Cascadia Wildlife Blog
News from the Wolverine Tracking Project and more
early fall wildlife camera detections
Fall is here! With the changing temperature, we also see changes in the grasses, plants, and trees of the forests as they make their seasonal shifts. Animals are affected as well and many adjust by switching to different foods or traveling to different locations. Some start making major preparations for winter, including storing large amounts of food and scouting out snug places to hibernate in.
Some of these changes are evident on the latest photos back from our camera survey. Here we share the most interesting ones as summer has turned into autumn!
Western gray squirrels, like this one, have been frequent visitors to our camera sites. This one has found a large fire cone and is seen dragging it past the camera- maybe to find a more private place to eat or maybe to store it for the upcoming winter!
Here is an unusual sighting for us, a short-tailed weasel! Since they are so small, this is a zoomed in look at them. They are in the mustelid family, which includes Pacific marten, minks, river otters, and wolverines!
Take a look at this northern flying squirrel leaping across the forest floor! Although common, they are rarely seen since they are only active at night. As this one pauses for a second, you can see the distinctive fold of skin on their side, which they use to glide through the air. This is not true "flight" as their name implies, but still very unusual for a mammal!
Striped skunks made several visits recently to some of our sites. Always late in the evening or early in the morning, like this one. We don't know the reason for the increase in activity, but it is very interesting to see!
This charming critter stopped by for a perfect pose! Yellow-bellied marmots, also known as "rockchucks", typically live in rocky, high elevations like this one. They are the largest species in the squirrel family in this state, weighing up to 11 pounds- the size of the average house cat! They are also closely related to groundhogs. They are known for their long hibernation and a distinct high-pitched whistle alarm call, used to alert their kin when they sense danger which sends everyone scurrying back to safety of their burrows.
We also had a Sierra Nevada fox sighting! This subspecies of red fox has three genetically determined color phases: silver (which can appear black), "cross" (which is a combination of silver and red), and the more familiar red. This one's fur is mostly black in color with some silver guard hairs, giving it a "frosted" look!
On this day, a deer was seen munching away on a tidbit found right in front of the camera! Their diet will change now as the lush summer growth is over and they find other tasty things to browse.
Elk were seen, often just one or two, as seen here walking through the woods. They will likely start moving into different areas of the mountain as the season changes.
A large black bear comes through this site. There were so many great photos, we have more to share of them!
At another site, another adult black bear came by. This one helps show the incredible differences in color they can have (compare to the one above)! Black bears can be black, brown, cinnamon, blonde, blue-grey, and even white! About one quarter have white chest markings as well. Scientists think this variety likely helps them adapt to the different environments they live in.
There were also little bear sightings! This youngster plays around at the base of this tree where some old stumps are.
This final bear also appears to be a young, based on its size. It explores the area, even rolling around under the log before deciding to wander off to find more fun and adventure!
Last, but not remotely least, a mountain lion walks through! With a swish of its tail, it disappears into the night. We were thrilled to see this magnificent animal on the survey!
We hope you enjoyed seeing some of the best animal detections from our recent camera photos. As this season winds down, we say good-bye to the warm weather and look forward to the coolness of fall. All the wildlife in the forests are feeling it too and we get glimpses into their lives with our cameras. We love sharing our findings, so please come back again next month for our end of the season report!
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 of 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!