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.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

A year of camera trappin'

Luck--or being at the right place at the right time accounts for some success, but not all success. I wanted to measure my camera trapping success under different conditions. After all, who wants to trudge through cold rain and mud only to find 20 exposures without critters. It’s like the Earth Goddess forgot to put your packages under Nature’s Christmas tree. So it's time to summarize the many days I squandered in the woods (when I could have been doing something useful, like raking leaves or cleaning gutters).

On a spreadsheet I recorded:
a) the amount of time the cam was available to photograph wildlife,
b) the location (a trail in the woods, a clearing, a water hole), and
c) the attractants used (bait, scent, scat, etc.), if any.

The cameras captured images of 14 species of mammals and one mammal I couldn't identify. This is a highly biased selection, because once an animal gave me a lead, I usually targeted the critter for pictures. Some species were easy to photograph. Foxes, skunks and rodents were attracted to baits, while ringtails and bobcats were not as vulnerable. Deer commonly use trails through the woods, but I wasn't after deer. I find it a little odd that there weren't more pictures of raccoons. And how come I'm not getting coyotes? The neighbors say 10 years ago they howled all night. Have they all been trapped out? The most unexpected picture was the shrew. Pure chance! The biggest thrill was the ringtail and puma, and the bear was gratifying after the ordeal it put me through.

Apologies to my ornithological friends. I never tried to photograph birds, but I got their pictures anyway. Jays, ravens and titmice were all attracted to sunflower seeds, but the hermit thrushes were a surprise. They were the most common visitor to one small waterhole deep in a ravine, where they seemed to be feeding on aquatic insects. (If there was a way to get closeups with these cameras I could get interested in taking pics of dicky birds).

I defined success rate as # of photos with animals divided by the total # of photos.

Total # of camera-trap-days: 755
Total # pictures: 2085
Total # animal pictures: 1060
Overall success rate: 50%
Range of success rate:
by camera: 20% to 90%
24 hr vs night: 33% vs 74%
unbaited sets: 22% (24 hr), 73% (night)
meat sets: 44% (24 hr), 79% (night)
waterhole sets: 72% (24 hr)
seed bait sets: 38% (24 hr), 74% (night)


NUMBER OF CAMERA TRAP DAYS: From Nov 13, 2005 to year's end 2006 I had anywhere from 1 to 5 camera traps in operation. I used 5 cameras: a Cuddaback, an Olympus 390, two Olympus 360Ls, one Sony P32, and 5 Sony s600s. (The Cuddaback is commercial, the others are "homebrews", hacked by the codger himself). I didn't run traps all year long. So the sample size could have been larger.

CAMERA DIFFERENCES: There were differences between cameras in the time required to fire up when the PIR first detects "moving heat. I didn’t compare cams because the sample size was small in some cameras, and there were too many uncontrolled variables. When I adopted the Sony s600, I stopped using the others. The s600 doesn’t fire up as fast as the p32 and P41, but the 6 MP pictures are a compensation. The biggest improvement for me was the production of the new Trail Mode chip for the Pixcontroller board. It allows rapid succession of exposures. Once activated the camera remains on for another 30 seconds after each PIR event. This allows the camera to rapidly fire like a paparrazo. That’s exactly what I want—a camera that takes as many pictures possible as long as the animal is present. "I don't want no schtinkin' minimal interval of 1 minute between pictures."

24 HR VERSUS NIGHT MODE: At many camera sets where the sun reached the ground the sensor detected warm moving air and triggered the camera. False triggering explains the different success rates of the 24 hr and night modes. I got fewer false triggers in night mode.

BAITED VERSUS UNBAITED CAMERAS: Bait almost always increased the number of animal pictures (success rate). Presence or absence of bait seems to have made little or no difference at night. This seems odd, and may be an artifact. I need to look into this next year.

CONCLUSION: My highest success rates came when I used bait, and set the mode for nocturnal shots only. Isolated waterholes attracted birds and mammals just as well as bait does, and 24 hours a day at that, though bears never bathed or drank at night. But I failed to photograph a number of mammals that I know are here. I'll sample more habitats this coming year, and experiment with different kinds of lures. My colleagues and I are also talking about teaming up to do an experiment on the effectiveness of different attractants.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Stumped by birds

I was stumped.

Ever since ringtail exposed herself, I've been angling for more pictures of that trim body, and especially a few shots showing the full length of that gloriously fluffy banded tail. Getting more pictures of that little charmer meant I had to outsmart the fox. Ringtail had stayed away ever since Br'er fox showed up. He had become a camera hog. I mean, 70 pictures a night is a bit much.

My ploy was to place the bait out of the fox's reach, because ringtails are good climbers. As you have seen ("Br'er fox can climb"), a four foot snag was no contest for the fox. So the next night I draped the goodies--chicken neck and liver--on the log's tallest snag, thinking that six feet might be out of reach. I staked the cam 6 feet away and set it for a vertical frame or "portrait".

The next day the bait was gone and I chuckled "Got it"! I switched the camera to VIEW, and got the blue screen with that disappointing message: "No file in the folder"--technotalk for "no pictures". Time for analysis. The sensor must be out of kilter, I thought, and it must be related to the camera's vertical position. Ringtail could also be eluding the sensor by climbing up the back of the snag. I turned on the control board, did the "walk test", and re-adjusted the camera's position.

The next day--same message, no pics. Then it dawned on me. The bait thieves are coming during the day, dummy! I changed the dip switch from "Night" to "24 hour" pictures.

On the third day, the bait was gone, but the cam had captured the images of thieving ravens. I had been stumped by birds.

There were three ravens sat in a tree
Down a down hey down hey down.

They were as black as black can be
With a down

And one of them said to his mate
O where shall we our breakfast take
with a down derry derry derry down down

O down in yonder bramble wood
Down a down hey down hey down

There is a man who's done us good
with a down

Each day he ambles down the trail
his mind is gone, but he's not yet frail
with a down derry derry derry down down

For reasons only known to him
Down a down hey down hey down

He dangles chicken on the limb
with a down

It's such good luck that such lost souls
stuff well-cured mice in wooden holes
with a down derry derry derry down down

He must have gone to graduate school
Down a down hey down hey down

Its only there they make such fools
With a down

Thank God he ignored the honeydo list
Or this fine meal we would have missed

[Okay, okay--I hacked it badly--but it's easier to mangle an old ballad than write it from scratch.]

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The owl and the pussy cats

I set the cam at this mossy rock at a creek crossing on Dec. 6. Nothing happened there at all until Dec 20 when the gray fox showed up for two pics. The pumas came on Dec 22nd and 23rd. I got two pictures of them each day. These are the same two cats I photographed 18 days earlier sitting on the road below our house (see "No poodles tonight"). You can still see vague spots from the cub's neonatal coat, and from the size of its feet I would guess that its a male.

But let's not ignore the screech owl (or is it saw whet owl), who made its appearance the day after Christmas. When our windows are open in the summer we listen to this fellow's serenade, but so far he hasn't moved in to either of two nest boxes I hung in the woods.

Sasquatch raids the garbage

Sasquatch got into the garbage last night. In our neighborhood, Waste Management collects the garbage Wednesday morning; so everyone drags their cans to the road the night before. Sasquatch seems to know the schedule. She (and maybe other bears) have been doing the garbage run here for several years. Even down in Butte Creek canyon you can find bear scat with black plastic in it.

Neighbor Richard, who can see the garbage cans from his house, called this morning and reported that his garbage can was upright, my can was knocked over but the garbage was untouched, and neighbor Shannon's garbage was all over the place.

Richard's forensic interpretation is that Shannon's garbage was the first target. It probably smelled the best, and Sasquatch obviously took her time dining there. After that, she tipped Richard's can and triggered the "screaming canary" alarm--that's the one dollar security alarm that he fastened to the lid of his can (see October's post "Coexistence at last"). When the bear stumbled backwards, he surmises, it knocked over my can. Presumably, it was so alarmed by the ear-piercing "canary" that it went away. [Two of the neighbor's dogs were eating scraps when Richard visited the scene of the crime. He said they cowered and tucked their tails between their legs when he lifted his garbage can lid and the canary started to scream.

I checked the camera traps by my house, but there were no bear pictures. Sasquatch must have approached the neighborhood by a different route.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Jackalope shed its horns

The jackalope rut must be over, because this buck is no longer wearing his headgear. He has that alarmed and bug-eyed look that many bucks get when they lose these weapons and status symbols that are so important for reproductive success in jackalope society.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Familiarity cures camera shyness

What is it and what does it mean? It's a closeup of the ear of a gray fox, and it means the fox isn't afraid of the camera. But it wasn't always that way.

I can't prove it, but I am pretty sure that most of my several hundred gray fox pictures are of the same animal. My first encounters with it were fruitless. The animal took the bait, but evaded the camera's shutter.

Then I discovered that the little red light on the passive infra-red sensor was scaring the animal away. I deactivated the light and started to get pictures. For a while the fox was leary, and the pictures were nothing to write home about.

In a few weeks it became bold enough to scent mark shamelessly in front of the camera (see "A flawed photo essay..." Jan 2005). But many pictures were of the fox with closed eyes. It seemed to have an uncanny ability to anticipate the flash.

Now, many months later, it is actually curious about "the thing that flashes". This week was the first time I photographed the fox sticking its face in the camera and sniffing it. On the night of Dec. 20, 6 out of 59 photos of the fox were point blank face flashes. Of course Br'er fox kept his eyes shut.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Br'er fox can climb

I put the bait on top of the snag, and it wasn't much of a challenge. Gray foxes are known to be good climbers, and there's even a report of one climbing 18 m into a tree. But their descent is not as surefooted as a squirrel or ringtail, because they can't rotate the ankles of their hindlegs and hang on by the claws.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Br'er fox can't find mousie

Br'er fox triggered 70 exposures last night, and not a single one was blank. Here he is looking for the elusive mousie which is in the hole on the side of the log. He finally found it, but he hung around afterwards looking for more goodies.

I'll have to try some new camera angles now that I know how he moves around on the log. Wonder if he can get to the top of that snag?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Ringtail exposes herself

The secret to getting these pictures of a ringtail might have been a crab dinner last week. The next morning Shirlee woke up saying, "Do I smell garbage?" Half asleep and not smelling anything, I assumed
the question was a gentle message. "No dear, that must be me."

When I started to brew the coffee I knew what she was talking about. A powerful stench was coming from under the sink. I moved the reeking crab shells to the garage, where I was doing a project, and the stink increased even more during the day. Something had to be done. We couldn’t wait until garbage collection day. That’s when I got the idea. I crushed the shells in a plastic bag, transforming them into a gooey paste. Crab potion #9.

Late that afternoon I spooned the potion into some holes in an old cedar log where one of the cameras is set. Up to now the only visitors to this log had been a spotted skunk and mice, and I expected more pictures of the same. I was mighty pleased 24 hours later when I found this charming critter in 8 out of nine images!

I cropped the first shot, but the second one shows the full frame as she sniffs the tangy potion in the hole. After that she ate a bait mouse, but the camera was a little too close, and her head was partly out of the frame. Dang!

By the way, the ringtail plucked the mouse. There was a little pile of mouse fur at the foot of the log. As far as I know, that's a trait shared by cats, but not members of the raccoon family. No evidence that she sampled the potion, but it was still

Friday, December 8, 2006

Love is in the air?

The striped skunk mates in the winter. In January and February, the males ramble about looking for mates and often meet with misadventure when they cross busy highways. I have never gotten a picture of a family group or a pair of striped skunks, so this picture is a little unusual. There are two possibilities. A couple of skunks just happened to meet, or we are seeing a prelude to courtship. I favor the latter. It looks to me like the skunk in the foreground (a female?) is looking over its shoulder at the pursuer (an amorous male?).

More recently researchers have shown that stripped skunks den together in the winter--one male with a group of females.

Monday, December 4, 2006

No poodles tonight

A mountain lion and her half grown cub visited the suburbs of rural Magalia last night. The two cats seen here must have reached the ridge by some other route, or maybe they just skirted the camera trap's sensor. Anyway, it seems they gave up on sububan hunting early in the evening. The picture was taken at 12:24AM as they passed our house--heading back down into Butte Creek Canyon. . .which leads me to conclude that there were no poodles or other pets to be found for dinner. Mom sat down to lick her breast as she waited for her youngster--8 seconds later junior joined her and they resumed their stroll down the road.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Do skunk's scatter-hoard surplus food?

You know how the jackals and hyenas show up after the lion finishes its meal? Well, it looks like wood rats and deer mice here clean-up after mini-carnivores like Stinkarella, the spotted skunk.

This week the climbing skunk tackled and ate two gopher baits (Pics 1 and 2). The 2nd gopher (a big one) was gone in 45 minutes. The skunk then spent about 30 minutes coming and going, digging holes (pic 3), and checking out the cam (pic 4).

I didn’t give the digging much thought until I looked at the next 8 photos, which were triggered by 2 wood rats and a mouse (pics 5). The mouse was there first—an hour after the skunk’s exit. The rat made its appearance 3 hours later. It looks like the wood rat was digging where the skunk had dug. Stinkarella returned to the scene 25 minutes after the last wood rat photo (at 5:15AM), and stuck his head in the hole.

Hypothesis: the skunk "scatter hoards" its leftovers, just as a squirrel buries nuts. (Next time I’ll dig around to see what I find). Other animals "larder-hoard"--store a lot of food in one place. I haven't found any reference in the scientific literature about spotted skunks hoarding food. I admit the evidence is circumstantial, but maybe we're onto something.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

A winsome skunk

I hadn't encountered Stinkarella, the spotted skunk since last February, but a few nights back she made an appearance to dig up 4 pieces of salmon skin. I buried the skin in an old woodpile of bull-dozed manzanita. It was created by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) about 30-years ago. It's also a whistle stop for local small mammals. The smell of that salmon kept drawing her back that first night--she made 6 visits over an 8-hour period.

The pictures here were made the next night (9:11 PM, October 14), when I used two dead deer mice as bait. It took her 14 minutes to scarf the mice, during which time the camera took 21 pictures. A half hour later she was back to see if any more mice had appeared, and I got two more pics. It seems that's when she first noticed the camera. Five hours later the woodrat showed up to check out the scene. The pics were all taken at a considerable distance, so you are seeing the cropped images.

Friday, October 6, 2006

The fine art of scatology

I sent this photo to my old friend Brian Miller for help in identification. (Brian manages the Wind River Ranch in NE New Mexico). I found the scat on the trail next to the house. It was big and packed full of jackrabbit fur.

Brian answered: "Halfpenny says red fox scats are less than 18 mm wide (92% of the time), and coyote scats are between 18 mm and 25 mm wide (63% of the time). So it is too big for both of them. I use the sniff technique to separate felid, canid, and ursid scats. Every member of the canid family has that acrid, sharp smell. Pumas and bobcats have a smell just like domestic cats leave in the litter box. Bear scat smells like a musty old cigar. Of all the scents, I prefer bear. If the scat is still there, break it open and see if there is any scent left."

The timeless art of scat identificiation is a stepwise process starting with visual inspection, and usually ending with the sniff test. (The boy scout joke about the taste test is probably fiction, though biologists have shown that there are consistent differences in the pH of dog and cat poop.)

It is a moot point whether Brian lit and smoked the scat to get that cigar smell. But this all goes to show that identifying scats is truly a fine art. Like other paleolithic inventions such as cheese making, brewing, and the barbecue, scat identification is still alive and well in some quarters of modern society.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Coexistence at last

Checked the camera trap in the ravine today. A lot has changed since my last message about Sasquatch's contempt of cameras. This time there was no search and destroy mission when she arrived at the water hole, even though the camera was in plain sight. We seem to be co-existing at last.

After the depressing event last month, I wasn't about to leave another camera in the woods without added protection. I found the solution at the Dollar Tree Store. When you detach the magnet from this cheesy little security alarm its piercing scream sounds like an enormous German roller canary. Neighbor Richard and I installed the bear alarms on the camera traps. Spiked treadles serve as triggers.

I don't know if Bruin messed with the camera and got a blast from the "screaming canary" and pricked her bear paws. Maybe she was still satisfied with her last victory over technology. There were 14 bear pictures on the cam taken over the past 2 weeks. The bears made three different visits. Two series of shots were of the camera-eating Sasquatch, and one shot was of a cub drinking.

Sasquatch is into personal hygiene. Her ablutions start with a sitz-bath and peaceful reflection. Then she combs her hair. (The teats confirm that this is a she-bear.)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Sasquatch's Revenge

Well, it finally happened--my worse nightmare. Sasquatch trashed my camera trap. I took a calculated risk putting it there without the "spike protector"--which I stupidly forgot to put it in the rucksack. On Saturday I found my Sony p32 in the creek. Sasquatch had her evil way with it. She popped out the fresnel lens and the window protecting the camera lens and the flash, and then dragged it into her bathing pool. It had been underwater for 5 days, and of course the case was filled with water. My friend Pete Hoch took the pictures above.

Sasquatch also tried to "off" my new Sony s600, but the spike protector saved the day. When I looked at the time stamps on the picture files, I found that she had encountered this cam first. In only 8 minutes she had shuffled up the ravine and found the P32. It was as if she knew it was going to be there and was ready to settle her score with it. You can see her trying to fathom "that thing that flashes", and no, she's NOT trying to throw a lip-lock on it. Though she managed to pop out a window on this one too, the cam took 7 pictures of her insensitive behavior, which lasted 41 seconds.

I took the cameras home for salvaging and repair. A day in the sun brought the P32 back to life, but only for a few fleeting hours. Then it quietly expired. The Sony s600 only needed minor repair to the case, and was ready for work again.

Sasquatch just doesn't seem to get it--I only want her picture.

Sunday, September 3, 2006

Sasquatch--A Bed Time Tale

I became "trap shy" last March. I had been camera-trapping down in the ravine near my house. No, not trapping for cameras, but using automatic cameras to capture images of wildlife. You know, the sort of thing country folks do to scope out the big bucks before hunting season. On that fateful morning I found my camera torn from the tree. Something had chewed through the bungie cord that had held the camera there. Pieces of yellow cord were scattered on the ground like a gopher snake that had encountered a lawn mower. Was some punk kid toying with me? No, that didn’t add up. A kid would have swiped the camera. More likely it was local wildlife to blame. I didn’t think that a digital camera smelled good enough to eat, but the critter must have been hungry. It stripped the camouflage tape from the plastic conduit box that held the camera, and gnawed the corners. We’re not talking about the kind of cuttings made by a squirrel. Big pointy teeth made those marks.

But let me back up a bit. I had been using dead white-footed mice to lure a grey fox to an old cedar log in the hope of getting some nice portraits. The mice had been disappearing, but I was only getting pictures of a wood rat. I knew the mischief wasn’t the handiwork of a fox, nor the rat. There was something uncanny about this interloper. It could eat the mouse and manhandle the camera without being photographed. In other words, it had passed by the camera’s infra-red sensor so quickly, the camera didn’t have 3 seconds of time to fire up and snap a picture. I was nagged by a fear that whatever it was, it was going to destroy my precious camera trap. I decided to abandon my woodsy pastime until I had a deterrent.

Several months passed. Truth be told, I rely rather heavily on my neighbor Richard, a submarine veteran with a garage full of machines. Richard can make or fix anything, but he had been busy making a torpedo. Not a real torpedo, just a fake one for a float in a parade. Anyway he helped me make a couple of nail-studded metal collars that clamp on the cameras’ housing. They looked like medieval chastity belts for one-legged damsels.

Which brings me to that July morning. I stuffed the camera trap, steel cable, u-bolts, and tools into my rucksack, and rattled down the dirt road in the Green Hornet—my derelict 1980 Toyota pickup. My new destination hopefully was far from the whereabouts of the interloper. It was a glorious summer morning in the Sierra Nevada foothills. The temperature that I found so debilitating—it was in the mid 90s--was energizing every insect in the woods. They looked like charged particles as they flashed through the bright dappled light of the woods.

I parked where the road forks on the lower saddle of the ridge, sprayed myself with Off, swigged ice water, donned the pack, and waded into the poison oak. In a few minutes I located the old miner’s track, and plodded down the switchbacks into the dark ravine. This is definitely off the beaten track, and probably a splendid place to watch wildlife. But for the sake of survival I shamelessly abandon the stealth of Magic Shoes the Kickapoo. No, I thrash about, crack dead wood, and try to sound like a red-eyed sex-crazed bull moose in the peak of rut. True, the mountain lions in my neighborhood are fond of toy poodles, and the bears seem to prefer what they find in bird feeders and garbage cans, but you know, there’s always that chance you will meet up with one with different tastes.

I was 200 ft into the ravine when I arrived at the abandoned miner’s camp. I discovered the place last winter. There was a break in the rains, and I had cabin fever. I wanted to see how much water tumbles down these creek beds that are so dry most of the year. As I was wandering about something crunched under my foot--an old amber bottle labeled Himalya—the Cola Compound. I was standing in an old mining camp. I looked around and found what remains of the mine—a shallow tunnel filled with silt, a couple of collapsed mine pits, and tailings of rubble washed from the canyon wall. When I got home I fired up the computer and googled "California mines", but there was no record of this mine in the California register. The place is long forgotten. Then I googled "Himalya". "Nature’s cure for asthma" was manufactured in New York and Cincinnati in the 1890s. Snorting mine dust, pollen, and wood smoke, not to mention snuff, must have given the sourdoughs some horrendous sinus problems….

Anyway, I recognized the boulders in the creek bed from last winter, and climbed down the last100 feet to the bottom of the ravine. Hallelujah! A trickle of water greeted my ears. This was what I had been looking for--a little oasis, a veritable ojo de agua to draw in the parched game during the long hot summer. But the water looked kind of hairy. With my glasses on, I saw that the surface was thick with water striders. For 5 months in the winter and spring, creeks here literally boil down these stony trenches, but by late spring they are dry, except for a few pools that lie over bedrock. Apparently, the underground bedrock channels the water into these pools. They are ideal water holes for camera trapping, few and far between, in rough and nearly inaccessible terrain. But it seems the water striders get a little crowded.

I took off my pack to find a suitable tree to attach the camera, and my presence set off the jays. There were a few thick grape vines, but they were too limber. A huge dogwood also didn’t pass muster--it grew at the wrong angle and was covered with knobby growths. I settled for a Douglas fir about 15 feet away. Not the ideal place. It was 8 feet around the trunk, and my steel cable was half as long. Feeling like the proverbial one-armed paper-hanger, I encircled it with three bungie cords. It was no mean feat. Then I had a flashback of the chewed bungie cords last March, followed by a horrible vision of my camera, a piece of chewed wreckage floating in the pool.

By this time I was dripping wet, and a fleet of mossies was following my every move. It was time to get the hell out. But there was no escaping it. If I used the bunjies, Murphy’s law would inevitably kick in, and I knew I would regret it. I went back to the house, guzzled Gatorade, got a 12-foot length of steel cable, and returned to finish the job. It was 103 degrees in the shade when I got home.

Refreshed from a week of camping, I returned to check the camera trap in early August. Of 12 exposures, 9 were of me putzing around taking pictures of the setting, and two were blank. But the last one, exposed at 7:00 in the evening was strange. On the camera’s LCD it looked like a dead leaf across the top of the lens. But on my computer screen it was clearly something hairy--a pale brown-haired forearm, dripping wet and soiled with fir needles and leaf litter. Sure enough, the critter had been in the water hole, and once again it had foiled the camera’s passive infra-red sensor. The imposter had skirted the camera’s gaze like an Indian scout.

The next day I showed it to my older daughter, the biologist. "Sasquatch", she pronounced solemnly. Okay, she was pulling my leg, but you know, two years ago I heard a presentation on Sasquatch at the annual meeting of the esteemed American Society of Mammalogists. Why not make a concession to the improbable?

I pondered the image and concluded that only the modesty of the fairer sex could have compelled Sasquatch to bathe in the secluded but decidedly inferior pool that was hidden from the camera’s eye. I reconstructed her encounter. Looking up, she saw the intruding electronics, and thinking, ‘There’s that damn thing again’, she interrupted her bath to decommission it. Thus the image of her brawny arm, and the camera’s position slightly ajar, no longer aimed at the deep pool. But, the spiked deterrent had circumvented her mischief. Sasquatch had failed to dislodge and gnaw the offender as she had done last fall.

Several more weeks of camera-trapping passed. I captured images of the usual assortment of squirrels, wood rats, skunks and foxes, but there was no sign of Sasquatch. Maybe she was keeping tabs on me. I built a second camera trap and "spike protector", and set it up at a water hole much farther down the creek. Ten days later I pulled the memory cards from the two cameras, trudged slow motion out of the ravine, and after a wash, downloaded the images. To my amazement, Sasquatch had lost her inhibitions. The new camera captured her sitting pensively by the clear pool. Some grease on the lens gave it a magical soft focus effect. The second camera took three pictures. First she waded into the water and paused to enjoy the coolness. Then she sat down to soak, but not without a measure of modesty—her back to the intruding eye of the camera. Finally she took her ablutions—delicately combing the hair on her shoulders. She was svelte and young, with large ears and excusably small eyes. This was Sasquatch all right, and she was a dead ringer for a bear.

Friday, March 10, 2006


Apologies for these ho-hum pics from the Sony P32 camera trap down the hill in the chaparral. They were taken over a five-day period last week (its been cooooool--there was a little sun, and a lot of rain and hail).

4 species visited a cache of sunflower seeds and barley that I buried at the base of the manzanita seen in the bottom photo. I was trying to get a better shot of a woodrat, and attracted some other visitors, of which only one was unusual for a camera trap pic.

The question is-- "whattizit? I've cropped the photo to reveal a SHREW!!! It's butt is in the air, and the tail is the clue. It looks like it is diving for seeds! Who woulda thunk a shrew would stoop so low as to eat sunflower seeds? Or is this what these fierce little predators do when the pickin's get slim?