|In the canyons, the deep deep canyons, the ringtail roars tonight.|
A wishful image spurs us on -- Ringtail's lithe form scaling the moonlit rocks like spider woman in buff-colored tights.
She lures us hither and yon searching for the right habitat and a dried token of her presence -- a hope-sustaining turd.
But in truth we wouldn't know one if we found it.
We've searched the literature and poured over museum records for clues.
Damn it, we've looked in all the right places.
We camera trapped rimrock, stony recesses, and rock piles. No ringtails.
We camera trapped the same kinds of places near water. No ringtails.
We learned that Texas ringtails eat juniper berries in winter. Now we're cam-trapping the juniper woodlands.
The elusive quarry inevitably comes up during Chimineas rendezvous.
On some some dirt road to nowhere it's -- "Hey look at those cliffs over there -- looks like ringtail habitat".
It comes up during happy hour.
"I swear, they're all over the place in Butte and Plumas County." I saw a dead one on Rt 70 last week, and even the kid at my local hardware store knows their favorite bait."
"Whats that?' Craig rises to the bait.
"We're using all fruit jam."
"No wonder we're not having any luck."The team collects the camera traps the week before Random Truth and I arrive.
They scope out the pictures in the field, which is one of camera trapping's simple pleasures.
Back at the lab they download the memory sticks and view the photos again on the computer to see if they missed anything.
When the photos are found wanting of ringtails Craig slides into a blue funk.
Fortunately, he's a busy man and the blues don't last long.
A few days layer we all meet and our 3-day camera trapping session begins.
These are generally convivial reunions, but we rarely have time time to set all the cams.
When we part ways Craig is jazzed to cast off with Todd and Heather to set the remaining ones.
After the last session he sent me this email.
"Lucky we didn't try to get to Hunt Spring when you were out here. It was a hell of a hike and the canyon with the spring was so steep and choked with brush, we couldn't get down to it. I might try to get down there in cooler weather.
As it was, we left the truck at about 2:30 in the afternoon and got back at close to 8:00 pm. We hiked the last portion in darkness. It was still very hot (mid-90's) this past week and we brought plenty of water.
However, it was still a strenuous hike and Todd ended up overheating and upchucking. I felt bad for him but we sat in the shade until he felt better and we headed back to the truck.
We actually set the cam in a very interesting spot. We found a large expanse of rock outcrops overlooking Gypsum Canyon and surrounded by chamise scrub. It's similar to the spot where we got Spilogale last time. I am encouraged because the canyon it overlook is more mesic that most of the stuff on Chimineas proper. I could see sycamores growing in the canyon bottom. It looked ideal for ringtails but the proof is in the pudding. Let's wait and see what we get."I have to admire those plucky guys. Nothing like cooky-tossing dedication. And I should mention that Todd's the one who hauls the pack.
|To hither an yon|
We checked Craig's set when we arrived at the ranch.
An impenetrable expanse of chamise blocked their access to Hunt Spring, so they set the cam on a beautiful outcrop.
I would have selected the same place.
|Craig at the set above Hunt Spring|
But only two critters mugged for the camera -- right on that boulder in front of Craig.
And ringtail wasn't one of them.