This week we've seen some old favorites and made some new friends.
Camera teams went to Government Camp East, Little Zig Zag, and Yellowjacket East. Our tracking trip explored near Salmon River Meadows.
Tracking Trip Updates
The tracking trip to Salmon River Meadows found some incredible examples of snowshoe hare tracks. Check out this perfect bound!
We are still EXCITED about finding snowshoe hare tracks. Are you? Although they are undeniably some of the most common tracks to find in the snow, NOT finding them would be devastating. Snowshoe hares are a keystone species, and without them our forests would be drastically different. Whenever you see a coyote, fox, marten, or other carnivore track, thank a snowshoe hare.
While the keystone-species relationship between snowshoe hares and Canada Lynx has been discussed at length, their relationship to other species is equally interesting. When hare populations rise, their effect on willow and alder begins to take a toll. Incredibly, new willow and alder shoots will begin to produce a distasteful and slightly toxic substance to discourage the hares from decimating the young trees. As a result, hare populations begin to decline. Within a few seasons, willow and alder shoots lose the toxic substance and hare populations begin to rise again.
Wildlife Camera Findings
It's March which means it's that time of year for foxes! Breeding season is finishing up around now and come April, anywhere from 2 to 10 pups will come into the world in a cozy den, loyally tended to by both of their parents.
Every family has their share of drama, and Family Canidae is no exception. There is some history of hostility between the different members of the canine family, whether it be wolves and coyotes or coyotes and foxes.
Wolves and foxes seem able to tolerate one another, as their substantial size difference probably does not threaten competition between them. Now that wolves, coyotes, and foxes are all sharing Mount Hood National Forest again, we imagine the first fox-wolf meeting went something like this!
Marten are going to be expecting their kits in the next month or two as well! Marten, like the rest of the family mustelidae, exhibit delayed implantation; if you can believe it, their breeding season was way back in July or August!
This is not the first time this dusky grouse has appeared on camera. For a few months, she has made regular appearances perusing the snow around the camera looking for her favorite wintertime snack: pine and fir needles. Interestingly, this might be one of the last times we see her until next year, check out this article to find out why!
If you do get a chance to see this grouse before she heads back down in the spring, be ready because she is FEARLESS!
She was NOT fed or approached. Incredibly, she approached while the team was talking and assembling the camera, sticking around for the entire time! She would snack on pine needles, watch the camera team, approach, retreat to a nearby branch, and then do it all over again!
We had camera checks at Bear Springs Far, Clear Lake, and Government Camp West, plus our intrepid trackers went snow camping near Timberline. Check out what they found, plus hear about a couple upcoming events!
The overnight tracking trip (as well as all the snow in the city!) has us thinking about what we need to do to stay warm - and gets us thinking of all the different ways the animals in our region are specialized to deal with this winter weather.
Tracking Trip Updates
The snow tracking survey trip this week did an overnight trip to the Timberline area. They followed a marten trail, then in the evening some of them were amibitious enough to build snow shelters to help stay warm. The shelter below looks quite cozy!
This marten was traveling with a very unusual gait, but if you look closely, you can see 5 toes on all four feet.
Wildlife Camera Findings
Coyotes' ability to capitalize on any available resources might be one of their greatest adaptations that serves them through winter. Rodents? Great! Deer? Sounds good! Nuts and berries? Love it!
Bobcats (and lynx, too) are unusual in the feline family because of their short tails. Perhaps due to their preference to hunt in dense, woody areas, a long tail was no longer necessary in their quick-pivoting, brushy chases - similar to the Coopers Hawk, which has shorter, rounded wings for hunting among the tree branches.
Round two of the weasel escapades! This camera station is undoubtedly this weasel's favorite place to pass the time. The last camera set was a tale of weasel-vs-woodrat, while this set found a competitor-less weasel luxuriously enjoying its surroundings. (Check out the full sets for weeks of this weasel bounding and jumping through the days)
Weasels are extremely inefficient at conserving heat due to their high-surface-area body shape. To counteract this, they have an extremely high metabolism that keeps them on the move and searching for food. When they're lucky, the catch prey that had a nice, warm den for them to commandeer!
Snowshoe hares have adapted in many ways we are all familiar with, like their extremely large, furry hind feet that keep them up on top of the snow. Additionally, snowshoe hares typically turn white at the beginning of winter. In some areas, however, this change does not occur due to the lack of reliable and consistent snowfall. This is a good thing for these creatures, as their bright white fur would be a dead give-away on a brown, snowless day.
Hello Cascadia Wild Winter Volunteers,
Lots of Camera and Tracking Trips this week!
Volunteers visited McCubbins #1 and #2, Government Camp West, Yellowjacket West, Glade, Clear Lake, and ODFW Lands cameras, and Snow Bunny and Little John on tracking trips.
All of these sightings have us considering the diverse ways wildlife stay happy and healthy at this time of year when food can be harder to come by.
A beautiful day at Snow Bunny!
The tracks below display a typical canine side trot (the gait that your dog commonly does when it is pulling on the leash). This trail pattern, along with the oval shape of the tracks, tell us it is definitely a canine. The crew identified the tracks below as being from a coyote, but these can sometimes be difficult to confidently identify. Is at a coyote? Or perhaps a fox? Maybe a domestic dog?
There is a lot of overlap in the size of the tracks themselves. However, fox are smaller animals than coyotes and will therefore have a smaller stride. Fox also have furry feet, so it is rare to find a clear track. Also, the track itself is wider, so if negative space is definable, coyote tracks will display and X, while fox will typically display a negative space closer to an H.
Two groups visited Little John this week, and both found signs of weasels. The narrow, focused trail shown below is indicative of a weasel in a hurry! As mentioned in a previous email, weasel tracks can often be identified by the meandering, curious, erratic paths they create as they investigate their surroundings.
Weasels typically hunt under the snow, seeking out mice and other small rodents. It is possible that it is the females that are hunting underground, while males stay above ground. This could be attributed to their size difference, as it would be easier for the smaller females to fit into the narrow burrows beneath the snow.
Wildlife Camera Findings
This group of 3 coyotes was lured in to our ODFW Lands camera, but wasted no time in organizing themselves to search out some real prey for themselves. Although we are used to seeing coyotes in almost every habitat we can think of, the open grasslands are where they originally thrived, sustaining themselves on the small rodents found in abundance in that landscape.
They've come a long way in the past few hundred years, diversifying their habitat, diet, and social structures, but seeing this small group working their way through the grass is a happy sight to see, and reminiscent of these coyotes' origins.
It's hard not to assume this jolly looking deer was enjoying the (relatively) warm weather!
Don't be fooled by the sunny, grassy backdrop of these photos though, these visitors are still pushing through the cold! This solitary elk only appeared once on camera, amongst night after night of deer.
This deer passing by McCubbins #2 was not enjoying the luxury of warmer weather like above, but it is still highly capable of thriving in the cold. Deer can capitalize on many food sources still readily available in winter, even including lichen and fungi
This Government Camp West bobcat might have been lured in by the scent of an easy meal. Unlike the lynx, bobcats' smaller feet cause them to sink into deep snow, making hunting more of a challenge.
This individual probably moved on in search of one of their more typical meals for this time of year, which could include snowshoe hair, mice, voles, and even deer.