Cascadia Wildlife Blog
News from the Wolverine Tracking Project and more
Happy New year!
Thank you for helping us exceed our fundraising goal!
The start of the new year also brings an end to our December fundraising campaign! We want to thank all of our members, and everyone who donated for making last months fundraising effort such a success! As a volunteer based, community centered non-profit, we are dependent on the support of all of you to keep Cascadia Wild running strong. Thank you for showing up for Cascadia Wild last month, and all year long! 2021 was another challenging year in many respects, and we remain forever grateful for this community and all that we are capable of together!
With your help, and the help of our generous board members and local businesses who donated, we raised $3,900. That accounts for over 10% of our annual budget! Your donations help us to keep teaching naturalist classes, hosting nature-based clubs, and running the Wolverine Tracking Project!
Brrrr, the PNW ended 2021 with chilling temperatures, icy roads and lots of snow! These conditions have kept our Wolverine Tracking Project volunteers on their toes, as they bundle up and head to the mountain to maintain cameras and survey tracking transects, facing all sorts of unexpected challenges along the way. After the massive amount of snow Mt.Hood has received in the past few weeks, snow shovels are a must for many camera sites, as volunteers have been digging out buried cameras and replacing them above the snow line. Tree branches (and even trees sometimes!) can be brought down by the weight of the snow, and sometimes end up obscuring camera views. Our capable volunteers have been moving cameras and removing branches to make sure that the WTP cameras don't miss a thing!
Lots of winter snow can certainly add some difficulty to volunteers jobs, but it also makes for excellent tracking conditions and beautiful scenery! The mountain is truly a majestic and awe-inspiring place to be this time of year, just look at this stunning picture taken by one of our volunteers on a camera check recently!
One of the coolest things about monitoring wildlife on Mount Hood is that you never know what you are going to find! We had some predictable detections on our cameras over the last month- our regular forest friends ( bobcats, coyotes, deer, squirrel, etc), as well as some mystery detections that we are still working on identifying! The same can be true for tracking- by now most of our volunteers are familiar with the sight of a Douglas squirrel track bounding through the snow, but some tracks can be tricky! It's all part of the fun!
Below are some of the highlights of our WTP findings over the last month! Keep scrolling to the bottom of this post if you want to see some of the photos that we have been puzzling over.
Camera And Tracking Surveys
One of the most intense wildlife interactions ever documented on our trail cameras was this scene capturing both a buck and a coyote running through the forest!
An intense scene unfolds in the forest!
The buck is seen running through the clearing, pausing and staring at the camera for a second, and then taking off again. This made us wonder if perhaps the sound or the flash of the camera startled the buck, and caused it to pause. A coyote charges through the scene right after the buck and then doubles back to sniff at the bait log at the camera site. Was the coyote chasing the buck? Were they both running from something that startled them? Was this just a strange coincidence? We can't know for sure but it sure is fun to speculate!
Below are more coyote detections from the past month! Coyotes are a common sight at our camera sites- we often capture footage of them sniffing around and marking near the bait box.
From top to bottom: A coyote strolls up to a bait box to give it a whiff-if you look closely you will see their companion in the top left corner; A excited coyote runs up to the bait box and circles it, showing us a little upward dog stretch in the process; A beautiful coyote sniffing around a frequently marked spot at a camera site.
Our next detection is extra exciting because its a first for this season! This elusive feline goes by many names- cougar, mountain lion, puma, panther, and a personal favorite: mountain screamer! Cougars are a rare sight, not because they aren't around, but because they are very shy.
A mountain lion passing through, pauses to check out the bait tree before moving on.
The other feline found in our region are cougars slightly smaller relative- bobcats! We capture bobcats pretty frequently on our trail cameras, and their tracks can be a common sight in the snow at some of our camera locations!
From the top: A bobcat crosses over a log; a bobcat strolls through a camera site; two bobcats traveling together are seen walking towards the camera.
There were not very many black bear sightings this month, which is no surprise since many of the bears at higher elevations will have settled into their dens by now. We expect to continue to see some black bear activity throughout the winter, particularly at lower elevation camera sites.
A black bear strolls through a camera site, and then circles back to sniff around some more.
Carnivores come in all shapes and sizes! One of the smaller carnivores in our region is the weasel. There are both short-tailed and long-tailed weasels in Oregon. These species can be hard to distinguish, typically long-tailed weasels are the bigger of the two, however both species are sexually dimorphic, so there is some overlap in size of a small female long-tailed weasel and a large male short-tailed weasel. Both species turn white in the winter!
A weasel scampers around the base of a bait log tree.
Deer are another common species detected on our wildlife cameras. Deer social groupings can shift throughout the seasons, although females are usually found traveling with their young year-round. They may travel with other females and juveniles to form small herds. Males are often solitary through the winter but may travel together in small bachelor herds in the spring and summer.
From the top: a deer crosses through a dusting of snow; two male deer are detected traveling together; a deer walks through the snow.
In the second photo two male deer were spotted traveling together! While it may be less common for two male deer to pair up in the winter, it's clearly not out of the question!
Deer scat photographed by one of our volunteers.
Now on to some of our smaller forest friends. Below you can just make out a snowshoe hare bounding through the snow- look for the flash of their eyes on the right hand side. More visible are the tracks left behind! Snowshoe hare tracks in the snow often leave a distinct trail pattern that resembles a T.
From the top: A rabbit seen hoping through the snow, as more snow falls; a clearly defined rabbit track from a recent tracking survey.
Squirrels are another of our smaller mammalian forest friends that remain relatively abundant throughout the winter. While the ground squirrels are staying cozy hibernating, Douglas squirrels and Western gray squirrels remain hard at work throughout the winter.
From the top: A Douglas squirrel perches in a tree; a Western gray squirrel scampers across a log; a Douglas squirrel bounds through the snow; squirrel tracks in the snow photographed on a recent group tracking survey.
Our smallest visitor this month was another adorable rodent- a little mouse! If you look closely at the picture below, you can see their little eyes shinning inside the bait box!
A mouse hanging out in the bait box.
Who goes there?! Below are some of the recent wildlife findings that we have not been able to identify. Ah, the thrill of a good mystery! There may not be enough information in these photos to properly identify these creatures, but boy do we love to speculate! Be sure to comment or send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org if you get a hunch about who we are looking at here!
From the top: A mystery mammal hops across a log before sitting and staring towards the camera; an unknown shadowy creature crosses a clearly; tracks in the snow in front of a trail camera- but there's no animal to be seen.
P.S. A trusted informant proposed that the tracks in the bottom photo may belong to a grouse, based on how short the stride is relative to the size of the track. Let us know if you agree!
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