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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.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Mouse of the North Woods

Southern Red-backed Vole (Myodes gapperi), Kiskatinaw Campground, British Columbia

There wasn't much time for camera trapping when we had only a month to drive 7000 miles and see the sights on the AlCan Highway.

There was no time to hump through the muskeg or climb through the slash.

I told myself to forget about lynx, wolves, and wolverines and set my sights on campground fauna.

And that's where I met the Southern Red-backed Vole (hereafter RBV).

They greedily scarfed sunflower seeds before my camera traps.

I expected deer mice, but the Southern RBV seemed to be the dirt-common mouse of the north woods.

I found them in conifer forests, aspen groves, and degraded woodland common around RV parks. 

I thought voles were herbivores, but red backed voles are more omnivorous than many voles of the genus Microtus, and they also eat underground fungi.

Some related voles are good climbers, but the Southern RBV's short legs, long chassis, and short tail is designed for running on the ground.

And unlike meadow voles, they don't engineer tunnels in low growing vegetation.

The Southern RBV is found across Canada, and ranges as far south as the Columbia River in the northwest US, but it apparently managed to reach New Mexico and Arizona via the Rocky Mountains.

It's well adapted to northern climes, starts breeding under thick snow, and lives a year on average, though a few survive to see a second winter.  

I appreciate this denizen of the north woods, and was pleased to add it to my list of camera-trapped  critters.


Foresman, K.R. 1012. Mammals of Montana. Mountain Press Publishing Company, Missoula.

Armstrong, D.M., J.P. Fitzgerald, and C. A. Meaney. 2011. Mammals of Colorado. Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Boulder.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Happy Hour in Whitefish

Logger Bob Love, the real thing.

August, 6 -- Whitefish, Montana

It was our last day at Carl's cabin, because we were heading North to Alaska the next day.

We drove to Kalispell for supplies and to have a tire repaired,and then we pigged out on barbecue.

Food coma soon followed, and we headed home.

Carl had the foresight to save some of the meal for the ladies, who had been busy at the cabin, and this made our power-naps somehow excusable.

When we awoke the woods were rumbling. So we strolled over to watch Logger Bob sawing and munching piss firs with his machines.

Bob is the real thing. No lumbersexual wears pitch-stained pants, and smells like chain saw exhaust.

Carl hired Bob to thin the piss firs, "because they crowd out the larches and pines".

"They're as common as wood rats around here, and they stink like rats, too."

(Carl always abuses my favorite rodent in my presence.)

Yep, Piss firs. I hadn't heard of them either.

The colorful moniker comes from the subalpine fir's habit of releasing a stream of water when bored with a forester's auger. So says the Slang Dictionary. 

Break time in the pickup.
While we admired the machinery, Bob's dog Sparky hunted Montana's other native scoundrel, the bushy-tailed wood rat.  

Sparky knows where to find these handsome rodents, and how to flush them, and if he doesn't nail them on the run, he trees them and stands vigil till they come down and make a run for it. 

Our dogs Fred and Petey found Sparky to be a really neat guy, and joined him in the chase, but they just didn't get the waiting game under the tree.

Sparky stood vigil while
Petey and Fred wanted in.
Fred can't even catch a squirrel, and thinks the game ends when the squirrel goes up the tree.

So when Sparky treed a rat that afternoon our dogs drifted off and were soon looking wistfully into the cabin.

Before long it was happy hour, and a chance to chat with a real Montana logger.

We gathered on Carl's porch next to the beer cooler where Moose Drool and other brews greased the skids.

Soon we swapping stories about trees, timber, wood, land, and of course wildlife.

Old snags?  Bob knew of a big one used by bears as a hibernaculum.

I asked if he had ever seen a wolverine out here. 

I doubted he had, but I was wrong.

"I passed one on the shoulder of the road one morning.

"It had it's head up the butt-end of a road killed deer, and was within shooting range of any passing pickup. 

"So I walked it away from the road and called the game warden."

"The warden dragged the carcass up into the woods, and the wolverine survived a close call with civilization.

Salted into Bob's accounts was the name of Bud Moore.

Moore grew up in the Bitterroots, trapped and built cabins as a teenager, was a Marine during WW2, and worked for the Forest Service most of his life.

He was one of those rare individuals who "listened to the land and learned from it".

"Bud was like my brother, grandfather, father, mentor and best friend. It was like we'd known each other in previous lives, and reconnected.  We will again one day."
Moore was a toddler when writer Norman MacLean worked for the Forest Service, but their paths crossed decades later when MacLean needed a fact checker for his draft of A River Runs Through It.

In Bob's words . . .

"McLean didn't know Bud at the time, but since Bud knew the country and characters in the stories, he asked him to check the manuscript for facts.  In Bud's words, 'I took my red pencil to it and sent it back'.  The edits didn't go over well, but Maclean eventually agreed they were warranted."

"Bud was on the team that investigated the Mann Gulch fire, and was responsible for the Fire Fighter's standard safety rules, which are still in effect today."

"They are fashioned after the Marine Rules of Battle Conduct.  Bud had been in the Marines, and couldn't recall the rules to the letter, but he thought they'd be applicable to fire fighting."

"The team was meeting in DC, near some military facility.  Bud went out and found a Marine at a bus stop, and asked him to recite the rules.  He wrote them down, brought them back to the meeting, and they were adopted by the FS."

The Maclean-Moore relationship grew into one of mutual respect, and when Moore was writing The Lochsa Story he observed that "McLean took care of my inclination to put outdoor pursuits first, desk work last. Every time I dropped my pencil and looked at my fly rod, he would show up in some form or another."

I had one last question before Bob headed home.

"What's wrong with Sparky's paw?" (Sparky favored one paw. Was it a casualty of the chase?)

"Compound fracture", said Bob. "He broke his leg when he fell off a roof, trying to get deer fat I'd put up there for ravens.   

"Maybe I should have had it cut off. He wouldn't be in such pain, but he wouldn't be able to catch wood rats either." 

It was a happy hour I won't forget.

Cawelti, John.  www.press.uchicago.edu/books/maclean/maclean_cawelti.html
[an interesting excerpt about Maclean's analytical and critical compliment of a lecture Cawelti once gave at the University of Chicago -- from Cawelti's book, Norman Maclean: Of scholars, fishing, and the River]

Moore, Bud. 1996. The Lochsa Story, Land Ethics in the Bitterroot Mountains. Mountain Press Publishing Company, Missoula, Montana

Maclean, Norman. 1992. Young Men and Fire. University of Chicago Press, Chicago

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Another Thanksgiving dog story

It was too late when I found Fred completing the ancient dog rite of self-anointment.

He had found something that smelled like a pig sty, and his white throat and orange collar were reeking with a repulsive brown residue.

I've never smelled anything quite that poor in the woods, and the only solution was canine scent exorcism.  

"You're getting a bath". 

Happy-dog turned to hang-dog. He knew what was coming.  

I drove home with the windows open and thought about my options. 

A fecal-scented dog goes over like the proverbial turd in the punchbowl, but when your wife is baking pies the day before Thanksgiving it's far worse than that.  

Full disclosure of Fred's condition clearly was not in the interest of smooth domestic relations, but I had a plan.

The simple act of bathing him for the holiday -- without reference to the real reason, would be a thoughtful consideration.  

I tethered Fred on the deck, drew two buckets of warm water from the mud room without alerting the redhead, donned my rubber boots, and thoroughly lathered the dog twice with a commercial "oatmeal doggie shampoo".

When I toweled him off he was ready to play.

I poked my head in the door to the warm balm of pumpkin pie. 

"Hi Sweetie, I gave Fred a bath so he'll smell good for his birthday".

He rolled on the carpet --  a regular post-bath ritual --  and fetched a toy from his toy box.

I felt the burden ease up, but a little later my wife observed that Fred smelled "a little strange", and asked what shampoo I used?

"He smells like a bowl of hot oatmeal, doesn't he?"

I gave him the sniff test and found that the shampoo had removed 95% of the strange scent.

A faint but distinctive sickly sweet residue remained.

I decided to come clean, and all was well.

I was the only one with the memory of that fetid-scent, and I couldn't get it out of my nose.

We gave Fred his usual dinner of kibble before Thanksgiving dinner, but garnished it for the occasion with pulled turkey neck meat.

Then we gave him his birthday gift -- a new "stumpy toy" (read fuzzy hollow stump with holes and squeaky owl toys inside).

He obsessed with it until dinner was served. 

He sat through the meal with his head near my lap. I was the only one who could smell his scent residue.

The story could have ended there, but there was more.

After dinner Fred amused us with his toys, but when the ladies were washing dishes, he stole the remains of the turkey neck from the kitchen garbage. He wolfed most of it down before I could react to the protests in the kitchen. 

This was definitely out of character, but he seemed to sense that the occasion was his.

The next morning we found that he barfed up the turkey meat next to our bed.

But party dog was back to normal.

Does this give me second thoughts about having a dog? Hell no!  

Fred's an endless source of entertainment, and what's more, he just discovered a new species

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Little Earthmover

Ever wonder what a mountain beaver does outside of its burrow?


I guess I'm not surprised. 

Well, have a look anyway.

Here's some footage of a mother and her offspring taken during last summer's Camera Trapping Workshop in the northern Sierra Nevada.

There's not much to say.

Mountain beavers are just like big pocket gophers when it comes to moving earth. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How to kill a dead snake

The background to this video concerns my good neighbor, a hard-working businessman, dog-lover, Iron Man competitor, irrepressible optimist, and electronic wizard who loves all things natural, except rattlesnakes.

When California's foothills warm up in the spring, Pacific diamondback rattlesnakes show up to lounge in the morning sun.

And last spring my neighbor from Chicago, let's just call him Larry, started finding rattlesnakes lounging in his backyard.

When this happens most folks around here start to curse and do a little fandago with a shovel or hoe while beating the snake to a pulp.

And that pretty much describes how this rattler met its demise.

Larry was kind enough, however, to deliver the corpse in a bucket, and after removing its head, I stashed it in a hole dug by a local pair of gray foxes.

The camera showed how a cautious fox "kills" a dead snake.

Its reaction tells me this wasn't the first time it used the old "shake and break" method to dispatch a snake.

But it makes you wonder if gray foxes prey on rattlers very often, and if so, how risky is it?

I imagine that as long as a fox seizes a rattlesnake somewhere away from the head, and shakes it quickly and violently, it can inflict a fatal whiplash and prevent a venomous bite.

It's not something I expect to see, so someone else will have to prove it.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Slinky grim reaper of the underworld

Long-tailed weasel with prey.

There's a good reason weasels are long and skinny.

It's "essential to the profession of a burrow-hunting rodent predator...", wrote weasel expert Carolyn King.

This photo of hunter and quarry was taken in a mountain beaver burrow, and it would seem to prove the point.

But did this long-tailed weasel kill the golden-mantled ground squirrel in the burrow?  Or did it dispatch the rodent above ground and then drag it into the burrow?

Golden-mantled ground squirrels are common in the area, but you find them in dry open coniferous forests rather than the riparian woodland and thickets where mountain beavers dig their burrows.

I've camera trapped this mountain beaver burrow almost seven months in the past 4 years, and the graph shows that golden mantled ground squirrels are not among its users.

I suspect the weasel killed the ground squirrel above ground and dragged it into the burrow to feed out of harms way. That's how weasels operate.

But as the graph shows, a weasel is more likely to encounter a mountain beaver in this burrow than a golden-mantled ground squirrel, and the chickarees and voles down there certainly run the risk of meeting this slinky grim reaper as well.

One other observation: the camera failed to record the resident juvenile and adult mountain beaver during the last sampling period. At least one mountain beaver has always been present.

Has the weasel appropriated this mountain beaver's underworld?

Is its nest now lined with the soft pelts of the previous residents?

I'll update you next month.

A chickaree shells a fir cone in the underworld earlier this month.


King, C. 1989. The natural history of weasels and stoats. Cornell University Press, Ithaca.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Errant Mountain Beaver

Folks up here on the ridge were recently roused to declare their biophilia when a mountain beaver was reported swimming down the Butte Creek Flume.

One of our local naturalists, a retired bike-riding school teacher known by his avatar Forest, documented the rare event in video.

This is the first verified record of mountain beaver in Butte County, and the discovery begs the question: From whence the errant rodent?

I'm an enthusiast of these guinea pig size rodents, and I recognize their haunts when I see them, but I have never seen their signs in the county of Butte.

They require lush vegetation for food and live in moist habitats with shallow water tables, Their burrows often tap into underground springs.

I guess I have to look a little harder.

Arctos, an extensive database of zoological records, lists mountain beaver specimens from several counties in the Sierra Nevada, including Shasta, Plumas, Eldorado, Sierra, Nevada, Placer, Mono, Mariposa, and Tulare.

I suspect this particular rodent entered the flume voluntarily, swam around, and went with the flow.

But here's the rub. Its flume float could not have been longer than about 3 miles.

If the rodent had embarked on its swim further upstream it would have passed into a deadly siphon that conveys the water down and then up a ravine.

Even Houdini couldn't have made it through that siphon alive.

If the mountain beaver's odyssey started above the siphon, it had to travel by land to bypass the siphon and reach the flume's navigable portion.

Unfortunately, the neighborhood's flumes do not lead to suitable habitat for mountain beavers. So I doubt this rodent's trip led it to greener pastures.

It was an unusual event and it makes you wonder.

Did the mountain beaver abandon its home because of the drought? Or was it just a normal attempt to disperse that few people ever see?

We're lucky to have naturalists like Forest here.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A California Grizz Story Resurrected

For readers of this blog who wonder now and then about the California Grizzly, or grizzly bears in general, Natural History Magazine has just published a fascinating story about the death of California's second to last golden bear . . .  and its sequelae. The author is historian Josh Sides. 

Read about it here

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Young Fluffy

This little fellow, a fledging Western Screech Owl showed up this afternoon out of nowhere.

It was on our neighbor Dave's driveway, and the AT&T man (who was repairing a squirrel-chewed telephone line) put the owlet on a limb and out of harms way.

Neighbor Dave told neighbor Richard, who told me, and I grabbed my camera and snapped these photos.

Seeing a live owl or a young fluffy like this always makes my day.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Memories of Ted Reed, Part 2

Another installment from my presentation at the National Zoo last month.

The Clash of the Cultures – academics and managers

Ted Reed hired a top notch staff. The National Zoo in the 1970s probably had more Ph Ds than any other American zoo. 

But Ted had created a 600 lb gorilla. 

His scientists were free-thinkers, could "pile it higher and deeper" than most zoo folk, often disagreed with each other, and could be relied upon to question the Director's decisions.

The zoo's Academics were from the University of Free Thought, and its Managers were from an altogether different universe.  

The clash was about the quest for truth versus the quest for organizational wellness.

Ted wasn't used to the ways of the zoo's new academic culture.

One of the freethinkers was Professor Edwin Gould, who had quit his job at Johns Hopkins University to become the zoo's Curator of Mammals.

Ed Gould, in field garb in Canada
late 70s.
At the time there was an arthritic and tired old Bruin at the zoo named Smokey the Bear.

The iconic Smokey roused the Professor's deepest sentiments, and true to his academic upbringing Ed wanted to air his feelings with the Director.

He made an appointment with the Director, and shared his views about the lessons of wildfire in the American west, about fire ecology, and about the misguided policy of the US Forest Service.

He finished his discourse with a zinger: “We all we know it’s a lie.”

Ted had listened patiently.

“Gould, forget about Smokey. Smokey’s a big hit with the visitors and the Congress, and he’s here to stay. Go back to your office and think of some neat animals we can get for the public.”

Walking back to his office, Gould could only chuckle at the Director's skillful dismissal.

The Problematic issue of Species Selection

Selecting species for the newly acquired Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Virginia, was often more contentious than Smokey's presence in DC.

Dr Reed convened a CRC planning committee and monthly meetings were held at the center.

The committee selected the Pere David’s deer as the first species to go to the center.

Aaron, in full rut, one of the first Pere David's deer at the
National Zoo's Conservation and Research Center. 

They had bred themselves out of space at the zoo, and moving animals to Front Royal solved the zoo's surplus deer problem.

The Scimitar horned oryx was the second species selected.

Scimitar-horned oryx at CRC in the mid 1970s. SNZP photo.
Then Dr Reed threw in a wild card – Bactrian camels, and the staff grumbled. The zoo didn't have Bactrian camels, and what's more, captive "Bactrians" are domesticated.

Ted didn’t care. Bactrian camels were uncommon in zoos at the time, and they were a “bread and butter” species. When mom and dad took the kids to the zoo, one of their expectations was to see camels.

Ted wasn’t to be deterred, and I am glad he stood his ground.

Meade Barn, the Bactrian camel facility
Meade Barn was retrofitted for camels, and the new camel herd arrived from the Minnesota Zoo with fanfare.

The Governor of Minnesota and his selected staff arrived by helicopter, and Dr Reed and a few NZP staff  attended the ceremony at Meade Barn.

We actually received two breeding males, Humphrey, named for a popular country hit by Blanchard and Morgan, and the small-bodied Jimmy,

Even with 30 acres to explore, Jimmy spent all his time trudging a small figure 8 in the turf. He was totally deranged, and a sad example of what happens when animals are penned up in small enclosures.

But Humphrey showed all the promise of a breeding male.

The magnificent Humphrey.
During the winter rutting season he urinated on his tail and flapped it on his rear hump, and rubbed the coffee-colored fluid from his poll gland on the front hump.

Humphrey was also assertive and challenging to other camels, another sign of the testosteronized male.

Our opinions about Bactrian camels quickly changed.

They were cool mega-mammals, and charismatic in their own distinctive way. We started collecting data.

Humphrey takes on a rival. 

A year passed. When Dr Reed visited the center he wanted to see camels first, and asked when we were going to have babies.

Humphrey wasn't delivering the goods, so we organized an observation team to monitor breeding activity.

The research team that monitored reproductive behavior of the camel herd. 

Then our veterinarian, Mitch Bush, and colleagues examined Humphrey more closely and attempted to collect semen.

They discovered that our stud "shot blanks".

Despite his macho appearance, his testes had never descended into the scrotum. He was cryptorchid. He was the great pretender.

Word of Humphrey's impotence soon spread to other zoos, and that year the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums (now the AZA) honored the National Zoo with four awards . . .

I was there when Ted received the award, and he played the fool artfully.

Recently, Ted's son Mark informed us that the award was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Ted believed that zoos generate enough levity without the help of special awards from the AAZPA.

He prodded the association to change their policy.

The next year AAZPA's  board of directors announced they were discontinuing the Zoo-Goof-of-the-Year-Award.  

I was disappointed with that decision, but it was one more example of the clash of the cultures.


Thanks to Kris Vehrs and Barbara Bueschel for locating the Associated Press clipping, to Ed Gould for sharing his memories of his early days at NZP, and to Mark Reed for filling me in on the consequences of the AAZPA's last Goof of the Year Award.

Wemmer, C. and J. Murtaugh. 1980. Olfactory aspects of rutting behavior in the Bactrian camel, Camelus bactrianus ferus. Pp 107-124 in Chemical Signals, Vertebrates and Aquatic Invertebrates (D. Muller-Schwarze et al, eds) . 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

My New Screen Saver

I get off on plutons.

So, this is my latest screen saver -- El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.

I took it a couple days ago with a Lumix FZ200.

The images from the hand-held camera were a wee blurry, but this one was taken on a tripod with delayed exposure.

Can you see the 3 climbers?

If John Muir saw Yosemite today he would be horrified, but for the rest of us, it is certainly still worth seeing.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Memories of Ted Reed

Buckminster invites the author to a sparring match (ca 1979)

There is a reason you haven't heard from me lately. 

I was busy writing my personal memories of the late Theodore H. Reed, who died last year at the age of 90. 

Ted Reed was Director of the Smithsonian National Zoological Park from 1955 to 1982, and he hired me in 1974 to work at the zoo's Conservation and Research Center.

Several colleagues joined me recently at the National Zoo to memorialize Dr. Reed and celebrate the National Zoo's 125th anniversary. 

Here's one of my anecdotes from the late 1970s.  

"In due course, the Zoo and its conservation center became destinations worth seeing, and Ted hosted visiting VIPs with a personal touch. 

One of those VIPs was the Director of the Zurich Zoo, Heini Hediger, who was well known as the father of Zoo Biology.

In those days, a curator who hadn't read Hediger's books, Man and Animal in the Zoo, and The Psychology of Animals in Zoos and Circuses hadn't done his or her homework. 

Ted had me open gates, and do "the show and tell".  

At Greenhill Barn we had a herd of young Eld's deer that had been hand-reared for studies of reproduction, and being a keen student of ungulate behavior, I demonstrated the universal signal used by deer to terminate unwanted social interaction, such as invitations to spar with the antlers. 

The basic rule is this: Don't make eye contact. Turn away and just graze or pretend to graze. 

We observed this cut-off signal many times in different species of deer.

Even a person can give the signal by turning away and plucking grass with the hand. 

On this occasion my imitation worked like a charm.

Buckminster was game for a sparring match, and followed me around poking me in the butt.

I just kept plucking grass, and soon he lost interest and started grazing.  

Ted called the next day, and asked me to get photos of the sequence with Buckminster.

Hediger had been impressed and wanted the photos for his lectures. 

"Dr. Reed, it doesn’t always work. I’m not sure he’ll do it again.” 

Ted's response? “Just get it. He did it yesterday, he’ll do it again.”  

It took a while to get those pictures, but Ted's prediction was right. 

Buckminster finally tired of horning me in the butt and started to graze.  

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Red Tree Voles up close

Michael Durham, who happens to be one gifted wildlife photographer -- recently clicked some crystal clear images of red tree voles.

Read about his project here, and feast your eyes on these special rodents of our great Douglas fire forests.

It's also good to know these little canopy crawlers are subjects of ongoing scientific research.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Catnipping Bobcat

Getting cabin fever.

We've gotten but half the average rainfall we should have at this time of year.

 But I'm not complaining

To keep the show going I'm posting this brief video of a bobcat getting it on with a little castoreum and synthetic catnip oil.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Fred Learns the String Test

I'll never know for sure where Fuzzy came from, but suspect that Fred absconded with it from a neighbor's front yard.

We had great fun with Fuzzy, as you'll see in the video, and the game was a good way to dust the truck.  

But Fuzzy's departure was as sudden and mysterious as its appearance, and that was end of the string tests.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A White Winter Weasel

The short-tailed weasel or ermine, Dec 19, 2013, 1840 h

I just scratched the white winter weasel from my camera trapping bucket list. 

At least the white short-tailed weasel (Mustela erminea). 

The white long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata) remains to be camera-bagged.

White weasels of course are just brown weasels camouflaged in white winter coats. 

You find them where you can rely on long snowy winters, which is north of the 40th parallel.  On the mild west coast, the white-weasel-line jogs north into British Columbia.   

I bagged my white weasel near Yuba Pass on a steep north slope, in a jumble of broken granite shaded by red fir.

Some time in the past a large mass of granite cleaved and released a large flake of stone that slid several feet and settled against its mother.

The result was a narrow slot, a shelter, the kind of place small boys and codgers in their second childhood love to explore.

I was ready to camtrap "the granite flake" two summers ago, but a yellow jacket nest changed my mind. 

It was only the size of a grapefruit, but big enough to scare me off.  

The nest was gone last fall, so I set the camera on October 8th using civetone and castoreum as elevated scent lures.  

View from north opening.
View from south.

Bill and I checked it last Wednesday. The Lithium AA batteries lasted 94 days, and in addition to the white weasel -- here's what we got: 

Montane vole (Microtus montanus): 6 visits/8 photos

Bushy-tailed wood rat (Neotoma cinerea): 8 visits/13 photos. Last visit:Oct 18. Here it gathers lichen as nest material and/or food.

Brush mouse (Peromyscus boylii): 58 visits/146 photos. Many photos recorded one or more of these characters gathering papier mache from the wasp nest.

Trowbridge shrew (Sorex trowbridgii): 1 visit/1 photo (Nov 14)

Long-eared chipmunk (Tamias quadrimaculatus): 11 visits/14 photos (Last visit: Nov 21)

Chickaree (Tamiasciurus douglasii): 11 visits/14 photos 

You all know, of course, that we're in a bad bad drought.

There was little snow on route 49 until we reached 6000 ft. Normally it would be down to 4000 ft.

Below the current snow line those white winter weasels are an advertisement to predators, mainly carnivores and birds of prey.

Not to worry my friends, the furry and feathered agents of natural selection have already started to fix the problem.

[thanks to "Bill W, MJC" for the good company and watchful eyes]


King, C. 1990. The natural history of weasels and stoats. Cornell University Press, Ithaca

Hall, E.R. 1951. American weasels. University of Kansas Publications, Museum of Natural History 4:1-466.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Camtrapping the Western Ghats

Karanth and team radio-collar a leopard
in Ngarahole National Park in the 1980s

Here are some terrific camera trap photos of carnivores from the Western Ghats, the major mountain range of southwest India.

They are a testament to the dedication and leadership of Ullas Karanth and his able colleagues at WCS-India

Ullas (lower right) has devoted his career to the conservation of tigers and the landscapes they depend upon.

The tell-tale equipment seen in the photos is a reminder of the first generation of commercial trail cameras. 

The Trailmaster active infra-red motion detectors seen in the background rely on a beam of IR light between a transmitter and receiver. 

The detector can be adjusted to detect different species based on the duration of beam interruption. 

The Olympus point and shoot cameras were quick acting 35 mm models that captured the action quite well. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Big bear sniffs, Little bear rubs

With all the warm dry weather the bears have been more active than in past years.

It's much easier for codgers to get around in the woods in beautiful dry weather, but it's ominous when the insects are prematurely abundant and trees are blossoming early.

I dread thinking about wildfire this year.

But life goes on in the barranca.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Unexpected appearance of a British Beaver

The British love their wildlife, because precious little of it remains.

Even when this rare beaver mysteriously appeared and started chewing up the trees, the property owner showed commendable forbearance.

Enjoy the article and film clip.

And thanks to Richard Lair for the link. (Much appreciated, Richard.)

Monday, January 20, 2014

What are rats good for?

If you've ever asked yourself that question, read this now!

And be sure to watch the video of the rat kennel and training facility.

[Thanks to Rod Jackson for the link]

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Wanna Go Walkie?

Every now and then I used to dog-sit for our good neighbors who own Fred's mom, Roxie.

At the time I had just gotten my new GoPro Hero2 with the various mounts and waterproof case, and "the walkie" seemed a good opportunity to start using the equipment.

Here you get some glimpses of three slightly deranged creatures enjoying each others company in the heat of the summer.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Hollow Log

I've been scoping out the woods for hollow logs, meaning potential den sites, and the "jonah log" was an irresistible camera trap location.

I wasn't optimistic, because even the light from an infrared LED could dissuade an napper.

On the other hand, Craig and I had a gray fox take a high noon siesta in a cave where the white flash pulsed continuously, and it wasn't bothered in the least.

As you will see (and yes, I expect you to read this BEFORE looking at the video) no one took a nap.

But even so, there was a interesting selection of visitors.