Cascadia Wildlife Blog
News from the Wolverine Tracking Project and more
WOLVERINE TRACKING PROJECT FINDINGS
Coyotes are frequently show up in our camera survey, and this month we want to feature this amazing animal! Native to North America, historically they used to live in the open plains and mostly arid regions in the west. Their range has since expanded into desert, forest, alpine, and even tropical areas due to their highly adaptable nature. Known by many names, they were once described as "prairie wolves" and were also called "song dogs", due to their impressive howling and vocalizations. There is nothing quite like the sound of pack of coyotes in the night!
This lone coyote pays a visit to this site in the woods. Coyotes have appeared at most of the camera survey locations this season, as they commonly have in past years.
Highly social, coyotes pair bond with mates and form family packs, but can also be solitary. Success in hunting large prey, which can bring great rewards, depends upon cooperation within a group. Coyotes are primarily carnivores, eating prey both large and small of whatever food type is available in their habitat. They also eat a wide variety other food including berries, other fruit, grasses, grains, nuts and beans. Given the opportunity, they will also scavenge on kills from other predators like wolves and cougars.
A pair of coyotes is seen exploring around another camera site. They are likely a male and female that have formed a bond through mating and will stay together for the rest of their lives.
Coyotes make a huge variety of sounds, which can be calls for alarm, greeting, or contact howls between individuals or groups. Their yips, growls, barks, yelps, huffs, whines, and well-known howls or "greeting song" are all important ways of communicating to each other within a pack and to others packs in the area.
Caught on camera licking their chops! Maybe they are thinking about the next delicious meal they will find.
Coyotes are mesopredators, or mid-ranking predators, of the food web. Usually medium sized animals, other mesopredators in this region include bobcats, foxes, raccoons, and skunks. Apex predators, or top predators, are wolves and cougars, which outcompete these smaller species. Coyotes may visit an unguarded kill site from one of them, but they must be very careful careful about stealing food and skillful at getting away!
One travels through a field of lush springtime grass in a more open area of the mountain.
Territorial behaviors are often seen on camera, from rubbing and rolling around on the ground, to urinating and defecating. Coyote scat is very commonly found on trails and roads in the forest. This sign they leave not only tells others of their kind they have been there, it can also be a warning to other animals as well.
These two are having quite a time rolling around in a scent was placed in the area! This is a normal part of their territory marking behavior. Their keen sense of smell is quite amazing!
During denning season, coyotes may find an old burrow made by another animal, use a hollowed out tree stump, or dig their own in a choice location. Dens are only used to give birth and rear their young in and then are abandoned when the pups are old enough. If it proves to be a safe location, it may be used year after year by the same coyotes.
Sunshine lights up this coyote checking out something on the ground.
They can travel up to 3-10 miles a day and their territory can vary from 0.15 to 24 square miles, which often depends on food abundance, number of den sites, and the presence of other species they compete with. Even though they are naturally diurnal, or active during the day, they are can also become more active at dusk and dawn or night, especially in urban areas in order to avoid people. In the forest, they may be active at night as well during different seasons in order to catch certain prey.
Some days, curiosity gets the best of you and you fall into a hole. Luckily, this one is typical for their kind- strong and adaptable- and they climb right back out!
Coyotes never fail to inform and entertain us in the camera surveys. As the summer season starts to change into fall, we continue to eagerly await each set of photos to see what these animals are up to on Mt. Hood!
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.