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.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Fred trees mountain lion

Fred trees a mountain lion from Chris Wemmer on Vimeo.

"Fred's barking at something" came the voice from the bedroom.

"Yeah, he's barking at a squirrel -- it's his morning routine", replied the voice in the office.

(5 minutes later)

"Fred's still barking, and it sounds like he's getting farther away."

"Okay, okay, I'll check."

From the kitchen window I saw Fred "arfing" gamely up into a live oak about 60 feet from the house.

And dang me if there wasn't a tawny cat up that tree.

I rushed to the bedroom announcing "Fred's treed a mountain lion", punched my feet into my jeans (somewhat like Charleton Heston in "The Big Country"), grabbed my camera, and headed out the back door.

The svelte cat was eyeing Fred from a safe height of 35 feet, and as I snapped a few pictures it turned its humiliated gaze on me.

Better shoot some video, I thought.

My soothing "Niiiice kitty" failed to improve the cat's disposition, but energized the dog even more.

Then Kitty moved to a new position and plotted her escape down some low-hanging limbs.

I shuffled down slope, grabbed Fred's collar, and filmed with my right hand as she crept out on the bendy limb.

In spirit and style, Kitty's getaway could only be that of Butch Cassidy and the Sun Dance Kid, and in a few moments her getaway was complete, as you saw in the video.

How did this come about?

Well, you might have heard my wife's voice in the video.

She was on the phone with my thoroughly jazzed neighbor "Iron Man", who called as soon as he heard the commotion.

His German Shepherd had also barked at something down in the brush, but wisely didn't give chase.

Then Iron Man saw something big moving down there, and heard Fred's full-throated bark shortly after.

Kitty was probably slinking away on our property when Fred surprised her, and vice versa. 

In retrospect, maybe the hazing taught this cat to stay away from human habitation. 

As for what was going on in Fred's skull, I'm not sure.

He may think the cat was a large variety of squirrel. (Okay, probably not.)

But I do know this wouldn't have happened without him. 


(Thanks for the photoshopping, Carl)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

How I "bear sprayed" my wife on our wedding anniversary

My wife dropped a hint last Sunday at breakfast. “Maybe you should check the camera traps this morning so we can get to the restaurant on time.”

I got the message. It was our 50th wedding anniversary.

It was a little after 8:00 when I finished packing my rucksack, and that’s when I remembered that the only time I ever walked up on a bear was about this time in the morning.

It was a harmless amusement – I could hear mother bear high-tailing it down the slope and splashing across the creek, while her 2 cubs set a record descending a big old Douglas fir. I can still see them backlit in a haze of falling bark and dust. No way were they going to be left behind.

But fate can be ironic, and a fleeting thought -- “Bear mauls senior citizen on 50th wedding anniversary” -- cautioned me to take the bear spray (a birthday gift from my younger daughter).

And how many times has someone pulled their bear spray trigger, found the canister empty, and 
witnessed their deliverance in painfully surreal slow motion? 

I had better test it. 

I pulled the trigger guard and squeezed ever so briefly . . . WOW!

The 10-foot plume of red pepper gas told me it wasn’t a dud.

And a moment later I found myself in the dilute invisible backwash. 

And so did my blinking dog.   

Sneezing and with one runny eye, we beat a hasty retreat into house.

The pepper cloud followed us into the kitchen with the cool air that funnels through the screen door in the morning.   

Suddenly the redhead appeared, “What’s that smell? We’re being gassed!”

“I just tested the bear spray, Sweetie, and it works!” I coughed, “It’s not really THAT bad (cough).  

She hurried off to get a dust mask, and I decided it was time to make our exit. 

The rest of the day was a charm. We encountered no bears, arrived at the restaurant on time, and recounted our bear spray episode for family entertainment.

“He hasn’t changed a bit in 50 years,” said the redhead.

"I’m lucky she still likes me," said the codger.