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.

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.