Cascadia Wildlife Blog
News from the Wolverine Tracking Project and more
It's that time of year - blossoms everywhere, warm sunlight, longer days... it's only a matter of time before summer is here! It's the perfect time to get on your hiking boots, head out to the Mt. Hood National Forest, and help add to our knowledge of native wildlife with the Wolverine Tracking Project!
Join a Camera Crew!
Join the Fox Team!
Interested in wildlife tracking? Check out our Carnivore Challenge to learn about the carnivore families and the tracks and sign that each leave. Find some track or sign and send it to us by April 19, and you could be featured here and on our social media! Read more.
We also hope you can join us for Nature Book Club. We'll meet April 27th to discuss The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator by Timothy Winegard. Learn all about this tiny but powerful insect just in time to face the late spring/early summer swarms! More info.
By the end of this month, we'll have all our winter cameras down, in preparation for the new season. We may be gearing up for summer, but winter will hang out on the mountain for just a bit longer, and we still have some findings to share from our wildlife trail cameras! Stay tuned in May, when we'll both our annual and seasonal review.
Our first sighting to share this month is none other than the wonderful and elusive Sierra Nevada red fox! We detected this individual close to Mt Hood and were overjoyed to watch one of our target species explore the camera site.
A Sierra Nevada red fox walks towards the bait box, and then walks away, taking one last glance at the bait box before leaving the frame.
Sierra Nevada red foxes mate in late winter and usually give birth to a litter of 2 or 3 between March and May, so we are starting to look out for kits! Will this be the year our cameras detect them? It's exciting to consider that this fox may be out hunting to help feed a litter back at their den. Sierra foxes develop pretty quickly and will be fully grown by the end of summer.
We also detected the more common, but effortlessly classic canine, the coyote. These individuals were incredibly curious all month long and we detected them digging, urinating, and being spooked by mysteries out of frame.
Top to bottom: A coyote digs into the snow; a coyote pauses to crouch and urinate on the snow; a coyote runs and then stops abruptly while their tail shoots up - and then continues to run in the same direction.
We also detected a couple species of big cats. This magnificent mountain lion sauntered by. A rare sight for our cameras in winter, we've been lucky to get to see cougars a couple times!
A mountain lion walks through a camera site
We also had a couple detections of the solitary bobcat this month. In both detections a bobcat is very interested in - and even marks near - the bait box.
Top to bottom: A color gif of a bobcat investigating the bait box; a black and white night camera gif of a bobcat investigating a bait box.
Similar to the Sierra Nevada red fox, female bobcats will give birth to their litter of kittens by the end of May, and bobcats will occasionally give birth to a second litter by September. Litters are usually two to four kittens, but can be as big as six. Bobcat kittens will begin learning to hunt in their first autumn, and will disperse from their mother as soon as they have conquered the skill.
Along with the trail camera detections, a volunteer found these bobcat tracks.
Top to bottom: A trail of bobcat tracks; close up of bobcat tracks.
The overall shape of these tracks is more wide than they are long, which is characteristic of felines (as opposed to a track which is more long than wide, which is characteristic of a canine). You can just about make out the toes in a semi-circle above the trapezoidal heel pad, also characteristic of feline tracks. These tracks are likely bobcat because they are too small to belong to a mountain lion.
We also detected quite a few deer over the past month. This photogenic doe stepped through some snow.
A doe walks through some snow. Some snow has collected on her back, head, and ears - very cute!
It looks like this buck recently lost his antlers. If you look at their brow, you can see the pedicle, or bony base, where the antlers were. Don't worry, buddy, they will grow back soon! Mule deer and black-tailed deer start to regrow their antlers in April or May.
A buck walks with his head sloped down, showing the pedicle on his head where he recently lost his antlers.
Striped skunk were detected, and it is rare we get color, daytime images of their beautiful coats.
A striped skunk ambles across the forest floor.
Snowshoe hare also made an appearance.
A snowshoe hare sits in a nighttime clearing.
Even when sometimes buried by heavy winter snows, the bait box still inspires curiosity among the wildlife residents. Here we can see that a snowshoe hare investigated, by the prints they left behind.
The distinctive "T" shape of a snowshoe hare track in the snow by a mostly buried bait box.
Northern flying squirrel were seen in action, gliding up to the bait box tree and landing in the snow. When gliding you can see the gliding membrane, called the patagium, extended. Thanks to this adaptation, northern flying squirrels can cover distances of more than 150 feet in a single glide. Although these nocturnal animals are active throughout winter, these are two of only three detections of northern flying squirrel from any camera site this season!
Top to bottom: A northern flying squirrel glides and alights on the snow at the base of the bait tree; a northern flying squirrel looks inconspicuous on the ground without it's patagium membrane extended.
Western gray squirrels also kept camera sites lively.
Top to bottom/left to right: A Western gray squirrel, perched on a log; one pauses in a clearing; another scampers across the forest floor.
Another squirrel visitor was the California ground squirrel. It can be hard to spot these squirrels because their spotted, tawny brown coats usually camouflage them well (but a snowy background makes it easier)!
Top to bottom/left to right: a California ground squirrel blends into the background of a clearing; crouches on a log; dashes across the snow.
And our last detected squirrel species is Douglas squirrel.
A douglas squirrel is photographed midleap.
Alongside the bobcat tracks highlighted earlier, the same volunteer also spotted some squirrel tracks. These two animals probably passed through at different times since the trails do not show them interacting with (hunting/being hunted by) each other.
Squirrel tracks (left) and bobcat tracks (right) parallel each other through the snow.
A common visitor to the open forests of the east side of Mt. Hood, a turkey also made an appearance.
A turkey strutting through the clearing.
A sharp-eyed camera crew volunteer spotted this vanishing trail of two parallel lines in the snow, which must belong to a bird!
Bird tracks in the snow at the base of a tree.
The hopping (parallel) pattern above is indicative of species that mostly perch in trees, such as a juncos, goldfinches, chickadees, and nuthatches. Ground foraging birds like sparrows and robins have a staggered or skipping gait. Grouse, ducks, and raptors are walking birds, and each footstep is widely spaced by comparison. This Audubon article is a great introduction to bird track patterns.
That's all for this month. Stay tuned for our May blog, our last one for the winter season.
Until then, be well!