Monday, July 20, 2015

What bear goes there?

Photo credit: High Mountain Adventures/Facebook Page
I’ve been silent for almost 5 months, and for that I apologize. Writing about wildlife and what I’ve learned in college and life has been a constant source of joy for me, and I’ve met some really cool people through my blog. I have a lot to share about what has been going on in my life. For now, please read this article concerning bears and wildlife rehabilitation and the handling of wild animals by the “lay-person”. If you have read any of my previous entries, you’ll know that I love the American black bear above all other wild animal species.
I look forward to your comments.
Here are the comments that have transpired, and my thoughts:
Alyssa: whaaaaaaaaat
Alyssa: I actually dont like this article or story now that I’ve read it. People should NOT approach wildlife, should NOT pic up young (or otherwise) animals esp bears, should NOT put them on a leash. Let nature take it’s course. The SE is saturated with bears. The loss of one will not affect the population, however callous that sounds. That’s the biologist in me!
Friend Who Posted The Article Link: Ouch alyssa lol I get where you’re coming from but they’re just trying to do the right thing and save a life.
Myself and a set of black bear triplets at a den visit this past winter in the Finger Lakes. I accompanied the NYSDEC biologists and researchers to this den to collect various pieces of information. This information is used to manage the State’s black bear population. I am conflicted for sharing these types of pictures, as they give the wrong idea sometimes. This was a legitimate research day, and I was lucky to participate as a volunteer.
Alyssa: See “doing the right thing” in this case is anthropomorphizing a wild animal. A pet dog? Yes pick it up. A child human? Yes of course pick him or her up. But doing the right thing for wild animals and people/domestic pets is different. A wild animal should be left. The only situations that I agree with wildlife rehabilitation is the orphaning of young at a VERY young age…. IE: Mom hit by a car, and fawn is left standing there. A 5 month old bear CAN survive on it’s own. It’s no longer nursing and is very mobile. The other situation I agree with wildlife rehab is of an endangered or iconic species, such as the Bald Eagle. What this guy did, and what this article is doing, is not any favors for bears. People see this cute creature being held like a baby. I struggle with this myself, as someone who’s assisted with the handling of research bears, and I share pics of myself holding a 5 lb bear cub. Cute, amazing, wonderful… but we’re telling people its ok to handle wildlife. I’m sorry if this is coming off as crass, but it’s a reality that wildlife biologists and researchers deal with. That bear will be imprinted on humans, will seek out humans for food in the future, AND will likely need to be “removed” in the future for breaking into a car or camp. It’s only been told that people = food. A fed bear is a dead bear. It seems mean, but we’re talking about a wild animal whose species has evolved for 1000s of years, living off the land. People (usually) have the best intentions in the world for helping, but they are not doing the wild animal any favors.
Alyssa: Not to mention, that man handling that strong, young, scared animal without gloves or other protective clothing, and the bear isn’t restrained or otherwise. What if the reason she was so bold was because she had a communicable disease? Distemper, rabies, etc etc etc… I speak for the bears, not to get “Loraxy” on you, haha! But I care 1st for bears. If that means they’re left alone and a young one dies, it’s for the better of their species.

I encourage you to read the article and come to your own conclusions. Please share your thoughts below!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Eufaula NWR on Facebook

How I love social media. I really do. Sure, some people use it for bad things, but I like it for its “bringing people together” capabilities. While we all might be behind a computer screen, having access to pictures, text, video, and many types of communication applications at your fingertips is so cool, and can really united people. I grew up with computers just starting to be placed in our classrooms during the 90′s. We usually had 1 computer per classroom, and we had “computer class” in which we sat at our old Apple computers in the single computer lab learning to type “The quick brown fox…” blah, blah, blah. Fast forward almost 20 years, and here I am blogging pictures which maybe you’ll read on your tablet while on a flight, on your smartphone while waiting for a doctors appointment, or on your laptop while watching tv tonight. It’s cool, and I love it. I’m truly a Millenial!

SO, why am I blabbing on and on about all of this? Well, I want my dear blogging audience to follow me on Facebook now! I am moderating our refuge page (Eufaula NWR on Facebook!), so click there.. then “like” the page, please! And while you’re at it, you should look up other government agency Facebook pages…other refuges, national parks, state parks, etc. It’s a cool way to “connect” even though you may be thousands of miles away.

Greetings, from the entrance to our 7 mile wildlife drive. Open 1.5 hours pre and post daylight, 365 days a year!


I’ve been camera trapping, as usual, and doing odd jobs while I’m waiting for my background investigation to clear, and for the waterfowl hunts to begin in another week. Tomorrow I’m taking a hunter safety course, which will be interesting. I’ve never taken one before. I don’t really have plans to hunt while I’m here (but, maybe?), but I think it’s a good idea to have a solid understanding of state law when it comes to hunting regulation, as I will be running waterfowl hunts through out the winter months.

I’m really enjoying life here in southeastern Alabama. Here are some images and brief narrative. I’m hoping to do some solid blogging soon!  

“Scent wick” in the foreground with doe estrus on it. These are used to apply scent to lure animals into a trap set, whether it be camera or other. There are a variety of scents used from urine to anal glands to perfume even! In this case, I wanted to see if I could get an interested buck to appear. No luck, but I DID capture a bobcat (Lynx rufus) passing through. He or she was disinterested in deer scent.

Another visitor to my set. I have another, lesser quality picture, that indicates THIS animal was drawn in by the scent of doe. This being the better image, is the one I decided to share. Gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) are quite common here. I’ve seen 1 or 2, and cam trapped them about the same over the past 3 weeks. Beautiful animals.

Common buckeye butterfly (Junonia coenia) see in our Upland Unit, right off the side of the wildlife drive. These medium sized butterflies are very common, very beautiful, and you can’t help but take a good picture of them.

Pied-billed grebes (Podilymbus podiceps), seen November 2nd, on our Houston Unit.

I’ve now seen 2 timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus), and unfortunately both have been hit by cars in the road. Yes, they are venomous, but they will not seek confrontation out. THIS particular snake was alive when I slowed my truck in the road. I was going to drag it off the road with a iron rake, but noticed it was obviously hurt. It coiled into a strike/defensive position, and rattled at me. Can’t blame it. I regretfully turned around and did a mercy run-over, as there was no fixing his issues. Just like turtles in NY, people AIM for these creatures when they see them in the road. Why? I do not know.

Enjoy your weekend, where ever you are in this beautiful country!

Monday, October 27, 2014

2 new camera trapped species!

Life in Eufaula, Alabama is just fine, and I’m really enjoying it! The birding is great, the weather has been great, my dog is loving exploring with me, and the food is fantastic!

Of course you know I brought my camera traps with me (Cuddeback Attack Flash and an IR Bushnell Trophy Cam), as I do where ever I move to. I’ve been here about 2 weeks, and I’ve gotten 2 new species for my bucket list. Enjoy!

Addie knows something lives just beyond her reach…but what is it?

A nine-banded armadillo! Just behind it, is a hole that it dug out to scoot under the fence, much to Addie’s frustration. This is a new species for me!

Gray fox. I first “trapped” these in the Outer Banks of NC, and then also in Cobleskill, NY.

Another new species! A fox squirrel. These are found in the Southern Tier/Finger Lakes of NY, but I’ve never seen them.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Nine-banded armadillo

Gray squirrel

Stay tuned for more! There are MANY more interesting critters here that I’m hoping to catch on camera!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge

I arrived in SE Alabama last Thursday, after two grueling days in the car, Addie and I were glad to be free! I'm living in a 24' camper, and it's very comfortable, right on the National Wildlife Refuge! I am currently without a personal computer, an internet connection, and I'm not even allowed on the computers at work yet... so my access to blogging will be limited. I'm currently sitting in the town library, trying to get some things done...and thought I'd try to upload a few pictures!

American alligator, ~2 feet in length

Unknown species...probably a Sora or a Rail? I don't have a book in front of me. And those massive plants! What are they?!

Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge Wildlife Drive

Eastern Screech Owl in a Wood Duck nest box

The Owl's view, and my truck

My first sighting of a venomous snake. Although it was dead, it was a little disconcerting. I'm guessing a rattlesnake, even though the rattles are gone. This guy was AS THICK AS MY ARM, and about 2-3 feet in length. Impressive!

Sunset at ENWR

Red-winged Black Birds feeding on a grass of some sort.

And my favorite sighting so far! I heard a scuffling around under my camper, and of course all I had available was my phone, so the image isn't great...but this is my first Nine-banded armadillo! Such an interesting critter...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Birding at the Dry Tortugas National Park

On September 14th, I went to the Dry Tortugas National Park which is found 70 miles west of Key West. It was a beautiful trip (albeit a bit rough going out there). After I walked Fort Jefferson, ate lunch, snorkeled, and walked down Bush Key (see previous entry for pictures), I wanted to check out a large flock of gulls and terns I saw when the boat pulled up. If you’re into birding, and want to see some rare birds, Garden Key is the place to visit, which is the Key that the Fort is built on. Within close proximity are several rookeries, including Brown Boobies, Sooty Terns, and Brown Noddies. I luckily saw all 3 of those (no pics though, it all happened so fast!), and all 3 were new species for me! In total I added 6 new species to my life list, all in one day. Pictures to follow!

I’m not sure what this was, maybe a dock? All that’s left are the iron pilons, and the birds were covering it!

Fort Jefferson on Garden Key in the Dry Tortugas National Park
Royal Tern (Thalasseus maximus)

A group of Sandwich Terns (Thalasseus sandvicensis) A new bird for me!

A Laughing Gull (Leucophaeus atricilla) and a Roseate Tern (Sterna dougallii)… and the Roseate was a new bird for me, and considered “rare” in the Dry Tortugas!

Willet (Tringa semipalmata)
Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)in the foreground, and a Willet in the background. The Whimbrel was a new bird for me as well!
With a total of 6 new species for the day, this bird nerd was very happy! I’m so glad my aunt and I braved the seas and the 3 hour trip out to the Dry Tortugas National Park!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Best camera trap video of all time

Did I get your attention?

Yes folks, I'm loudly and PROUDLY making the statement that THIS video is the best you'll ever see. If you're a follower, you know I've been in the Florida Keys interning at the National Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine Key. In addition to Key deer, a smaller subspecies of white-tailed deer, we have a variety of other critters in the Lower Keys.

Watch this 30 second video (with sound!) as a domestic cat almost becomes a midnight snack for this American alligator. Yes, we have 'gators in the Keys. And this guy/gal is a regular visitor to our popular "Blue Hole", a freshwater pond with observation deck and informational panels.


To join the fun on our Facebook page, "like" the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex! The comments are....::AHEM::....interesting.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Day Trip to the Dry Tortugas National Park: I

Over the weekend my Aunt Theresa visited me in the Keys. We spent the weekend partaking in Key West culture, being tourists, and eating great food. I have been living in the Keys since the beginning of June, but I had yet to visit one of the most famous places down here, Fort Jefferson and the Dry Tortugas National Park. As you can see on the map, it’s quite the haul to get out there. It’s located approximately 70 miles west of Key West as we know it, in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s expensive to get out there ($170 for adults which includes: breakfast, lunch, passage aboard the Yankee Freedom catamaran, National Park fee, snorkeling gear, and a 45 minute tour of the Fort), but well worth the money. It’s a long day as well, starting and ending with a 3 hour boat ride. All summer we’ve had great weather. No hurricanes, no tropical depressions, just normal tropical rainstorms that are over within in minutes, then back to sun. Of course, the weekend my aunt chose to fly down here from Michigan, we had some sort of tropical system sitting on top of us dumping wind and rain. We suffered through it by eating and drinking indoors at beautiful, delicious restaurants (poor us), but I REALLY wanted to go out to the Dry Tortugas! We waited until the very last moment, late Saturday night, to book our trip. The radar was showing an OK day for Sunday. We booked it, set the alarm for 6:00 am.

Looking from bow to stern while we
were still docked. Notice the bank of
black clouds in the direction we would be
We arrived at the Yankee Freedom III terminal, and boarded the boat with 100 other passengers, hoping and praying that we would have smooth sailing. As we pushed off, the sun was still shining, and we sat on the top deck soaking in the rays, and enjoying the breeze. Within minutes though, it started drizzling, and the water started rolling, and we were only 10 minutes into a 3 our trip. It was rough, to say the least. Pouring raining and whipping winds made for a very rocky trip, and people all around us were heaving. It wasn’t exactly the calm, relaxing, tropical tour I had hoped for. My aunt and I were strong though, and made it through without getting seasick. As we approached Fort Jefferson, the clouds did part and the sun did shine. Approaching the Fort, all I could think was that we were going back in time. I thought about how long construction projects take in 2014, and this Fort was built between 1846 and 1875, with something like 16 million handmade bricks from Pensacola, Florida! There were no high-speed ferries, or freshwater, or electricity out there then. Even now, freshwater and electricity is limited. This feat of construction is impressive. Click here for more information about the history and culture of Fort Jefferson.

Approaching Fort Jefferson within the Dry Tortugas National Park

My Aunt Theresa in front of Fort Jefferson. Sadly, my version of this picture got lost somehow!

The architecture was beautiful throughout the Fort.

From the second level looking towards the Harbor Lighthouse.

From the top of the Fort looking towards Bush Key, which is attached by a land bridge.

Bush Key
While the history is interesting, and the Fort itself is beautiful to walk through, and learn about, I was really interested in birding while I was visiting. Bush Key, as shown in the last picture, is home to two species of birds that almost exclusively nest here! Both the Brown Noddy and Sooty Terns call Bush Key home, and I was very fortunate to come at just the right time, the tail end of their breeding season. Bush Key has been closed off to visitors all summer, but the day before I visited, the beach reopened for visitors to walk. My aunt wasn’t interested in birding, so she went to tan on the beach, while I got out my camera and headed down the shore.

Unfortunately, I did not get any pictures of the Noddies or Sooties. There were just a few, and they were kind of soaring on the wind high above. I wasted 5 minutes trying to focus my camera to have *proof* that I saw them, but gave up. Who do I need to prove it to, right? :) Here are some other critters I saw while walking.

I believe this to be a house gecko (Hemidactylus mabouia), unless someone else can suggest something else!

Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)

Unknown crab species

Ghost crab (Ocypode quadrata)

Land hermit crab (Coenobita clypeatus)

Assorted shells and coral bits that had washed up in the wrack line.
I realize this entry is getting lengthy, so I will come back with Part II in a few days. Enjoy the pictures, and start planning your trip RIGHT NOW!