Cascadia Wildlife Blog
News from the Wolverine Tracking Project and more
It's that time of year! A BIG thanks to all of our wonderful summer volunteers who made this season such a smashing success. Summer is a great time for viewing wildlife- we saw animals hunting, foraging, mating, and raising their young! This season has proven to us that theres nothing cuter then a baby bobcat (unless it's a baby bear...or deer). We have a lot of exciting wildlife sightings to share with you- including a sighting of one of our target species (the elusive pacific marten) and a first detection ever for Cascadia Wild (check out the badger below!). So without further ado, lets dive in!
This Pacific marten was our only target species caught on camera this season! That doesn't mean that our other target species aren't out there (Sierra Nevada red fox, gray wolf, wolverine), as evidenced by the scat and tracks shown below! While we have yet to see sight or sign of our namesake, the wolverine, we remain hopeful that they will return to their historic natural range, which includes the Oregon Cascades.
The Pacific marten is considered an indicator species of high-quality, high-elevation old growth coniferous forest. This is because they require lots of connected, complex old growth forest in order to thrive. Downed trees and standing snags, along with thick evergreen canopy, (all elements of complex old growth forest structure) provides excellent hunting and denning opportunities for Pacific marten. When snow falls, they rely on small pockets formed amongst fallen trees for thermoregulation while resting.
A pacific marten sniffs around the base of a tree, near one of our hair snaggers and bait.
Signs of our other target species (Sierra Nevada red fox and grey wolf) were discovered over the summer by our awesome volunteer trackers! While we can't say for sure- the tracks below are likely those of a Sierra Nevada red fox. One way Sierra Nevada red fox tracks can be identified is by their small, linear heel-pad, which can be seen in the top track in this photo. In addition, the shape of the track and the distinct X -shape seen in the negative space tells us that this is a canine track.
A potential Sierra Nevada red fox track, discovered by one of our tracking volunteers.
Below is a possible Sierra Nevada red fox scat found by one of our volunteer trackers. For red fox, we look for scat that is less than half an inch in diameter, and is twisty and tapered at the end. This scat has a lot of hair in it, which is consistent with a red foxes diet!
Potential Sierra Nevada red fox scat- note the tapered ends and small diameter.
Finally, the scat below likely belongs to our target species the gray wolf. Gray wolf scat can be hard to identify- but like other canines we generally look for scat that is twisted, with tapered ends. We expect gray wolf scat to be significantly larger than coyote or red fox scat.
Potential gray wolf scat- this scat is pretty big, and has lots of fur in it!
We detected lots of coyotes this summer, and I mean lots! This makes sense, since coyotes are the most abundant wild canine in the Pacific Northwest. Coyote are an incredibly adaptable species-as unsettled natural area decreases, coyotes are increasingly found living in urban and suburban areas. While there's nothing quite like watching a coyote strut down the sidewalk at six in the morning, it's a treat to see what they are up to in a more natural setting!
From top to bottom: A coyote pauses on a ridge-line, a coyote rolling near a bait site, a coyote urinating near a bait site, a coyote laying down near a tree, and two coyotes sniffing around one of our camera sites.
We saw coyotes looking majestic on mountaintops, rolling on the forest floor, and marking near our bait sites! Lots of species are drawn to our camera sites due to the funky combination of scents we use as bait. Some- like these coyotes- feel compelled to roll in this stinky mixture or add their own scent to the area by urinating nearby.
We had our first badger detection ever this month! It's not surprising that we haven't had many badger sightings before- the American badger range in Oregon is east of the Cascades, and generally outside our survey area. In addition- badgers are notoriously solitary creatures that spend much of their time in dens underground, which makes this sighting all the more special!
A badger at night walking around a tree.
Badgers have been known to engage in mutualistic relationships with coyotes! Many Native tribes in North America have stories of this unlikely friendship between coyote and badger. They have been documented hunting together- coyotes are able to catch prey that badgers chase out of burrows, and badgers catch the prey that coyotes scare underground.
Up next we have the felines! The big cat below is known by many names: mountain lion, cougar, panther, and puma! They are sleek and shy, rarely are they seen by people. This summer we saw mountain lions at only four of our camera sites!
From top to bottom: A mountain lions eyes glow in the night, a muscular mountain lion strides through a camera site.
The other felid found roaming our forests is the bobcat!
A female bobcat and her playful cubs pass by.
This summer we had the joy of watching this little family of bobcats pass by one of our camera sites. Bobcat babies are typically born in May and stay with their mom until fall, although some wait until the following spring to disperse. These kittens are likely just a few months old in this photo, but by the time you're reading this they will be practically grown!
One of our cameras caught this particularly stunning photo of a bobcat cruising through the forest.
A bobcat walking through a forest clearing.
We saw some big ol' bears this summer (and some teeny ones too!). Bears were seen at 70% of our sites!
From top to bottom: A black bear walking through a burn area, a bear climbing a tree, a bear looking into the camera, and a female bear seen at night with her two cubs.
We saw bears strolling through burn areas and climbing trees. We saw bears see us (our camera, that is!) and bears with their babies! Black bears breed in the summer months, and then give birth in late January or early February in their den. Contrary to popular belief, bears aren't true hibernators. What they do could be more accurately described as entering a semi-dormant state. Hibernation involves an animal lowering their body temperature and metabolic rate, to the extent that they become unresponsive to outside stimulus. While bears do lower their body temperature and slow metabolic processes while denning, they remain responsive throughout the winter.
Striped skunks made an appearance at several of our sites throughout the summer, typically under the cover of darkness.
From top to bottom: A skunk lifting up his tail, and a skunk walking through the forest during the day.
Skunks are nocturnal, so catching this skunk during the daylight hours was a rare treat!
Our last carnivore is significantly smaller than the rest, and can be easy to miss! Although we had a few sightings of the weasel throughout the summer, they were usually just a blur across the camera site.
A weasel paused on top of a rock in the center of the frame.
Ungulates are a diverse clade of hoofed animals. The ungulates found here in the Pacific Northwest are deer and elk. Deer were seen at 95% of our camera sites this summer.
From top to bottom: a deer and her fawn browsing on herbaceous plants, a buck showing off his gorgeous rack, and a mother deer with her curious fawns.
Elk are the larger of the two ungulate species we find in this region. There are two subspecies of elk found in the Pacific Northwest- Rocky Mountain elk and Roosevelt elk. Roosevelt elk are primarily found in the coastal region and western slopes of the Cascades, while the Rocky Mountain elk are more commonly found east of the Cascade range.
In the top photo, the young bull elk gazes off into the distance. The photo right below shows an older bull. The last photo is of an elk passing by one of our camera sites late last spring.
While a few of our camera sites had small herds of elk pass through, some of the most beautiful shots we captured this summer featured elk on their own. Elk shed their antlers every winter, and regrow them in the spring. Antlers grow at an incredibly fast rate- for elk its about an inch a day! In the first photo, the young bull elks antlers are just starting to come in, and are still covered in velvet. The velvet is dense fur that helps to increase oxygen supply to the antlers. Once the antlers are fully grown, like in the next photo, elk will remove the velvet by rubbing their antlers on trees and vegetation.
Our cameras aren't set up to catch small mammals like these, but that doesn't stop them from making many appearances throughout the summer!
We saw Snowshoe hare, rocking their brown summer coats, at four of our camera sites this summer. In the winter, snowshoe hares coats turn white. This helps them to blend in with the snow, and may also increase the amount of heat they are able to absorb from solar energy.
From top to bottom: A snowshoe hare pauses in the foreground of the photo, video of a snowshoe hare bounding through the forest.
The yellow-bellied marmot is our only marmot species in Oregon. We only detected the yellow-bellied marmot at one high elevation site this summer! East of the Cascades, they can be found at lower elevations as they can live in both montane or arid environments. Marmots are true hibernators, by now they are probably snuggled up in their burrows, not to be seen again until spring!
A yellow-bellied marmot strikes a pose on a rock.
There are several species of squirrels found in our forests. These curious critters are always up to something!
From top to bottom: A Douglas squirrel climbing a tree, the California ground squirrel gathering some vegetation, the Eastern gray squirrel showing off its fluffy tail, the Northern flying squirrel gliding across the forest floor, and the golden mantle ground squirrel having a snack.
Douglas squirrel, like the one in the first picture, are one of the smallest squirrels in Oregon, Douglas squirrels can be identified by their small size and tan bellies. Up next we have an industrious California ground squirrel. In the colder parts of their range (such as here in the Cascades), California ground squirrels hibernate during the winter, so we don't expect to see many of them in the coming months! The next squirrel is easily identified by its long gray, bushy tail- its the Eastern gray squirrel! The squirrel seen gliding across the forest floor in the next image is the Northern flying squirrel. These little forest friends use a fold of their skin, called the patagium, that connects their hind and forelimbs in order to gracefully glide through the forest. Our final squirrel sighting is the golden mantle ground squirrel! These tiny squirrels look a lot like chipmunks. One easy way to tell them apart is that golden mantle ground squirrels lack face stripes. Check out the chipmunk below for comparison!
A chipmunk perches on a branch next to our trail camera.
See those face stripes? This chipmunk was a frequent visitor at one of our sites, and seemed to really enjoy that particular branch for taking a rest and a snack!
The last of our small mammals is the delightful bushy-tailed woodrat. If you look closely in the picture below, you can see how this critter got its name!
A bushy-tailed woodrat passing through a camera site in the middle of the night.
Birds and Bats
We had some amazing bird sightings this summer including raptors, owls, bats and ground birds, along with some more common backyard birds! The raptors below are red-tailed hawks.
From the top: A red-tailed hawk comes in for a landing, showing off their beautiful tail feathers. A red-tailed hawks spread wings can be seen in the second photo.
We only had a couple owl sightings this summer. We typically capture images of owls at night, and they can be hard to make out, but below is a picture of an owl captured during the daytime!
An owl comes in for landing on a fallen log.
Like owls, we only expect to get photos of bats after it's dark. The photo below is our one and only bat detection from this summer!
A blurry bat flies through the night.
We had several turkey sightings over the summer. The picture below is the only time we captured a male turkey strutting.
A male turkey showing off his plumage.
This was our one and only grouse detection all summer!
A grouse in the center of the frame, walking along the forest floor.
We also saw some more common backyard birds out in the woods! Including this raven that landed at one of our camera sites.
This beautiful Stellar's jay stopped by on a sunny day.
A Stellar's jay coming in to land on a log.
Those are the highlights from an incredible summer season! Check back in next month to see what we discover with out winter camera sights and our winter tracking crew!
It's hard to believe it's September, and almost Fall! This time of year is always exciting for us because it means it's almost time to dust off the ol' snowshoes, start watching the snow reports on the mountain, and get ready for Winter Wildlife Tracking and Camera Surveys!
Registration is open for Winter Wildlife Surveys!
Tracking Club: Spiders and Invertebrates
Nature Book Club
Wildlife survey findings
Although winter may be on the horizon, our summer wildlife surveys are not over yet, and this past month was a busy one in the forest! We have lots of different animals to share with you and, with that, some fun facts. Let's get into our camera survey findings for the month leading up to September.
Black bears (Ursus americanus) were consistently present at many of our camera sites this summer. Although only one species of bear resides in Oregon, the black bear, elsewhere in the country they can be confused with other bears such as grizzlies. Black bears' coats come in a variety of colors, including cinnamon, blue-black, brown, a combination of light and dark, and even white! Size will also vary intraspecifically (between members of the same species), making it difficult to use size alone as a factor in identifying bears. Some black bears can even be larger than grizzly bears! So, how do we tell black bears apart from grizzly bears?
It's all in the face! A lot can be determined through looking at the facial profile and ear shape. Black bears have a straight face profile from forehead to nose tip. Looking at a side profile of the face, a straight line can be drawn from the eyes to the end of the nose. Black bears' ears are, on average, longer, larger, pointed, and more upright. Keep in mind the angle in which you look at the bear could skew their facial profile, as well as if they've recently been in water, which will make the fur wet and cling close to the body, changing the size comparison of the ears to the rest of the body. In comparison, grizzly bears have a concave facial profile and smaller, rounder ears.
Take a look at the bears we detected throughout this past month and notice variations between these individuals, despite them all being black bears. Note that the last bear is young and not yet full size.
Top to bottom: A cinnamon colored black bear makes their way towards the camera, taking a moment to sniff the bait log; a brown colored black bear walks away from the camera, showing their paws and tiny tail; a blue-black colored brown bear investigates a curious smells by putting their face to the ground, resembling a downward dog yoga position; a young black colored bear investigates the bait log.
Bobcats (Lynx rufus), despite their small size (about twice the size of a domestic cat, on average), are ferocious carnivores. They usually prey on small mammals like rabbits/hares, squirrels, woodrats, and voles. The largest animal a bobcat has been known to kill is deer! If this occurs, it often happens in the winter months when food is more scarce to find and deer have a harder time getting around in the snow. In pursuit of food, bobcats have been known to climb up tall trees and expertly navigate around rocky terrain. Unlike their domestic counterparts, bobcats have no aversion to water and are quite skilled swimmers. Adult bobcats have no natural predators, although if the opportunity presents itself, larger predators will target bobcats, in particular juvenile bobcats.
This past month we detected a mother bobcat and her two kittens (shown below)! These felines will mate in early spring and after 60-70 days, anywhere from 1-6 kittens are born. These two kittens were likely born at the tail-end of summer, and will stay with their mother until they are around 8 months of age, dispersing in the winter time to find territory of their own. Other than when mating and rearing offspring, bobcats are solitary creatures, as exemplified by the other detections we've had of them.
Top to bottom: A female bobcat walks through the camera site while her two curious kittens roam around the bait stump; out on a rocky outcrop at night, a bobcat thoroughly checks out the camera; a bobcat passes through the forest during the day; a bobcat climbs on the bait log and sniffs around.
Below are two photos of bobcat scat. The scat is blunt ended, contains no tapering or twisting, and is pretty much one solid tube, leading us to believe this is scat deposited by a feline. At around 0.5-0.75" in diameter, it's the right size for a bobcat scat. Feline scats are more likely to be segmented than canine scats - which can be close look-a-likes - as they are extremely dense due to their carnivorous nature. In the second photo there are some hairs that can be seen, take a look for yourself!
Top to bottom: a bobcat scat, in 3 pieces. The first piece is quite long and blunt, the other two pieces are much shorter but still quite stubby; an up close photo of the long scat from the first photo. A wild strawberry is in the foreground, and small hairs can be seen in the scat, which is turning a white-gray color.
Next, we have another member of the feline family, the mountain lion or cougar (Puma concolor, sometimes also referred to as Felis concolor). Their coat color ranges from tan, light brown, brown-orange, and gray-brown, and like bobcats, are solitary creatures. Their main food source is deer, which they kill with a powerful bite to the neck. A mountain lion can leap up to 20 feet while hunting! In addition to deer, they target elk, bighorn sheep, and sometimes even raccoons, birds, and small mammals.
Unfortunately, these majestic big cats are listed by the IUCN as Near Threatened in some locations, though not in Oregon. At one time, however, they were in danger here. In 1843, in what is now considered Oregon, a mountain lion bounty program was initiated, which continued until 1967 when the animal was reclassified as a big game animal. By 1961, it was estimated that around 200 individuals were left and were in danger of being extirpated (locally extinct). In 1994, Measure 18 was passed in Oregon, banning the use of hounds to hunt mountain lions. Since then, they have been recovering, and as of 2019, Oregon's Fish and Wildlife Department estimates the mountain lion population in Oregon to be over 6,000 individuals. However, this count includes kittens, most of whom don't survive until adulthood.
Top to bottom: a nighttime sighting of a mountain lion, who sniffed a branch before taking off; a photo of a mountain lion during the day, just about to step over a downed log.
Moving onto a different family, we have the Canidae family, consisting of coyotes, foxes, wolves. The coyote (Canis latrans) is an intermediate sized canid and, like other animals we discussed, also come in a variety of coat colors, including grayish, cinnamon, brownish, or a combination of those colors. Coyotes on the eastern and western sides of the state have differences in color and markings, although this difference is so subtle it can easily be overlooked. In western Oregon, individuals tend to be darker and have more brown coloration than their eastern counterparts. Albino coyotes with pink eyes and foot pads have also occurred in Oregon, although extremely rare!
Historically, Oregon's coyote populations were kept in check by gray wolves, which were extirpated from the area in the 1800-1900s and only recently re-introduced, leaving that role unfilled, which in turn has lead to a boom in coyote populations over those years. Although many have vilified coyotes as pests in farm and urban settings due to livestock and pet killings, coyotes play an important role in the ecosystem by controlling rodent populations and foraging on carrion that could otherwise spread disease if left to rot. Cemeteries and golf courses have noted the significant reduction of damages made by gophers and other rodents due to coyotes. Coyotes also help control geese populations that destroy young crops and feral cat populations that prey on birds. We speculate that the coyote below is catching their next meal and wish them luck!
A coyote listens and watches intently at something - possibly a prey animal - before springing into action off-screen.
Additionally, coyotes have complex social structures and will use scent marking as a form of non-verbal communication. The two coyotes shown below exemplify marking via urination, which is done by both males and females. Both coyotes are believed to be males, using a lazy pee squat instead of the normal lifting of the leg.
Left to right or top to bottom: a coyote, facing towards the camera, in a pee squat; another coyote, facing away from the camera, urinates at the same spot as the previous coyote did.
Naturally curious, coyotes will sniff and explore sites quite often. Based on our observations, like the ones below, they seem to do this more than other animals (except for black bears).
Top to bottom: two coyotes sniff and explore the area near the bait stump; a white-tip tailed coyote jumps onto the bait log with their front paws.
Coyotes will also rub and roll on scents they deem worthy. Studies have shown that the rub-roll behavior is most frequently documented during the summer and early fall, although coyotes do roll around in the snow at times as well. This rub-roll behavior has been accredited to preference for certain baits over others, where the most attractive smelling baits elicited the highest numbers of rub-roll responses. Take a look at the rub-roll behavior exhibited by the coyote below!
A single coyote sniffs around the camera site before rubbing and rolling on the ground in response to the scent-lure.
The striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis), below, is one of two skunk species found in Oregon and the Mt. Hood National Forest. About the size of a domestic cat, striped skunks are normally docile and unobtrusive, but can be susceptible to rabies infections. Their most widely known characteristic is the ability to spray a foul smelling odor from the underside of their tail. Not to worry, as skunks are mainly nocturnal creatures (most active during the night) and humans are unlikely to encounter one while out hiking. Like other animals, the striped skunk has intraspecific coat color variation that ranges from the classic white stripe and black body, entirely white, rich brown replacing the black body, or yellow replacing the white stripe.
A striped sunk climbs on the downed bait log and walks along it, sniffing as they do.
We had our first owl sighting of the summer! There are 14 species of owls in Oregon, and 10 of them are confirmed in the Mt. Hood National Forest, although by this photo we're not able to make a determination on which species this is. Owls are mostly nocturnal and they prey upon insects, fish, frogs, woodrats, flying squirrels, and other small mammals that are active at night. This sighting, however, happened during the day, and it appears the owl is holding something in its talons - maybe a squirrel or other prey animal.
Fun fact: Not all owls have the classic "whoo" call and each species' call is distinct and unique. Here are two examples of very different calls from the northern pymy owl and barred owl.
The vague shape of wings and an owl's head can be seen, along with a figure at the owl's feet, possibly a prey animal such as a squirrel.
Another bird of prey that was seen this month is a hawk. This hawk is most likely a red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) but another candidate could be Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni) as they are nearly identical from this back view angle. Whichever hawk this may be, it's likely to be a juvenile, since the coloration and banding patterns of the tail feathers changes as they mature. Both hawks are of similar size and coloring, having light morphs and dark morphs. These two morphs appear similar from the back, but the underside of a light morph hawk are mostly white or off-white with a dark belly band.
The backside of a possible red-tailed hawk about to land on a rock, with wings outstretched.
Are you batty for bats? Us too! This is also our first bat detection over the summer! There are 15 species of bats within Oregon, 9 of which are found in the Mt. Hood National Forest. In Oregon and worldwide, bats are declining, with 9 of the 15 species in Oregon listed as Conservation Strategy Species. We're not able to make an identification on which species the individual shown below could be. Bats are incredibly important members of the ecosystem, eating insects known to be pests to farmers & humans, pollinating over 500 species of plants, and dispersing seeds. Bats eat around 1,000 insects every hour, which adds up to nearly half their body weight by the end of the night. These nocturnal mammals use echolocation to figure out the location of their prey. Echolocation utilizes high pitched sound waves emitted by the bat, which bounce off objects and insects in the area, allowing the bat to know their precise location.
A blurred photo of a bat flying close to the camera.
Next up, deer. The deer in the photos and GIFs below are most likely Columbian black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus, commonly known simply as black-tailed deer), a subspecies of mule deer. In Oregon, 4 types of deer exist (white-tailed deer, Columbian white-tailed deer, mule deer, and Columbian black-tailed deer). Mule deer are also present in the Mt. Hood National Forest, but the differences are subtle. Black-tailed deer have tails that are all black on the top, as seen in one of the photos below.
Breeding, for all these deer, occurs from late October through early December, and after about 7 months, fawns are born. Fawns will typically lose their distinct white spots by September, so we're keeping an eye out for that in the next few weeks. Females will usually give birth to twins, but the number of offspring depends on suitable habitat. We've seen does with only one offspring as well as does with twins on our cameras. This past month we've seen quite a few single fawns, shown in a couple instances below. Females, on average, will live longer than males - 15 years compared to 9 respectively. This is due to a number of reasons including fighting during the mating season and hunting of bucks.
Deer are the mammals most commonly seen on our cameras and while they've been known to stick around the camera site and check it out, we also get plenty of sightings of them moving through the site. Below you'll see instances of both situations.
Top to bottom, left to right: a single doe passes through, followed by a doe and her fawn, and lastly a straggling doe, who rushes to catch up with the herd; a buck shows off his antlers, caught with his tongue partially out; a doe and fawn simultaneously check out the camera site; two deer, barely visible above a field of purple flowers, watch a bird fly overhead; a fawn licks their lips after sniffing the bait log.
What's chunky, has short legs, a bushy tail, and is the largest squirrel in Oregon? Why, the yellow-bellied marmot (Marmota flaviventris), of course! Their brown-gray coats allow them to blend into their preferred habitat, rocky outcrops, although in some circumstances will use a pile of logs or an abandoned building. Marmots hibernate, adult males preceding all others. Following them are adult females, yearling females, and lastly yearling males. If you were hoping to see a marmot with your own eyes this fall, there's only a few weeks left to do so! They spend a mere 135-150 days above ground, going into hibernation starting around late September and not emerging until around May.
Top to bottom, left to right: the side-view of a yellow-bellied marmot on top a rock, standing proudly.
A member of the mustelid family, the weasel (Mustela spp.), presents itself below. There are two types of weasels in Oregon and the Mt. Hood National Forest, long- and short-tailed. Short-tailed weasels prefer meadows, fields, brushy areas and open woods, and forest edges for suitable habitat. Long-tailed weasels prefer habitats near water, but both species have overlapping habitats. The camera site in the photo is adjacent to a river and the weasel in the photo is rather large, leading us to believe this may be a long-tailed weasel. There can be overlap in size, so it's not always possible to tell which species is which in photos.
Don't be fooled by their small stature as both these species prey on small rodents such as mice, chipmunks, voles, shrews, rats, and squirrels. Although they can be active during the day, weasels are normally nocturnal. This is consistent with our sightings as we have only seen detections of weasel at night. They do not hibernate and are active at all times during the year. Often, fur color is white during the winter and brown in the summer, although individuals can have brown pelage in winter.
Standing on top of a downed log, a weasel with eyes glowing in the dark.
An important prey species for many species throughout the forest, and the largest native tree squirrel, is the western gray squirrel (Sciurus griseus). Like most tree squirrels (except the northern flying squirrel) the western gray almost exclusively exhibits diurnal behavior (active during the day). This squirrel is omnivorous and eats conifer seeds, acorns, fungi, insects, berries, other fruit, and some green vegetation. They are listed as a sensitive species in Oregon, as competition from eastern gray squirrels and fox squirrels have led to a decline in their numbers.
These squirrels are fast-moving creatures and this summer, we've frequently seen them in cahoots with one another, climbing logs, and running around like the visit below.
Two western gray squirrels chase one another over a downed log.
The last member of the Sciuridae family we are sharing this month is the Douglas squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii), which are also in decline in recent decades. This has largely been attributed to loss of preferred habitat - mixed mature conifer forests - and competition from invasive squirrels. The Douglas squirrel is a Conservation Strategy Species in Oregon. They are smaller than the western gray squirrel and have a orange-red belly and light brown-gray fur on the head and back. The Douglas squirrel does not hibernate and spends the fall months gathering seeds and cones in mass quantities, earning them the title of larder hoarders. Other favorite foods include bird eggs, berries, seeds, flowers, leaf buds, and fungi.
Fun fact: These squirrels have a mutualistic relationship with fungi. As they eat and subsequently discard the reproductive parts of fungi, Douglas squirrels spread fungus spores around the forest, connecting vast mycorrhizal networks that are incredibly important for the health of trees.
A Douglas squirrel in the foreground, carrying what appears to be a leaf in its mouth.
Our last animal to share this month is the bushy-tailed woodrat (Neotoma cinerea). Although this rodent is no squirrel, they boast a squirrel-like tail that is wholly unique to members of the Cricetidae family, which contains over 600 species including New World mice and rats, voles, lemmings. Thirteen subspecies of woodrats are recognized, 4 of them are in Oregon, and possibly 2 in the Mt. Hood National Forest. They are prey for many species of birds and mammals, including owls, martens, fishers, and bobcats. While not normally included in their diet, coyotes, spotted skunks, long-tailed weasels, red-tailed hawks, wolverines, and foxes will all prey on this rodent.
A woodrat scampers around the camera site, pausing every so often.
Although this month there were no camera sightings of Sierra Nevada red fox - one our target species - we did have a volunteer turn in a potential scat from this small canine. The scat is twisted and tapered, a good indication of canine scat, but measuring at around 0.5" in diameter, it's on the cusp of our cutoff for fox scat. We won't definitively know who this scat belongs to until genetic testing can be done, but we can make our best educated postulation in the meantime.
Top to bottom: a potential Sierra Nevada red fox scat. It is old and starting to turn a gray-brown color. A ruler is next to it for scale; the same scat, but different segments are shown. There is one long piece and several smaller pieces, and like the first scat, is turning a gray-brown color.
Another volunteer also found some wild turkey feathers and a probable turkey scat. Turkeys have been in part of Oregon's history since 1961, when they were first introduced to the area. Now, more than 10,000 turkeys live all over Oregon. Did you know male turkeys are called toms or gobblers and females are called hens? In the same vein, juvenile males are jakes and juvenile females are jennies. The scat below is from a tom, as scat from hens are more balled up instead of a 'J' shape.
Left to right or top to bottom: two barred feathers from a turkey, alternating dark brown and light yellow to cream color; a probable male turkey scat which has a lot of volume to it and it turning white. The scat follows a gentle 'J' shape.
That's going to do it for this month's sightings and findings! Tune in next month where we will showcase our monthly blog and Wildlife Review, highlighting the best of the best findings of the summer!
Cascadia Wild News
Hello everyone! Before we get to the findings from the Wolverine Tracking Project's Wildlife Camera, Fox, and Wolf Surveys, we have some news to share!
Join the Fox Team!
August's shortening, golden days are here, but there's still plenty of time to help out with the Sierra Nevada Red Fox Scat Survey!
The Sierra fox lives in the upper elevations of the Sierra Nevadas and the Cascades of California and Oregon. You may have heard the recent news that the foxes in the Sierras will be protected under the Endangered Species Act. Why are these foxes federally protected and not the rest of the Sierra Nevada red foxes in CA and OR? Although a Conservation Strategy Species in Oregon and protected in California, we simply do not know enough about them, including those on Mt. Hood, in order for wildlife managers to determine if their populations are endangered. The genetic information collected on this survey helps us understand these elusive, native foxes and directly informs these kinds of decisions.
Be part of this groundbreaking research this summer!
Volunteers have been working hard to document the wildlife in the forest this past month. Although no target species (wolverine, gray wolf, Sierra Nevada red fox, or Pacific marten) of the Wolverine Tracking Project were documented on camera, volunteers did find some potential fox and wolf scat. And, we've got plenty of other exciting sightings to share. We've seen quite a few pairings and even groups of animals, so stick around for those!
Remember that awful heatwave that gripped the PNW a few weeks ago? These coyotes braved the scorching temperatures, and if you look closely, you can see them with their mouths open, panting, to help cool down.
Top: A closeup of a coyote with its mouth open. Bottom: A side view of a coyote with its mouth open.
Sometimes we even get great photos like this one below. If this coyote had social media, this would definitely be a profile picture! In the second photo, we can see another coyote, majestically walking along a mountaintop ridge - what a good life!
Top: A coyote from the side view, staring straight into the camera, the front left paw is lifted.
Bottom: A coyote walks along a ridge, examining the hair snagging station as it passes by.
Single coyote detections are by far the most common sighting we see, but they can travel in pairs or threes, sometimes in even larger groups than that. From a quick glance below, it appears there's only two coyotes, but if you look closely, you'll see another one comes into the mix totaling three coyotes. This other coyote conveniently has a white-tipped tail, which isn't exactly unusual, but it's definitely distinct. We've seen another white-tipped coyote in this area before, and it's possible this is the same one. However, there's also potential for it to be another member of the pack.
A coyote comes up to the bait stump, sniffs it, then marks (urinates) on the ground next to it, and runs off. Another, with a white-tipped tail, smells the bait stump, but eventually walks off. A third coyote walks up to the bait stump and marks the ground.
Coyotes are curious creatures and we will often catch them sniffing, rolling, and marking at our camera sites. Marking (urinating, defecating, rubbing, or rolling) happens for a variety of reasons, urine being used most commonly to outline territory, mostly by males. Females also will mark, but more to define their den's territory. The first coyote that marks the ground gets really low, almost putting her bottom to the ground, indicating this is a female. The second coyote is in a semi-squatted position and lowers his belly, indicating this is a male. Juvenile male coyote will squat to relieve themselves, making use of the leg lift once they reach a certain age. However, male coyotes can also be lazy and use the squat method when they feel like it.
Below, a great example of coyote scat. It's got nice long, tapered ends and is twisted in the appearance, especially the left piece, characteristic of canine scat. With a diameter of around an inch, it's likely to be a coyote's.
A coyote scat, consisting of two pieces, a small one on the bottom and a bigger one above it. Both are extremely long and tapered at the ends.
Moving onto felines, first up we've got the magnificent mountain lion. This animal goes by many names - cougar, puma, panther, el leon, catamount, and many more! - but they all refer to this animal here, Puma concolor. The term panther, or more specifically black panther, is also used used for melanistic leopards (Panthera pardus) and jaguars (Panthera onca). Mountain lions have the most extensive range out of any other mammal in the Western Hemisphere, from the Canadian Yukon to The Straits of Magellan. Body size greatly varies depending on region, with on average, smaller individuals near the equator and larger ones closer to the poles. With so many different communities spanning across that range, it's no wonder everyone had a different name for the animal!
The backside of a mountain lion in mid-stride, seen at night.
Next up in the feline family is the bobcat. Roughly twice the size of your average domestic cat, weighing no more than 40 lbs. In comparison, cougars can weigh anywhere from 65-220 lbs. Bobcats are one of four lynx species found in the world. Not to be confused with the three other lynx species, Canadian, Iberian, and Eurasian lynx, the bobcat inhabits warmer climates, lower latitudes, and are just a tad smaller than the others. Bobcats' red-tinged and spotted coats help them blend in with their surroundings in order to gain the upper hand on their main food source - hares. The snowshoe hare is most commonly seen hare in the Mt. Hood National Forest.
Top to bottom: A bobcat walks through the camera site from left to right; a bobcat takes a pause to sniff the bait stump, its coat is a red-tint, and the tips of the ears, tail, and feet are black; a curious bobcat sniffs around the forest floor, then stands up in an alerted position, and quickly runs off.
The snowshoe hare, the favorite meal of the bobcat and an important part of the diet of other forest carnivores, is usually seen at night. Their name stems from the large hind feet they possess, which has a snowshoe effect in the snow. This prevents them from sinking, and allows them to hop around with ease during those winter months. Their running abilities would put Usain Bolt to shame at a top speed of 50 miles an hour!
A snowshoe hare, seen at night, sits and stares into camera.
Similarly to other forest carnivores, bobcats will also mark their home range. Marking can also signify courtship, which is one of the only time these felids are not solitary, save for the 9 months where females raise their young. Going back to our discussion about coyotes, we can tell this particular bobcat is a female based on how she is marking.
A lone bobcat walks through the camera site, pausing for a moment to pop a squat before heading off-screen.
Two potential bobcat scats are shown below. In the first photo, evidence of scratching can be seen, a practice that can be seen among felids. Scratching sites are used by felines to communicate, and can even be in use for decades! This scat isn't as blunt as the mountain lion scat seen above, but no two scats are alike, even coming from the same individual. At around 0.75" in diameter, that puts this scat solidly in bobcat range.
The second photo shows more segmented and blunt ended pieces of scat. There's also hardly any twisting, and the size is well under an inch, leading us to believe this came from a bobcat as well. It's amazing the variation between scats from the same species!
Top: A feline's scratch and scats. The scats are comprised of three pieces, two similar sized pieces, roughly 3 inches long, and one small piece, roughly an inch long. Bottom: several pieces of scat, very blunt ended and segmented, light brown in color.
A true omnivore, the black bear. Black bear detections are always a delight to see since they have so much personality! In last month's blog we saw a pair mating and this month lacked no surprises either!
Left to right, top to bottom: A black bear put its nose to a log, intently sniffing; a closeup photo of a large black bear; the left rear paw of a black bear can be seen as it walks away; a black bear on its hind legs, gripping the log the bait box rests upon; some careful rearrangement of the bait logs from a black bear.
Black bears have a 2-year reproductive cycle, where females will breed around May-July, but with delayed implantation the females only become pregnant in the winter, starting in November. They will carry the cubs to term through the winter, giving birth in mid-late January. Cubs will remain with their mother, called a sow, throughout that whole year and into the next spring. They will disperse in the spring coming into their second year. Once the cubs are gone, the female is ready to mate and start the process all over again.
Three black bears, a sow and two cubs, explore the camera site.
It's pretty easy to spot bear scat in the summer! Being true omnivores, bears love to get their paws on wild berries growing in the forest. As a result, their scat looks like it, too! The enormous volume usually gives a bear scat away, but other characteristics can include cylindrical pieces and blunt ends if they've been eating a more carnivorous or fibrous diet.
Left to right, top to bottom: A bear scat, dark purple, bordering on black, with many berry seeds intermixed within. A foot is there for size reference; another bear scat, this one also having lots of berry contents.
Since we've been discussing wildlife communication and sign, what better time to throw in a few bear stomps? Bears make stomp trails, and they will go over them multiple times to create a deep indentation in the soil. Sometimes they will use a "cowboy walk", which is a stiff-legged, wide-based stomping gait, twisting their feet in the ground. This helps to deposit scents from the bottom of their feet, which others can smell and use as a form of communication.
Left to right, or top to bottom: A shallow bear stomp trail. The tracks can be seen contrasting the pine needle litter; a large bear footprint, preserved in dried mud.
Our last carnivore is the striped skunk. It's not uncommon or unusual to have sightings of these animals, but it is not often we get to see them in the daytime since they are pretty exclusively nocturnal.
Top to bottom: the distinct pattern of a striped skunk, two white racer stripes among a black background, can bee seen as the skunk checks out the camera site; a striped skunk on a log, sniffing the bait box.
This gang of elk were spotted, traveling with two calves! Did you know that elk can count (to some degree)? When cows (female elk) are presented with bulls (male elk) having 9 or 10 point antlers, the cows will almost always choose the bulls with 10 point antlers. How fascinating is that?
Several elk take turns walking through the camera site, sniffing at the ground as they walk through. They have light brown bodies and dark brown necks. The calves still have white spots on their coats.
Our last ungulates are deer. Not as big as elk, they're the smallest member of the deer family (Cervidae) in Mt. Hood National Forest. These two young bucks enjoyed a quick sniff and snack before heading elsewhere in the forest. Below that, a doe deer munches on some vegetation while her fawn bounds along.
Top: Two young bucks sniff at the ground near the bait site, tiny antlers beginning to grow on their heads. Bottom: A doe eats away while staring aimlessly, her fawn a blur as it jumps by.
Western gray squirrels are high-energy, fast moving creatures. They love to chase one another, as seen in the photos below. They shed their fur in late spring and once again in early fall. Their tails only shed in the spring.
Left to right, top to bottom: Two western gray squirrels, one is climbing a tree trunk, the other is mid-air, to the right of the first squirrel; two western gray squirrels in mid-jump, facing away from the camera.
The golden-mantled ground squirrel, seen below snacking, is our last squirrel and last animal for this month's blog. Often confused with chipmunks, who also have striping on the body but with additional face stripes, the golden-mantled squirrel is mostly diurnal, meaning they're most active during the day and rest at night. However during the summer months they can be seen active at any time of day. They'll start hibernating in late August to November!
A golden-mantled ground squirrel in the foreground, on its two hind legs, with its hands up to its face, eating. The distinct black and white stripe can be seen running down the squirrel's body.
Although we haven't had any camera sightings of our target species from The Wolverine Tracking Project (wolverine, gray wolf, Sierra Nevada red fox, or Pacific marten) documented on camera, volunteers did find some potential wolf and fox scat!
Below, a possible gray wolf scat. There's traces of bone and hair, both of which are usually not in a domestic dog's scat and can be ruled out. The ends aren't extremely tapered, like in the coyote scat we discussed earlier, but they're also not super blunt, as seen in the feline scat. Size is also very important when looking at potential wolf scat, it must be larger than an 1.25" in average diameter to be considered for genetic analysis, and this one is just that size.
A potential wolf scat, in several pieces. Fragments of bone and tufts of hair can be seen intertwined in the scat, which is a dark brown-gray color.
Next is a potential Sierra Nevada red fox scat sample. As stated earlier, no two scats are alike, and sometimes scat from a feline could look like canine or vice versa. This possible fox scat is around half an inch in diameter, about the size of a human's pinky. Coyote scat are usually bigger, greater than half an inch, but less than one inch. This scat was found on top of tree bark, and it's important to note that many animals use roadways, clearings, or other big geographical markers to place their scat.
A small, speckled brown colored scat sits upon a piece of tree bark.
To end things on a heartwarming note, here's a small bird's nest tucked safely away in a manzanita bush. In it, two small baby chicks. How precious!
Two small gray baby birds can be seen curled up together in their nest, tucked in a manzanita bush.
That's all we have for this month's blog, check back next month for more exciting forest sightings!