“’It was a hard climb.’ Bailey wrote in his field report, ‘but the large flat nest at once showed fresh signs and I dug in with great care.’”
It was 1914 and Vernon Bailey was at Spencer Butte, Oregon, perched in the lofty realm of the red tree vole 80 feet above ground.
A few moments later a vole appeared on the limb and started its escape.
“With increasing anxiety, he watched the little vole make its way along the branches, deliberately, slowly, seemingly dazed by the bright light of daytime.
“Conflicting feelings tugged at Bailey, his paradox realized: he never before had seen a living specimen of a red tree vole and wished to observe as much of its habits as he could; at the same time he did not want to lose his opportunity to collect the specimen.
“’I could take no chances of losing so precious a specimen’, he later wrote. With the tree vole about twenty feet from him, he drew his collecting pistol, aimed slightly to one side so as not to damage the fur, and knocked the animal to the ground.
As George Jobanek wrote in his excellent historical chronicle of naturalists pursuing tree voles from which I have quoted, the Biological Survey’s Bailey finally collected the elusive red tree vole a day before his 50th birthday.
If the codger is lucky, he’ll "bag" the rodent in pixels before the year is out.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to climb 80 feet, and I was armed with a camera trap rather than a shooting iron.
Jobanek, G.A. 1988. Searching for the tree vole: an episode in the 1914 Biological Survey of Oregon. Oregon Historical Quarterly, 89(4):369-400.
|Looking up from the nest.|
|The camera ready to go (the rope came down with the climber)|