted into another hole. Meanwhile, forty feet down everyone was looking for me. Slowly, I made my descent and signaled OK to my fellow divers.

We swam through a fifty foot lava tube and at the end we saw a rock formation that created a beautiful, natural arch that we passed through. The tropical fish flashed vibrant colors of yellow, orange, blue and black. I knew the names of some of them. What an incredible world to be in. I was in a reverie. Later that night I noticed that one of them was on the menu and I couldn’t eat him. I remembered he was too pretty.



On a local hike my husband and I came upon yards and yards of Plumbago, a fast spreading shrub with masses of pale blue flowers. As we turned the corner there were hundreds of tiny blue butterflies. I never thought I would see one much less a hundred. My husband said there had to be at least that many. They are one of the smallest butterflies, only an inch long. They are tan underneath the wing, but on top is a beautiful blue velvet color with a little rose towards the center of their body. Of course, my camera was sitting at home, but the memory is beautiful. They are called a Reikert Blue. Look them up on the internet and try to imagine a number of them all around you.



This story happened in the city. I walked into my friend’s pet shop just to say hi when a customer came walking in with a hummingbird laying on his hand. He said it hit the glass and he didn’t know if it was dead or not. My friend, Barry yelled no, don’t bring him in here. He knew if the little bird revived he’d zoom around the shop at breakneck speed (they can fly up to 60 miles per hour) and poor Barry would have a heck of a time catching him. Sure enough that’s exactly what happened. People were ducking and Barry tried to shoo him towards the front door. It wasn’t working out well at all. So, Barry grabbed a net on a stick and after a lengthy and concerted effort he caught the hummingbird in the net. The only problem is that sometimes those little guys can have a heart attack from being grabbed and possibly die. When Barry grabbed him he went limp. Everyone felt sad. Barry put him in a paper bag, folded it over and promptly gave him to me. Reluctantly, I took him after much coaxing from Barry. He said he might have just passed out and could revive. He knew I had a hummingbird feeder at home and said I should release him near the feeder. However, he added, “Don’t be disappointed if he doesn’t make it by the time you get home.” I cocked my head to one side and said, “Gee, thanks a lot, Barry.”

All the way home there wasn’t a sound coming from the paper bag. I tried to talk to it and gently nudged the bag a couple of times and no response. Great, I thought, what a sad thing to pull this little bird out of this sack and have to deal with this. Oh well, I’ll do my best. When I got home he was laying at the bottom of the sack and wasn’t moving. I thought of taking him to my vet or a bird rehabilitator, but I guess I ought to see if he’s still alive. I placed him on my open palm in the sunlight and was struck by the dozens of iridescent and jewel like feathers. What a beauty and so perfect; what a shame to have lost him this way, I thought. I was looking at his dazzling colors on his back when his little head turned around and looked at me. That stunned me.

Then he slowly stood up and looked at me again. I made a soft little clicking noise to him, my rendition of a hummingbird sound. He seemed to like it and just stood there. Well, it was almost like a religious experience for me. I slowly lifted my hand towards the feeder. He walked to the end of my hand and curled his tiny feet over the tips of my fingers. I didn’t hurry him. I wanted to make sure he was O.K. He stretched his wings and looked ready to fly, but he just held on to my fingers. So, I lifted my hand and lowered it gently to help him take off. The second time I did that he looked back at me again. Then looked forward and in three seconds flew all the way across my back yard. I smiled and thought, What a feeling!  

Jewel of the Sky

This story took place at the Wild Animal Park in Escondido, CA, which has acres of open terrain to simulate an animal's natural environment. At that time they had a circular enclosure of kangaroos far from the main area of the park. We had been hiking on their trails for some time when we came upon a strange scene. Right away I knew something was wrong. Kangaroos were running all over their couple of acres as though something was chasing them.

That was when I saw this very small baby darting from tree and rock, trying to hide. Somehow this baby kangaroo had been separated from its mother. Then with wings flying and large feet slamming down on the ground I realized this baby was running frantically from an emu chasing it. It was trying to peck it and twice it almost stomped on the middle of the baby's back.

I felt horror struck. What could we do? No one animal keepers were in view, only a number of visitors. Everybody just stood there in shock, some people shrieked. A woman yelled, "Oh, dear where's the baby's mother?" Suddenly, I went into high gear. I remember thinking, I can't let this happen. My husband was farther away so I yelled at a man I didn't even know to take off his shirt, so I could swing it at the emu to distract it. I guess better him than me. The man was speechless. I pointed to the baby and quickly explained. Then he understood and quickly relinquished his shirt with a tiny bit of embarrassment.

The enclosure was way off in the back trail area, and no one could find an animal keeper nearby. This enclosure was chain length fence that only came up to my shoulders. On my tip toes I could reach over and swing this white T-shirt at this angry emu. When I did, the bird was distracted and the baby ran once again and hid under a log. The emu was confused and couldn't find the baby. Whew! In my mind I thought,
please don't run little one, just stay hidden.

That only lasted long enough for all three of us to catch our breath. Then the baby took off probably trying to find his mother. The emu noticed the movement and started running after him, gaining on him with every second. The baby ran towards a tree and grass for cover, but the bird cut him off. Next the little guy ran to the far side of this circular enclosure where there was no place to hide, no trees, logs, just open ground ending right at the fence line. I ran like a mad man to reach the other side. Out of the corner of my eye I saw an animal keeper in the distance. I yelled at another to man to tell the keeper and he started running towards the keeper that seemed so far away. I was so thankful he was running, maybe if he reaches the trainer in time we can get help.

When I reached the other side the baby saw me and ran right to me. I was right next to the fence, leaning against it. The baby tried to get between my feet and he leaned as hard as he could against the cold, hard chain link fence. I looked down at him, he was so tiny. I could see his chest heaving, poor little one. Then I looked up in time to see the emu running straight towards me. This time he was staring at me and he tried to peck me. I swung the shirt and prayed the baby wouldn't run. The emu seemed to be fixated on the shirt for a moment, when suddenly five or six female kangaroos ran up and made a close semi-circle around me and the baby. I was so surprised. They were helping and they completely understood the situation.

The emu backed up a few feet behind them, but refused to leave, and again he was intently watching the baby. All of us were motionless. As my eyes glanced around the crowd of people that had gathered I could see surprise, nervousness and fear in their expressions. I didn't know what else to do but wait and be still. I hoped the female kangaroos could help or maybe the animal keeper would get here soon. Everyone was standing still, people and animals.

People were whispering in low tones when I heard a small high-pitched chattering sound. I thought it was the baby, but it wasn't. The female on the left of the semi-circle was making this sound and leaning towards the baby. Great, I thought, it's his mother. In a streak the baby ran to her. I felt so relieved. He found her, I thought. The emu started to attack, but the other kangaroos held tight it their formation and blocked his way. The baby tried to get into her pouch. She even tried to push him in, but there was no room at the inn, so to speak, when another
baby's head popped out of her pouch.

Quickly, all the other kangaroos started making this high-pitched chattering sound. The sound was intense and building. The baby responded and quickly ran to each kangaroo. To my amazement each one already had a baby in every pouch. I couldn't believe it, and I could see the little one becoming very frustrated as he tried to get
into each pouch. Out of sheer desperation he turned and ran like lightning back to my feet, just hovering there. The emu noticed, but again the kangaroos held their tight protective circle. They stopped making that chattering sound and all of them were standing around us, just watching the baby and me.

Why was this emu so intent on this baby, and why wouldn't he just leave, I thought? As long as he's here, I'm not moving and neither did the kangaroos. The semi-circle kept them close to me. I could see them looking at me, without fear and they seemed to understand who was dangerous and that I was trying to help them. My heart was pounding when I saw a young woman, the animal keeper approaching very cautiously with gloves.

The crowd was so big by now, but everyone held still, even the kangaroos. The
woman's name was Jane, and I could hear her talking to me softly behind my back. She quickly explained this was a serious situation and her plan of entering the enclosure would scare off the emu, and unfortunately it would scare off the adult kangaroos, too. She wanted me to try to keep the baby with me by not moving and just talking softly to him. She and I both hoped it would work.

When she entered the enclosure she moved so slowly that for a moment I thought none of the animals would run off. They stayed put as long as they dared until the last second when a flurry of feathers and tails all seemed to be flying past the baby and me, but the baby didn't move.

Jane began her approach to reach for the baby. She looked as though she was stalking something in the way she moved. I remember thinking this will never work, animals are so fast. He'll run right when she reaches for him. All the while I talked in low soothing tones to the baby, shivering now at my feet and probably exhausted. Jane moved like a cat, closed the gap and was within two feet of reaching us. The baby's left side was leaning against the fence, so she approached him from behind. He started to look up, and that was when her gloved hands quickly wrapped around his tiny body.

She stood up slowly with a big smile. The baby's back was against her chest and all I could see was two big feet straight out in front of me. The warmth of her body and holding him close to her must have relaxed the exhausted youngster. I could see him physically relax. The only thing that separated us was a chain length fence. She was so close to me I could have hugged her. She asked me not to leave and said she was bringing the baby out and they were coming to me.

I could hardly wait for them to reach me, when I heard the crowd cheer. When she walked up I could see how really young and tiny this baby was, except for those feet, which made me laugh. His feet were the length of his entire body! Jane asked my name and said I had saved the baby's life. She explained that an emu's legs are so strong they could easily break a human's femur with one swift kick. Thus the
baby's body would have broken quite easily and the emu would have stomped
him to death.

"Why are they together then", I asked? "Emus usually live peaceably with kangaroos, but for some reason this one became threatening, and he will be removed to another area immediately", she replied.

The other question in both of our minds was where is the baby's mother? Before we
could talk about that she asked me if I wanted to pet the baby kangaroo. She said they never let people do that, but since I helped to save him it was the least she could do. Of course, I had a camera so I got a picture of the three of us. His little head was so soft.

I kept in touch with Jane and found out that they did locate his mother about an acre away. They had two groups of kangaroos and thought the emu chasing them had separated the mother and the baby accidentally. The mother and the baby reunited happily, and the baby immediately hopped into her pouch! It's always so good to have a safe, warm place to hide and a happy ending.

More Photos:

Big Sky Country

Come On Over - Raven

Cougar comes out of hiding

Grand Tetons

Late in the Day - Young Black Bear

Young Black Bear climbing & hiding behind a sapling

Running Eagle Falls

Clouds Over the Grand Tetons

One Pooped Puppy, but Still Hiking - Glacier National Forest

Earth and Sky Reflection

And more photos . . .

Dar Warner can be contacted at:


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