Cascadia Wildlife Blog
News from the Wolverine Tracking Project and more
Mid-summer wildlife findings
Our Wolverine Tracking Project has two main parts this summer season- the Wildlife Camera Survey and the Sierra Nevada Red Fox Scat Survey. We have 18 camera sites up and running this summer and our intrepid camera crews are bringing back great wildlife detections every week! Big and small, plenty of critters have shown up at all of the various locations. We set up cameras at different elevations, as well as different environments, including woodlands, uplands, and a recovering burn area. We are excited to share some of the highlights so far!
We also have news from our Fox Surveys! Volunteers have been hiking and exploring the mountain and bringing back data and samples for our research. We greatly appreciate all of their hard work!
First up, we have some smaller mammals; this Western gray squirrel has found a tasty snack!
A rabbit or snowshoe hare leaps around this site! They are most active at dawn and dusk as seen in this photo.
This striped skunk wanders through this site. They are also most frequently seen at night because they are mostly nocturnal, so this is a rare treat!
Before we move on to bigger mammals, there are some large birds to mention! Turkeys are a common visitor at a number of sites this summer. They are sometimes seen alone but also in small flocks. Turkeys eat a large assortment of food- from nuts and seeds, grasses, berries, roots, insects and even small animals like lizards and snakes!
There have been many deer sightings at almost all of the cameras so far this summer. This one looks like it is just about to leap past!
There are also plenty of little fawns closely following after their mothers in the forests, like this one here!
At just two sites so far, there have been elk passing by, like this majestic buck!
Now on to a couple of carnivores! There have been bobcats checking out several of the sites, as they are one of the critters most attracted to the stinky bait that is placed under logs in front of the cameras.
Here is a coyote, also highly interested in the bait at this site. They have been seen at most of the cameras so far, often alone, like this one, and sometimes pairs.
This coyote also checked the bait at this site, then doubled back to an animal trail that is used by many other animals.
The last, but certainly not least, animal is the black bear! They are seen at several cameras on the mountain so far this season. This one looks well fed! Bears eat all kinds of things- nuts, berries, grasses, roots, insects and occasionally newborn deer or elk.
Here's another trundling their way through an old burn. Bear fur gleaming in the sunshine is such a beautiful sight!
Here's a special treat- this is the first bear cub sighting of the year! This mother bear and her small cub investigate the log where bait was placed for this camera. The curious little one jumps right up on the log on their own!
sierra nevada red fox surveys
The Fox Team members have been very busy doing scat surveys all over the mountain. They have collectively covered almost 55 miles of trails and service roads! Not only that, they have brought back eight probably scat samples that will be sent in for genetic testing!
Probable fox scat recently collected by a volunteer for genetic testing.
An incredible scenic photo shared with us by one of our volunteers on a recent survey of the mountain.
We hope you enjoyed seeing some of our most current animal findings! We look forward to seeing who else is running around the forests and mountainsides the rest of the summer!
A Deer for all seasons
This month we are highlighting one of the common herbivores that visit our camera sites- deer! There are two native deer species in Oregon, each with two subspecies, and on Mt. Hood, we most frequently see the Columbian black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus). Their range extends from the Cascades to the coastal mountains, from California to northern British Columbia. They are slightly smaller and darker in appearance than their close relatives, the mule deer, which can also occasionally be found in the Mount Hood National Forest. As for habitat preference, they tend to live in denser coniferous and mixed-coniferous forests but are commonly seen near clear cuts and burns to nibble at new growth there.
Always wary and curious of their surroundings, they frequently find the cameras and move in to closely check them out like this one appears to be doing.
They are resident animals, so they do not make long migrations during wintertime, as some other species do, though they tend to move to lower elevations where it is easier to move about and find food. Their diets are hampered in these months with much less food availability and so end up consuming mostly woody plants including Douglas fir, western red cedar, red huckleberry, deer fern and lichens. As the snow accumulates on the mountain, we find less detections of deer at higher elevations.
It's clearly more challenging to get around in the snow and find enough to eat in winter for them.
Deer have a keen sense of sight, sound, and smell. Not only are they scanning the forest with their watchful eyes and large, mobile ears, they also have a keen sense of smell. This is key not only for detecting the presence of predators, it is also an important way to communicate with each other. Deer have several glands that produce scent and pheromones. The ones located on their metatarsals (outside of lower leg) produce an alarm scent, the tarsal (inside of hock) serves for recognition of others they know and the interdigital (between the toes) leaves their own scent trail as they walk.
This young buck takes a look around the forest. It is common for him to be on his own but he join up with others like him later in the year.
In the summertime, food is plentiful and their diet is largely grasses and forbs (non-woody flowering plants) and can also include blackberries, apples, salmonberry, salal, and maple. The explosion of new growth in the spring must be a welcome sight! They forage mostly at dawn and dusk, with a home range of around 3 square miles.
Two deer grazing on some fresh green new shoots in late spring!
They are typically solitary, but do form small groups of mothers with their young. Interestingly, groups of bachelor bucks also can form based on age class during spring or summer months. Fawns are usually born in late May to early June and twins are most common. Fawns weigh about 6-8 lbs. at birth and have no detectable scent for their first week, which keeps them safe. They will lose their signature spots by September, as they grow up.
We are thrilled to introduce our first fawns of the season! This doe is taking careful care of her twin fawns.
We are looking forward to seeing many more deer detections this summer season! These beautiful creatures are always a welcome sight. We hope you get a chance to explore the world we share with them. Maybe you will catch a glimpse, or at least see some sign of them around. They are, indeed, distinctive members of the forest community.
We have been enjoying quite the long, cool, wet spring this year! Even though this is wonderful for the environment, it has delayed the timing of putting the cameras out. Some lower elevations have still been receiving snow just recently. It may be a few more weeks before we can get out to all the expected summer camera locations. We are looking forward to when that happens, so we can start seeing which critters are out there!
What are we expecting to see once it warms and dries up a bit more? Just like people, many animals change their behaviors during the summer months. The abundance of new growth grasses, plants, and trees in the spring are taken full advantage of by all the herbivores great and small that depend on them. In turn, the predators are out in full force as well, hunting for their next meal. Move cover in the forests makes for great places to hide- on both sides.
From top to bottom: A Western gray squirrel exploring the undergrowth on a summer day. A yellow-bellied marmot has finally woken up from hibernation and gets some sunshine as they scramble across a rock field.
Finding shade and water to keep cool are critical for many animals on and around the mountain. Regulating body temperature varies by size and species. That thick pelt that kept you warm those long winter nights is now threatening to make you overheated! Some mammals shed prodigious amount of fur each year while others wait out the heat of the day sleeping. In the hot summer months, turkey vultures defecate on their own feet to help cool them off. The extremely high uric content also acts as a leg-sanitizer.
Top and bottom: This turkey vulture strikes a couple of poses for the camera. Rather than being over-heated at this point, they are spreading their wings in order to capture more of the marvelous sunshine.
For many animals, spring is a busy time for reproduction. Come summer they are busy raising these young and teaching them all they need to know about the great wide world they live in. Learning what to eat and what NOT to eat, exploring and marking territory, and vigilance against dangers are all necessary skills for survival. Coyotes spend a great deal of time passing all this knowledge on to their pups, just like many other carnivores.
From top to bottom: A coyote and her pup explore the bait left at this camera site. A lone pup seems to be doing some exploring on his own, although his mother is likely nearby out of camera range.
Black bears forage on a variety of food and will naturally change their eating habits depending on what is available. The bounty of berries, nuts, insects, and small mammals are just some of the goodies they will find. We see bears of all ages on our cameras but summer is when we see the youngest out with their mothers during their first season. Their incredible sense of smell and excellent memories will guide them around the forest to show their cubs where all the tastiest morsels can be found.
Top to bottom: A mother and her two cubs check out the bait at one site. At another one an adventurous young cub finds himself drawn to the bait. He then gets reaches up for a better smell.
As the days get longer, activity changes around the mountain. Some may start by basking in the sun but that may soon change to finding ways to stay cool. Some with larger ranges may change elevations while those with other migratory patterns are now returning for the season. Many animals are busy raising their youngsters and enjoying the bounty of bursting new resources in the forest. We look forward to all the incredible glimpses into their lives we see through this work!
A curious deer takes a peek at one of our cameras.
We are eagerly awaiting the Summer Camera Survey Crews, Fox and Wolf Survey members to gather data and report back to us! We look forward to sharing the exciting animal detections and findings from this upcoming summer season. Check back for more blog posts or join us on our other social media for news and updates!