National Parks,  Wildlife

Wildlife Photography at Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a relatively unknown national park located in North Dakota. The park is divided into two sections – the north and south units.

I found the south unit to be better for wildlife than the north unit. The south unit’s main attraction is the wild horses which the north unit does not have.  The North Unit does have Big Horn Sheep.  In this blog post, I will focus on the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Wild Horse Family Portait

Wild Horse Family Portrait

Wild Horses

There are about 150 wild horses in South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  The horses are reportedly the decedents of the horses of Sitting Bull and his tribe.  The horses are formed into bands of various sizes.  I’ve seen bands from 2 up to 9 horses.  You’ll also see the occasional solo wild horses.  I saw one stallion that was pretty badly beaten up probably from a fight with another stallion. The bands normally have a band stallion who is the leader of the group.  Other stallions may challenge the leader of the group which can lead to some serious battles.

Wildlife in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

There are also Badgers, Coyote, Mule Deer, White-tailed Deer, Elk, Pronghorn Antelope, Bison, and a bunch of Prairie Dogs.  For raptors, there are Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, Northern Harriers, and several species of hawk in the park.

The Prairie Dogs are located in several towns around the park.  They are very fun to watch and photograph.  When you approach, they will let out barks to let others know you are there. They are very active, so try to photograph some of their behaviors like wrestling with each other and a behavior that looks like they are doing “The Wave”.

Prairie Dog, Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Prairie Dog

Unfortunately, Prairie Dogs are the prey for many animals in the park.  Badgers, Eagles, and Coyotes frequently hunt the Prairie Dogs.  While not fun to watch, it can provide good photo opportunities.

The park has a main loop that is 36 miles long.  The best way to find the wildlife is to slowly drive around the park in the morning or late afternoon / evening.  I seem to have better luck in the evenings.

Munching Mule Deer

Munching Mule Deer

What Photography Equipment to Bring?

While a 500mm or greater lens would have been useful at times the Canon 100 – 400mm Mark IIwith a Canon 1.4X Telephoto Extender worked great for most shots.  A shorter lens like the Canon 24-105mm Lensis useful for landscape photographs with the wild horses in the foreground.

Written by Martin Belan

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