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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, May 11, 2007

Upscale California housing

Does a deer mouse really need this much space?

When I discovered the den last week, there were auspicious signs that the tenant was larger than a mouse or rat. For one thing, there were no spider webs across the entrance. Something big and furry had been swabbing it out. And there was plenty of bunk space upstairs in the apartment. I had high hopes the occupant would be an opossum or a raccoon (which for some strange reason I rarely photograph here), or maybe a spotted skunk.

I staked it out for four days, but the place was so promising that I paid a visit after the second night.

"Well, I'll be . . ." Something had knocked the camera askew.

And not only that . . . it had bitten off the camera trap's "eyebrow" (a PVC ring hot-glued to the case to protect the lens window from rain). Fortunately, none of the three windows was popped or broken.

The anticipation was killing me. Was I about to find an image of a beady ursine eye peering malevolently into the lens?

I opened the camera, flipped the switch to view mode and clicked through the images . . . deer mouse, deer mouse, blank, deer mouse, blank, deer mouse, deer mouse. . . Get the picture? My spirits were rapidly deflating. Then came the last picture.

This was the only visitor who could fill the den, but Ole Stripey was only passing through and had only paused for a sniff. I had to ask myself--was this skunk my camera's abuser? It seemed so out of character. Surely a skunk wouldn't take on the camera with its teeth. I don't think it could have even reached it.

When I got home I found two sharp indentations, 22.6mm apart (as measured with a caliper) in the base of the PVC ring. Now I ask you, can someone tell me the distance between the canines of a striped skunk? A raccoon? (My skull collection is still in a box somewhere in the garage.)

Anyway, two more days yielded more pictures of (yawn) Peromyscus -- both adults and blue-coated juveniles. The cushy upscale den was only a flop house for deer mice, and I am left with an unsolved puzzle.


Jace Stansbury said...

Codger- cool entry! Here are your measurements:

striped skunk- distance between upper canines male= 12.25-16.36 mm, female= 11.95-15.27 mm.

Raccoon- male=19.38-26.83 mm, female= 20.15-28.23 mm.
Got these numbers from a fantastic book by Mark Elbroch- "Animal Skulls- A Guide to North American Species". Contains a huge amount of info- you definitely need to get a copy. He also has several excellent animal track/sign books.

Jace Stansbury said...

Codger- by the way the mean measurement for a male raccoon is 22.67 mm. Might be your culprit!

Camera Trap Codger said...

Thanks a lot, Jace. That gives me an idea of what to expect. Now if I can get a picture. I'm about to aim a cam at an automatic waterer I recently installed near the house. If there are any raccoons around, the waterer should bring them in.

Hey, I appreciate the help!