Cascadia Wildlife Blog
News from the Wolverine Tracking Project and more
Our winter season is in full swing and we have been busy meeting and training our Camera Crew and Tracking Survey volunteers! We have been having fun doing field trainings in local parks and at Mt. Hood, have gone out on our first Group Tracking Survey, and are looking forward to bringing back our first photos for the winter season.
While we don't have winter photos to share quite yet, our last two sets of photos from our summer camera locations were recently retrieved, and we have some amazing detections to share from them!
First, check out this canine - it's a red fox! These animals can display a few different coat colors, or "phases." The pictures below are of a silver phase fox. Even though it does not appear red, it is a member of the same red fox species!
This is one of the target species of the Wolverine Tracking Project. There are a few subspecies of red fox, one being the Sierra Nevada red fox, which is particularly rare. This subspecies resides at higher elevations than your typical fox, and because we carry out surveys for carnivores at Mt. Hood, this is the perfect area to look for these animals!
A fox crosses through our camera site.
For our target species, we especially hope to find scat, urine, or hair samples from these animals which can be used for genetic analysis. Not only does this confirm their presence in our survey areas, but there is a lot to learn from genetics too!
Since the Sierra Nevada red fox is a subspecies that is spatially isolated from other populations, we are particularly interested in how the DNA of these animals may differ from other subspecies. Our next detection shows a fox urinating, which would be a perfect genetic sample! Unfortunately, too much snow fell before this camera was visited, so no sample could be collected. We can cross our fingers for another chance as the season goes on!
From top to bottom: A fox circles and urinates near some brush. A fox sniffs the ground before leaving the area.
Next up, we would like to share some adorable black bear detections from the last of our summer photos. These animals will be hibernating very soon, so we probably will not be seeing them for a while. Female black bears can remain in their dens as late as mid-April and will give birth to cubs while still in the den! These cubs will then remain with their mother for up to two years before heading out on their own.
An adult black bear sniffs and rubs on a tree before leaving the view of the camera.
We also want to share some photos of very curious cubs!
From top to bottom: A black bear cub stands on its hind legs while smelling and rubbing on a tree, then rolls onto the ground. A black bear cub grabs some vegetation while rolling around on the ground.
Last from these camera checks, we have a sweet doe visiting our camera in the snow! Like the black bears, deer are quite busy during this time of year. They are coming to the end of their rut, or breeding season. The rut is marked by physiological and behavioral changes, where males shed the velvet on their antlers and begin fighting with other males. By this time of year, most bucks have mated with several does. Come spring, we will be seeing sweet spotted fawns with their mothers!
A doe walks through the snow towards the camera, looks to the left, and leaves the site.
And with that, we have shared some of the highlights of our last summer photos. We are very excited for our hard-working volunteers to visit our cameras again soon, bringing back the first photos for the winter season. Please check back next month to see more highlights and to learn more about the animals we find!
snow falls on mt. hood
The snow is fresh on Mt. Hood and the animals have been hard at work prepping for winter. Just like our animal friends, we have been busy wrapping up our summer season. We send a huge "Thank you!" to everyone that has volunteered with us this summer! With that, we are very excited to start Winter Tracking Surveys soon. Strap on some snowshoes and join us in looking for animal tracks and sign in the snow, our virtual trainings start this week!
We will be sharing lots of photos and videos brought back from several of our camera sites, as well as discussing a genetic sample found on a scat survey! We will also be highlighting some interesting behaviors and physical changes that animals will be undergoing with the change of season.
A strong sense of smell
We have had numerous detections of black bear at our camera sites this month. These animals can pick up on scents as far as a mile away! Many animals pass through our sites, so it makes sense that bears come to investigate and sniff around!
From top to bottom: A bear covered in debris poses with head low to the ground, investigating smells at our site. A different site has a bear smelling a log. An adorable cub rolls around near a large downed tree.
leaving a scent
Our volunteers have also brought back photos and signs of some canid species. These animals are highly social and often travel in groups! When seen at our cameras, however, we typically see them alone or in pairs. Canids also love to let other animals know where they've been! They will often mark roads, trails, and sites with urine or scat, and frequently rub or roll on the ground to leave their scent. This works out well for us, as it makes them easier to study!
From top to bottom: A coyote urinates near a tree while a second coyote stands facing the camera. The same two coyotes rub and roll around, leaving their scent at the site. A coyote sniffs around at a different location.
In addition to the coyote detections at our camera sites, we had a volunteer that found a scat sample that likely belonged to a gray wolf! Canids like the coyotes above and gray wolves are facultative carnivores, which means that in addition to preferably eating prey animals, they will also eat berries, carrion, and whatever else they can find if necessary. This is sometimes evident in scat samples, as we may find plant matter in addition to things like hair or bone fragments from prey.
Scat sample that is likely from a gray wolf. The large size, cylindrical shape with tapered ends, and hair are notable for identification.
We have another detection from an animal that is quite known for leaving its mark - the striped skunk! We have recently seen an uptick in detections of these animals, which is a pleasant surprise.
A striped skunk moves through a camera site, pausing to sniff at the base of a tree.
Next are some mountain lion and bobcat detections. Unlike the canids we talked about, members of the feline family tend to be more secretive. They are much more likely to mark under logs, rocky overhangs, or other areas that receive less traffic. They may also bury their scat, rather than leaving it on a trail like canids. Despite these differences, we will see felines display similar rubbing and rolling behaviors at our sites!
From top to bottom: A bobcat perches and stretches on a log at night. A bobcat lays in the center of one of our sites. A mountain lion rubs its face and body near a downed tree. A mountain lion approaches and smells a stump during the daytime, a more unusual sighting!
Developing winter coats
We also had detections of a few species that will be sporting winter coats that look quite different from what we have seen during the summer! Deer and elk develop thicker winter coats with long guard hairs that are more moisture-resistant. For deer, this coat is notably thicker and grayer than their summer coat. For elk, both males and females develop a two-layered coat that looks like a mane covering their necks.
From top to bottom: A female deer stands with her back to the camera. A larger buck stands near a camera at night. A male elk visits a site at night as well, thicker hair covering the neck is quite visible.
We also detected a snowshoe hare, who will be developing a white winter coat soon! This will allow the animal to better blend in with the snow that is now on Mt. Hood, providing better camouflage from predators.
A snowshoe hare hops near a tree, then leaps away.
Stashing food for the winter
Next up are some members of the rodent family! We had many detections of Douglas squirrel, western gray squirrel, and chipmunk. These animals have been very active through fall, storing food to eat while they spend more time in their dens in winter. Douglas squirrels use a method called "larder hoarding," where they will create just a few very large caches of food. In contrast, western gray squirrels use "scatter hoarding," where they will have numerous caches that are smaller in size. Various chipmunk species will use either of these methods.
From top to bottom: A Douglas squirrel hops through the snow. A western gray squirrel stands quite close to one of our cameras. A chipmunk sits to the left of the camera.
We had one more rodent detection, this time a more unusual species! The northern flying squirrel is active at night, so they are not as commonly seen. Unlike the rodents above, hoarding food behaviors are not well-documented for these animals. Maybe we'll find out how they prepare for winter soon!
A northern flying squirrel hops throughout the site during the night.
Finally, we have some bird detections to share as well!
From top to bottom: A Steller's jay sits on a stump. A small flock of turkeys pass through a site.
That's it for this month's blog! Thank you to all of our volunteers for bringing back these photos and genetic samples, and thank you for reading!
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!