About Me

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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Friday, April 26, 2013

In the family way

We're hoping this badger is in the family way, and we can't even prove it's a she-badger.

But she looks feminine, and she is doing all the right things. 

She's spending an awful lot of time in this one burrow at the Chimineas Ranch, and the burrow has a huge tailing of fresh dirt.

And it's baby-badger-time-of-year. They give birth in March and April.

With the help of our trusty friend Craig, and his assistants, RandomTruth and I spent a few days at the ranch last month setting cams at carnivore dens.

At this promising den I set a Sony s600 for stills, and a Bushnell Trophy for videos of playful badger babies.

Regrettably, the Trophy can't be set for night time only, so there's been a flurry of false triggers in the heat of the day.

Craig, our good man in Chimineas has been cleaning the lenses and checking the memory cards.

Here's his most recent message.
"It seems that the badger shots decreased quite a lot over the course of the month.  I'm hoping it's because she had youngsters. 
As the badger usage decreased, Heermann's kangaroo rat visitation increased.  There are many shots of them bouncing around the entrance to the den. 

When I reset the camera, I saw that there was a rodent hole just above the badger den.  It seems unwise for a fossorial small mammal to have a den next to a badger den, but kangaroo rats were never known for their smarts.  
Raccoons visited the den and sniffed around a few times over the course of the set.  I still think that the badger is using this den."  

Knock on wood, my friends.

Let us hope the blessed event has transpired and that mom is blissfully nursing her litter.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Going for shrew and bagging shrew

A chance encounter between two Trowbridge shrews (tentative id) 

Humbolt County, April 2013:

Question: Why don't camera trappers photograph more shrews?

Answer:  They aren't looking for schtinkin' shrews, because they aren't interested in shrews.

Who cares about little tiny ferocious mammals that eat 1.5 times their own weight a day in insects, spiders, centipedes, and worms?

Shrews may be one of the most abundant predators in woodland habitats, but it's their small size that makes them hard to photograph.

Camera trappers focus on the larger animals they know, and when camera traps are set for larger species shrews are usually undetectable.

Shrews live in a different time-space continuum, and I've photographed only a few by mistake.

They are usually a speck in the overall image, often partially hidden in leaf litter, and they are hard to identify. That's why most good pictures of shrews are nature-faked.

But they are intriguing subjects, and a few months ago I set a camera specifically for shrews.

I knew it might be a waste of time, but I staked the camera close to a rotting redwood log, and clawed away the surface litter, thinking the disturbance might attract a hungry shrew.

The batteries lasted 70 days, and there were 83 photos.

But only three pictures were of animals, and as far as I can tell, all were Trowbridge shrews with bald tails [yes, older shrews can lose their bicolored tail pattern to baldness].

The surprise was a pair of shrews having an altercation.

Going for shrew and bagging shrew may have been a stroke of good luck.

I'll have to repeat the exercise several more times to convince myself that I really know how to hunt shrew.