Cascadia Wildlife Blog
News from the Wolverine Tracking Project and more
Before we get into the findings, though, we want to share some of the happenings at Cascadia Wild. We hope everyone has been staying cool but still enjoying the warm weather as an opportunity to get outside and explore. If you want a little inspiration to get out there, we have some ideas!
Also, this month we published the 2020-21 Cascadia Wild Annual Report! Each report includes a message from Teri Lysak, Board Chair, annual expenses and income, and a summary of our programs and accomplishments, including the Wolverine Tracking Project, classes, clubs, and community engagement.
ICYMI: Check out our official Wolverine Tracking Project Annual Research Report, which summarizes all the wildlife findings from 2020-21's camera, tracking, fox, and wolf surveys!
Looking for a new series to watch? How about one about wildlife?
With new technological advances, nature documentaries have reached a whole new level. Check out Night on Earth and Earth at Night in Color for some never-before seen nighttime wildlife viewing!
Many animals are most active at night, when it's hardest for humans - and most cameras - to see. These two documentary series enlighten us to new behaviors, giving us more insight into animals' mysterious lives.
Now onto the highlights from our very own wildlife cameras! We've seen creatures big, small, & everything in between - from black bears to golden mantled ground squirrels and more. Cameras have also documented the arrival of new babies in the forest! So come along as we show you the best of the best from this past month.
Our first species is the black bear; these omnivores sure do have big personalities! Keep scrolling to see what black bears do when it warms up in the forest (you definitely don't want to miss the last one!).
Top to bottom, left to right: A black bear rubs up on the bait box, showing a white chest; a possible subadult walks in front of some flowering bear grass; a black bear is caught with a tongue out; a black bear is seen climbing a tree; likely a male, this black bear shows signs of scars on his head from dueling; a male and female mate.
Now onto our carnivores - first up for felines is the bobcat. Bobcat sightings always pique our interest, and this time we found two on camera, a rare occurrence! This duo is likely mother and offspring. Juveniles will leave their mother's care and disperse to find territory of their own in late winter or early spring coming into their second year. Bobcats will disperse before they reach 2 years old, males traveling further than females to find new territory.
Top to bottom: two bobcats stroll through, one after the other; a solitary bobcat walks by.
Our second and last feline is the mountain lion. We've caught a few mountain lions on camera this summer. These solitary hunters have been seen during the daytime and at night.
Top to bottom, left to right: a mountain lion strolls through the camera site during the day; a mountain lion passes through the site at night; a mountain lion rubs its cheek along the bait box.
Coyotes were the only members of the canine family detected on our cameras this month. Still, they provided us with plenty to look at!
Top to bottom, left to right: A coyote rolls around in the snow next to the bait box; a pair of coyotes visits, one urinates on the tree before taking off in the next photo.
Turkeys, adult and juvenile, were seen on a volunteer-owned camera. The little ones like to follow mom around, and are a spotty brown color.
Three adult turkeys and their offspring check out the camera site, then move offscreen in single file on a log.
Nearly every camera we have set up documented deer. These abundant creatures also happen to give birth in the spring, so we have lots of cute fawns to share with you!
Top to bottom: A doe and fawn, still with spots, walk along the forest floor; two fawns with their spots glowing in the dark, sniff the camera site.
Look at the progression between these two deer from late May to mid June - male deer, or bucks, start growing their antlers during early spring and finish in the fall, when they mate. The females carry the offspring through the winter, and give birth in the spring. Then the whole season starts again!
Left to right (or top to bottom) : A young buck starts to grow his antlers; a buck shows off his velvety antlers; a doe and fawn pass by; two fawns stop to check out the camera site; a deer blows a raspberry.
These animals may be small - but they certainly don't act that way. See these mischievous squirrels and woodrats in action!
Western gray squirrels are below; these squirrels are larger than Douglas squirrels and have a white belly and gray coat. What really gives them away is their massive, bushy tail though!
Left to right (or top to bottom): a western gray squirrel eats on top of a downed log; two western gray squirrels chase one another on horizontal log.
Here's a Douglas squirrel in action - notice the smaller build and tail than that of the western gray squirrel. This particular individual ran over the bait box and shifted it slightly.
A Douglas squirrel scampers on a log, going up and over the bait box, moving it slightly.
Our second to last rodent is the bushy-tailed woodrat, whose eyes shine brightly in the dark. The woodrat has a round tail, and can easily be confused with the northern flying squirrel which has a flatter tail. Both of these animals are nocturnal, and are seen almost exclusively at night. This woodrat decided to have a little fun with our bait box!
A bushy-tailed woodrat moves the bait box.
A northern flying squirrel is shown below for reference. The flat tail is a good giveaway for these tricky night squirrels. It may come as a surprise to many people to see these squirrels in the forest!
Left to right (or top to bottom): A northern flying squirrel sits on a log with its body towards the camera; a northern flying squirrel shows off its tail.
Wolf & fox Scat surveys
Although our cameras didn't pick up any detections of our target canines - the gray wolf and Sierra Nevada red fox - our diligent volunteers did find some (potential) neat scat of each while surveying forest trails for genetic samples and sign!
The volunteer who found the scat shown below broke it apart, revealing digested hair, bones, and grass (circled in red)!
Top: An intact, old scat. Bottom: The same scat broken apart, with vegetation circled in red.
But who could this belong to? Felines will eat vegetation to clear out their stomachs, but not to this extent. Therefore, we've ruled this scat is likely from a canid, since the dog family is a bit more omnivorous. The average diameter is just shy of 1.25" inches, our cutoff size limit for wolf scat collection. All coyotes will leave scat smaller than this, but some domestic dogs might leave scat this size. Domestic dogs are also capable of eating a large amount of vegetation, but likely would not have hair and bones inside their scat, making this a good candidate for possible gray wolf scat. Unfortunately, this scat is likely too old to gather DNA from.
So far this summer, volunteers have collected several possible Sierra Nevada red fox scats! Two of these are shown below. As canine scat, they are tapered at the ends and twisted, but are much smaller than wolf scat and coyote scat, about the size of a pinky. The presence of hair potentially eliminates domestic dogs as a possible culprit as well. Although we can't know for sure until the samples are analyzed, these are also good candidates for possible fox scats!
The two photos above show the twisted scat with tapered ends that may belong to a red fox.
While camera crews and the fox and wolf teams are out in the woods, they often find some pretty interesting signs of wildlife!
One camera crew confirmed that, like foxes and wolves, bears do indeed relieve themselves in the woods.
A large pile of bear scat (normal sized for a bear) with a hiking boot for reference.
Bear scat can have different shapes and consistencies, depending on the seasonal availability of different foods and their changing diet. However, there is always quite a lot of it!
A member on our wolf team also found this well-preserved bear skeleton:
Detail of a bear skull (top) and the rest of the remaining bear skeleton (bottom).
Sometimes, the signs that wildlife leave behind of their presence can present a good story, like this bit of cambium chew on a small tree. Below this sapling, is a rodent hole - given the teeth marks and location, the very same rodent to burrow in this hole is also likely chewing on this tree. Pretty handy to have your kitchen pantry so close by!
Top: A small tree showing signs of cambium chew. The teeth marks indicate that the animal responsible is a small rodent. Bottom two: A burrow at the base of the small tree with tiny rodent tracks shown entering and leaving.
Sometimes, we are lucky enough to see actual wildlife, and not just sign of their presence, while in the forest!
Top to bottom and left to right: A tree swallow sits on a fence line; a fence lizard basks on a stump; two ground squirrels peek out of their burrow; a turkey vulture feasts on some carrion in the road; a second turkey vulture in flight.
That's all we've got for this month! Thanks for supporting the Wolverine Tracking Project, and we hope to see you back here next month for more of the exciting wildlife news from Mt. Hood!
The Wolverine Tracking Project Winter Wildlife Surveys have drawn to a close, and summer is just on the horizon. As we take a look back at findings and best photos from the season, we have a lot to celebrate! And, if you are so inclined, check out our official Wolverine Tracking Project annual research report here, for all the findings of the past year!
If you're a returning volunteer and would like to join the Wolf Team, contact us and let us know!
And now the review!
Wolverine Tracking Project Winter Findings
A snowy scenic image of Newton Creek submitted by a volunteer. A small creek divides two snowy banks, with a line of snow tipped trees and Mt. Hood in the background.
Volunteers retrieved beautiful trail camera images, took stellar pictures of tracks, kept their eyes peeled for scat, urine, and other sign, and supporters helped us meet our fundraising goal! All of these contributions allow us to continue building a robust narrative of the animals of Mt. Hood National Forest and allow us to keep documenting wildlife in a meaningful way. Whether you were part of a Camera Crew, a Tracker, or had wanted to join but weren't able to due to pandemic, or if instead you supported us from home: Thank you, thank you!
Camera Crews committed over 1000 hours to checking cameras and recording and uploading data! Trackers committed 137 hours and surveyed over 15 miles of transects, for a total of 181 tracks surveyed!
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!