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Bobcat
 
 
Possum
 
Salmon
 
Caribou
 
 

Mark
Photo by Jim Cook
Common Questions
Like all jobs in life one can become very good at their work or personal passions. Mark became good at locating animal remains. The most common way Mark searches for the remains of wild creatures, is the old fashioned way. A backpack loaded with camera and camping gear. Locations are selected ahead of time using mapping programs and Google Earth. 
These areas are then walked and if scat and track densities are high enough then specific habitats are searched carefully for remains.  Below are commonly asked questions about Mark's work.
 
Autos
Automobiles are by far the largest killer of wildlife. Over one million animals die EACH DAY on roads in the United States. Road mortality is the leading cause of vertebrate deaths in the USA, easily surpassing hunting.

Deer

Hunting
Hunters
During hunting seasons, especially archery only seasons, wildlife are wounded and wander off to their secure locations to die. Unlike humans who know someday death is coming, creatures are unaware of death and simply feel poorly and seek their common shelter.
Age
As with humans, creatures age and die. They commonly find safe, familiar and secure surroundings to rest in and die. Each species prefer different habitats. For instance mule deer prefer thick sunny sides hills, a few hundred yards down from top points. Their remains can commonly be found here. City pigeons choose abandoned buildings or high openings such as church steeples.

Horse

Lightning
Natural Dangers
Instances of this include lightning, flash floods, extremely cold winters, and many more. For instance in flat grassland areas where antelope and cattle are commonly found, they can be struck by lightning during thunderstorms.
Predation
In Nature predator / prey relationships can lead to high mortality rates and many succumb to this process.  Mountain lions cover and hide their dead prey. Coyotes tend to scatter remains. Ravens, crows and vultures can point the way to recent wildlife death by their flying behavior.
 

Mountain Lion/Deer

Elk
Disease
Disease is a natural but harsh factor in controlling wildlife populations. For instance the epizootic hemorrhagic virus, which can occur within high density deer populations, commonly force them to waterways where mortality rates can be high. Remains can be located within these areas.
Native American Trophy trees
Some Native American Indian cultures refrain from bringing the head of their deer, antelope or elk home. Instead they return the head after the kill to a remote designated tree and tie the animal head on the tree facing the east. They believe by doing this the deceased creature faces the sunrise each day. This is also done out of respect for the creature and thankfulness to the Great Creator for providing food. Traditional Navajo hunters do this and the trees over time can acquire quite a collection. Mark has been invited to these sacred mountains in the past but out of respect no photographs were made.

Locked Antlers
Fighting
Creatures commonly battle for domination during certain periods. When death occurs they can be located in these habitats, where this behavior occurs.
There are many other factors that lead to wildlife death. Mark uses this information and other techniques for locating the remains of wildlife.
Mark strives to photograph animals in their natural environment. Many times this is not possible because the landscape the creature died in is not beautiful. At this point the animal is moved to a more pleasing area nearby.
Image Creation
Over the years Mark has found that neatly presented, clean skulls led to higher sales. People do not prefer hair or skin on these types of images.
When a sun bleached or recent beetle cleaned animal is located, it is photographed during good lighting periods and sometimes moved nearby to a more scenic location. Animals are left on location and only the image taken.
 
Legalities
In most states it is illegal to possess and transport found wildlife skulls or parts. Antler sheds are typically legal and a different matter. Many states have a process in place that includes the issuance of salvage/disposal tags, for those wishing to keep wildlife bones. Others simply inspect once notified and allow possession or confiscate. For these reasons Mark photographs and leaves skulls on location. If suspicious evidence is apparent, authorities are contacted. At times Mark may advise wildlife officials he is in an area photographing. For clients requesting specific wildlife skull portraits he has purchased wildlife skulls from legal sellers or borrowed from collectors.

Elk Shed

 

 

Cameras
The camera equipment used for this unique image collection, spans almost 30 years. Early on Nikon, Pentax in 35 millimeter formats were used. Mark quickly moved up to medium format cameras including Hasselblad and Pentax. When digital arrived he embraced the technology immediately. He continues to stay current each year as camera technologies change and advance. Canon pro bodies and lens are currently utilized. A collection of tripods and regular ultra light backpacks are used for his back country travel.
 

 

Skull Valley, Arizona
We are often asked, if there is there really a place named Skull Valley in Arizona? Yes and it is located about 20 miles west of Prescott. It is home to approximately 500 residents and is visited for its scenic cattle ranches, valleys and mountains. Because of its elevation, 4,265 winters are mild and summers are not hot. Wildlife abound, such as deer, antelope, bear, coyotes, badgers and many other species. Skull Valley was known as the home of the Late George Phippen, a well know western artist and co-founder of Cowboy Artists of America. It was originally named for the numerous skulls found in the valleys by the original settlers.

 


 

 

 

 

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Images may not be reproduced.

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