It’s January, which means it’s time to announce the winners of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s Watchable Wildlife Photo Contest.
The contest was initiated in 1990 to highlight the state’s nongame species. Game animals, like ducks and deer, were added to the mix of eligible contest subjects in 2008.
This year’s overall winning photograph, by Nels Kilpela of Dickinson, is of a great horned owl, a nongame species.
Considering, once again, that it’s January, the first month of a new year, featuring a great horned owl is fitting, as this yellow-eyed raptor often commits to a new beginning this time of year.
It’s in late January, or early February, some of the leanest times of the year in North Dakota, that mature great horned owls initiate nesting in abandoned structures built by other winged species.
These yellow-eyed raptors, with recognizable feathered ear tufts, are one of North Dakota’s earliest nesters. They begin this seemingly uncalculated endeavor way too early, as spring, green grass and warmer temperatures are often weeks away here on the Northern Plains.
Yet, who are we to question the seemingly questionable nesting habits of this hardy, year-round resident that’s been going about its business just fine for eons.
*The North Dakota Game and Fish photo galleries contain photos taken by Department staff and private photographers. Photos that were taken by a staff photographer may be used for personal, private purposes. Photos taken by private photographers may not be used in any way without the permission of the photographer. No photos may be used for commercial purposes. We ask that you please give credit to the photographer and/or the Department when using these photos (ex. Credit: Jane Doe/NDGF).