Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A beautiful morning at the East Hill Campus...

Today is my first day of break from school, and I was invited by my Winter Ecology professor, Clinton Krager, to head to FLCC's East Hill Campus in Naples, NY to set small mammal traps. Sasha also came with us to help pick out sites for the traps. In January I will be taking a week long course called Winter Ecology, which is a residential course at FLCC's Muller Field Station at the south end of Honeoye Lake. We'll be studying the winter adaptations of animals and plants...unfortunately here in NY there is no snow as of now. And tomorrow it's supposed to reach a high of 50F. During that week of the course, we'll be taking a few field trips, and one will be to East Hill. So we set Marshall traps today in hopes of capturing flying squirrels. The traps will be left open for the next 3-4 weeks, and will be baited weekly to get the animals used to coming in for treats. Then, one night we'll set the traps so that if an animal goes in, it will trip and trap them in. Depending on how cold it is, we'll check the traps no longer than 3 hours out. Alot of this blog will be pictures rather than text.

Before I continue, I should make clear WHY we're trapping squirrels. I published this blog originally around 6:45 pm, and now it's almost 7:30 pm, and I've gotten comments from two different people asking why we're trapping them. My class is going to be studying the natural history of squirrels of NY (gray, red, and flying), and their winter adaptations. So the traps are safe live traps that close the animal in. We'll check them every 1-3 hours, and if a squirrel or something is in it...we'll safely remove it. When I refer to trapping in my blog postings, I could be referring to one of three: 1) Camera trapping (remote motion-sensing cameras), 2) Live trapping (non-fatal box trap), or 3) Foot-hold trap (intention is usually to kill the targeted animal and harvest its fur/meat). I believe we're going to be tagging the squirrel's ears with a small metal clip to tell us or some other scientist in the future if that animal has been caught or not.

And that's it!

Then they're free. Google it for more info, or sit on the edge of your seat 'til I post a follow up!

Today we set 10 traps. These traps are similar to "Have-a-heart" traps- they DO NOT harm the animals, if used correctly.

This is another example of a similar trap style. I'm not going to get into all the legalities surrounding this type of trapping, if you want to know more...contact your state's environmental agency. I borrowed this picture from: this website.

Anyway, WE have a license to trap. And by law, we must have our contact information and licensing number present. The East Hill Campus is owned by FLCC, but open to public access, so there is a chance patrons of the property could stumble across these traps and want to know more.

This is the bait we used: peanut butter, molasses, seeds, and nuts. Smelled so yum! Like a GOOD granola-y, protein bar. I'd be willing to trying it.

And because we live in NY, and it's supposed to be winter, we put a little bit of insulation in the traps. This is not really important until we actually set the traps to be tripped, probably all that will happen now is the little critters will come in, eat the snacks, and take some bedding home to their warm cozy nests. But when we really set them, this alpaca wool will help keep them cozy.

Clinton and I hanging a trap in a big-toothed aspen stand.

Clinton and Sasha setting a trap. We used alternating colors of yellow and red flagging tape to keep track of the traps (hopefully...).

A look through a trap. We left them with one end closed, but for the sake of the picture I had both ends open. In the foreground, the bait is placed.

Another trap- in this picture you can see the bait and alpaca wool.

Flying squirrels are foraging omnivores eating everything from seeds to fungus to baby LIVE birds, eggs, grass, and/or insects. During the night they travel up and down trees in search of food, so we expect good results with these traps. We could also probably get red squirrels, chipmunks, birds, mice, and POSSIBLY a gray squirrel, although it would be VERY unhappy. These size traps are are a bit too small to fit a gray. I have previously blogged about flying squirrels at the EHC here: My flying squirrel is off to the taxidermist!

Here are some more pretty pictures from the EHC, although not related to small mammal traps!

 Scat that Sasha and I believe to be Pileated Woodpecker. This was at the base of a live pine tree with the characteristic oval/rectangular holes and fresh chips on the ground. The scat was full of exoskeletons from insects. A cool find!

I just finished a Field Botany course that covered wildflowers, shrubs, vines, deciduous, conifer, ferns, lichens, and mosses. I think this is a moss.

Another moss with their little fruiting bodies sticking up, cute!

Red pine needles and bark! I learned how to properly ID Scot's/Scotch pine from red pine today.

And finally, on the way back down the hill...2 of my favorite people in my FAVORITE spot on the EHC. The pine plantation!

Results from the trapping extravaganza to come... in January 2012!

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