July 15, 2017

Lost Dog Survives Wolves & Winter — And She's a Chessie

So out of loyalty to this fine breed, I give you this story of a long-lost elderly dog who survived:

"The last [the dog's owners" had heard, a hunter in Jerusalem Valley had seen a brown dog in the forest, running from wolves.

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/news/local/article160290474.html#storylink=cpy"

"The past year’s hard winter would’ve been tough to survive in the wild, even for an animal in its prime, Glankler said. The dog she had rescued, though a hardy Chessie (a dog known for its wooly, oily coat that was bred for the extreme cold of retrieving in the Atlantic), was completely deaf and clearly pretty old. Glankler couldn’t be completely sure this dog was Mo."

Read the whole thing.

This post approved by Fisher,
who is not lost.

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/news/local/article160290474.html#storylink=cpy"

July 06, 2017

Nature, Symbiosis . . . Ticks

Lovely complexity of nature.
M. and I were in Pueblo today, and someone tipped off one of the game wardens, who called me to say that she was going out to the Transportation Technology Center (where the levitating ghost train once ran) to pick up an orphan fawn — and could we relay it to the rehabilitators who live near us?

Oh sure. We had to hang around for an hour at the public library, which was torture, until she and a state wildlife biologist pulled up in her shiny black Colorado Parks and Wildlife truck.

When they handed over the crated fawn, they mentioned that it had a lot of ticks in its ear. And when we unloaded it, we saw them, like a bunch of grapes.

C., the rehabber, said she would enjoy popping them and killing them. She has a macabre sense of humor sometimes.

It can be worse. This page, from an organization devoted to creating perfect private habitat for whitetail deer, has some gruesome pictures under the heading "Can Ticks Kill Fawns?"

Writing about ticks always makes me think of outdoor entrepreneur and author George Leonard Herter. (Before there was Cabela's, there was Herter's.) Steve Bodio and I form a sort of two-person George Leonard Herter appreciation society.

Herter wrote with no regard for the norms and niceties of "sporting literature," just saying whatever was on his mind. Dare I say it, he was the Donald Trump of hunting writers.

He frequently mentions ticks, as in the number of them found on African game animals. In The Truth about Hunting in Today's Africa: And How to Go on Safari for $690.00 (1963), a book that now feels as distant as anything by Hemingway or Robert Ruark, he notes,
A really large rhino with a trophy size front horn of 30 inches of more [sic] is now [c.1960] impossible to get. Tick birds feed off of ticks that inhabit rhinos and also off from the blood that continually uses out of the scars on their skins. By watching for tick birds you can often locate a rhino. The tick birds, however, warn the rhino of your approach.
And also this exchange:
Jacques walked to the rear of the rhino and lifted its tail. Its anus was ringed with huge ticks a half inch in diameter.

"Every time I shoot one of these pigs I can't help feeling sorry for it. How would like to go around all your life with ticks like that around your anus?"
Show me another safari/hunting writer who discusses rhino ticks. Not "unhinged" as the New York Times described him, but just untroubled by the niceties of sporting lit.

UPDATE: The fawn died four days later. Tick-infested fawns are often "compromised," the rehabbers  said, which fits with the article that I linked to.

July 05, 2017

Notes from a Small-Town Independence Day Parade

Kids and and early-model Farmall Cub tractor. Can't beat that.
Florence, Colorado, has joined the trend towards "wet" parades. The parade route is divided into two halves: all units move through the dry half first, and then at an intersection, those who do not wish to continue—such as units with lots of bunting and young children—peel off.
These spectators are staying dry.
As we frequently do, our little fire department contributed a unit to the parade — and a unit to another parade in another small town. For the second year running, I drove in Florence.
Hah, what is your puny squirter against a city water truck? (Florence VFD photo)
The wet half of the parade is a water battle between spectators and parade units. The former have all manner of squirting apparatus plus garden hoses hooked to spigots on buildings. The latter have open tanks of water, buckets, and squirt guns — plus some of us have fire engines.
Soak that cop! Soak his Can Am Spyder Police Edition! You know you want to. (Florence VFD)
In our case, the fire engine is a brush truck (small wildland engine) with a gasoline-powered pump. (Most large fire pumpers run their pumps off the engine, which means that the vehicle must be stationery to pump.) We restrict ourselves to one-inch hoses, two of them. Our complement included the oldest firefighter, a retired Navy pilot who loves this stuff, and the chief with his wife and three children.
Wet-zone combat.
Me, I just rolled up the windows and drove toward what I knew was coming — the downward blast from one Florence's aerial nozle.
Into the (watery) hell mouth.
I noticed this year a couple of purpose-built wet-parade units, like this one below. Also, this "Murica" thing is becoming meme-ish. Who started it?

Two views of the same truck, with water tank filled and ready.
Who says oil and water don't mix?
In the end, what makes a parade (along with high-school bands) is somebody riding something. I asked the two riders on the saddle longhorns if I could take their picture. They agreed, and said that they had been in the parade the last two years as well. "That's the trouble," I said. "When you're in the parade, you can't see the parade."
While we were waiting, the oldest firefighter remarked on the incongruity of devoting a parade to spraying water in an arid state.

"Maybe we're celebrating Florence's senior water rights," I said. "They go back to the 1860s, I think."

As I wrote once before, humans love orgies.

July 02, 2017

Mining Camp Medicine, from a Plain-Spoken Memoir

From The Life of an Ordinary Woman by Anne Ellis (1875–1938), first published in 1929:
When anyone fell sick, the first medicine was whiskey, then came quinine and camphor (this camphor prepared at home from the gum and whiskey); then turpentine. One was pretty far gone when one or all of these did not bring him out of it! There was also a good deal of virtue in a chew of tobacco bound on a sore place. I have had many a chew on a cracked toe. Fresh cow manure was also considered good for this, leaving such a white place! For babies with bowel trouble Mama [a "born doctor"] fixed brown flour of which I would steal nibbles, and if this did not help, rose-root tea would, and I would be the one to dig the roots. She was always brewing sage* tea for some tenderfoot, who was getting "climated." Then there was Oregon grape root, brewed with rock candy, supposed to be fine for the kidneys, when juniper and a lot of whiskey were added to it. I have known men in Denver to send to us for the roots, supplying their own whiskey.
Compared to the "Little House" books, Anne Ellis's memoir of childhood and marriages in Colorado mining towns of the 1880s and 1890s (among others, Querida, Bonanza, Coal Creek, and Victor), is relatively un-prettified.  Daughter and wife of hard-rock miners, she grows up accustomed to swings between good times and bad, mixed with sudden moves to some other place which everyone knows will be a "sure thing."

Its publication in 1929 meant that it could not be completely unvarnished, but you do pick up some of the slang of the times. When the young miners from Bonanza went to Salida to "get their teeth fixed," the operations took place after dark at a house on Front Street and did not involve dentistry. 

This book had a sequel, Plain Anne Ellis, which I might have to find. (Martha Quillen at Colorado Central reviewed her third and final memoir, Sunshine Preferred and liked it less.)

* I assume this was Artemisia, not Salvia.

July 01, 2017

An Alaskan Speaks about Bear Spray

Bear spray canisters and holsters
(Udap brand).
A spate of incidents in Alaska (and the Northern Rockies) have some people asking, "Does bear spray work?"

Alaska news-blogger Craig Medred has posted on this repeatedly. The main issue seems to be that minority of black bears (not griz) who turn predator, but grizzlies are always of concern as well.
Twenty-seven-year-old Erin Johnson from Anchorage died June 19 after she and a coworker were attacked by a predatory black bear while doing environmental studies in brushy forest about five miles from the state’s largest underground gold mine. . .
Sean Farley, a bear researcher and wildlife physiologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, emphasized that bear spray has proven hugely effective on charging bears, especially charging grizzlies.

But he noted the physical state of those bears. They charge with eyes wide open, nostrils flaring and often huffing air into their lungs. They are fully exposed to the active ingredient in the spray – oleoresin capsicum, an oily extract from the pepper plant.
Unlike tear gas, which appears to work poorly on bears, capsicum causes more than just irritation to the eyes. Inhaled, it inflames airways making it temporarily harder to breathe and from what is known about research on humans, it might do even more than that.

A charging grizzly is likely to get a big dose of capsicum. That is not necessarily the case for a predatory bear. . . . Farley describes predatory bears as approaching with eyes squinting, mouths shut and  nostrils narrowed. They come in like bears approaching beehives ready to suffer a bit to get the food they want. Their physical preparations would serve to minimize the dose of spray hitting the bear.
The post goes on to talk about risk-assessment: "Statistically, you are orders of magnitude more likely to die in a motor vehicle or boating accident in Alaska than to be attacked by a bear, let alone killed by one." But fear of bears is more primal than fear of motorboats.

And there is speculation on the changing nature of predators world-wide. Read it all.

The big about bears approaching beehives reminded me of when my late brother-in-law was raising hogs on his farm in southeastern Missouri. His was a small operation, maybe a dozen or so at a time, partly for the family and partly for sale.

He told me about one particular hog that would bust through an electric fence. The pig knew that it would get shocked, so it started squealing before it hit the fence, but it still wanted to break through more than it did not want to be shocked. There is no reason why some bear might not take the same attitude toward bear spray.

I still carry it at appropriate times, however. It also works well on overly aggressive dogs. And I see that Medred still carries it too.

June 26, 2017

First Scout Camera Bear of 2017

This lanky young black bear was out ambling around on Sunday the 18th, but I just changed out the SD card in that camera today and found its picture.

Bear sign has been scant, which is probably a good thing, if it means that they are dispersed and finding stuff to eat. I did have a birdfeeder knocked down the night of June 4th, which reminded M. and me that it was time to go into summer mode and bring them in each evening.

I this color phase a "Siamese bear," as in cat, because the old fur being shed looks light over the darker undercoat.

June 20, 2017

Blossom from a Rock

I see this every so often, but it still impresses me: a little Opuntia-genus cactus growing out of a crack in a big sandstone boulder. For "planting mix," decomposing pine needles.

June 09, 2017

It's Time to Fire Up the Coleman Lantern

Last weekend at Sylvan Lake State Park, the solar lantern just was not bright enough for both M's and my reading, so I fired up the single-mantle Coleman lantern to illuminate the trailer.

Coast to coast, this lantern has illuminated many campsites. It heated my old van on waterfowling trips in the San Luis Valley as the temperature plunged well below freezing.

As best I recall, it came from the garage of an old smelter worker's cottage on Cañon City's unfashionable south side, after a co-worker rented it.

(I lived next door. Those were not shining times.)

With new washers in the pump and a new globe, it was back in operation.

The special pungency of Coleman's blended white gas, poured through the distinctive filter funnel — bright red, so you don't leave it sitting on the picnic table, as I almost did last Sunday.

You spin the cleaning lever, pump it, light it, pump some more, open the gas — OK, I admit it sounds like starting a Model T Ford or something like that.

Apparently an ad for the British market.
I never heard of the "Empire" model.
Maybe it's that early-20th-century technology. But it works — and you don't send empty gas canisters to the landfill or let them pile up at Base Camp for someone else to deal with.
Some people say Aladdin lanterns are quieter and better, but growing up in Colorado and South Dakota, I never saw one.

Back in the 1980s when I occasionally served as a camp hand for a local outfitter in return for free outdoor adventure, I heard this story from one of the clients.

He had been looking for a little store that existed or was supposed to exist near Red Wing in Huerfano County because we were low on Coleman mantles, the original kind that you tie on with cold-numbed fingers.
 
As the client stood by his truck, he recalled, this ranchman rode up on horseback. When he learned what the problem was, the horseman pulled out his billfold, opened it, and extracted a mantle, which he handed down, saying, "Some fellows carry condoms, but up here, these are more valuable."

Or maybe he said "carry rubbers." Anyhow, if it's not true, it should be.

May 29, 2017

When Lightning Strikes, Survivors Are Changed Forever

When I was a college student working a summer construction job in Taos, New Mexico, there was an old man next door, Eloy M., who people in the areas said had been struck by lightning.

They said that that was why he was shy, kind of reclusive — he worked his corn field, but never seemed to go anywhere.

Was it the lightning that changed him? According to this article in Arts Technica,
The changes in personality and mood that survivors experience, sometimes with severe bouts of depression as well, can strain families and marriages, sometimes to breaking point. Cooper likes to use the analogy that lightning rewires the brain in much the same way that an electrical shock can scramble a computer—the exterior appears unharmed, but the software within that controls its functioning is damaged.
It's a fascinating article both on the mechanics of lightning and what happens to survivors of lightning strikes.

Some quick Internet research turned up differing answers as to which U.S. states have the most lightning strikes.

Some say Florida is number one; others say Texas. New Mexico makes the top ten.

May 17, 2017

People Who Run With Dogs Are Doing It Wrong

Hoedad (Forestry Suppliers).
• "And it might seem harmless to push especially active breeds beyond what their owners do themselves, for example by having them run alongside a bicycle. Some can handle this, but apparently not all."

• Intersectional squirrels transgressing ontological boundaries. Or something. The weirdest, most contorted, theory-obsessed (in a stumbling mechanistic way) sort of academic paper on wildlife you will ever read.  Usually it's grad students who write like this. But Teresa Lloro-Bidart has, presumably, a tenure-track job.

• I have swung my hoedad and planted a few trees in my time. So did Dad in his forestry-student days. We did not know about innoculating them with fungi, but thanks to people like mycologist Paul Stamets, the idea is catching on, as shown in this spruce-planting video.

UPDATE: Second link fixed. Sorry.

May 11, 2017

Just Don't Put It in Salt Lake City

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) wants to move the Bureau of Land Management national headquarters out of Washington, D.C., to somewhere in the West and has introduced legislation to that effect. Rep. Paul Tipton (R-Cortez), whose 3rd District includes some of southern Colorado and most of the Western Slope, has a similar measure in the House.

This makes sense in a way: most of the land managed by the BLM is west of the Mississippi or in Alaska. Modern communication techniques make centralization of federal functions in D.C. less crucial.

When I heard this proposal, I figured that Denver was the hypothetical location. But the Grand Junction Sentinel  is blowing the local horn (as a newspaper should):  "But the Republican from Colorado told The Daily Sentinel in an interview that he still thinks Grand Junction is well positioned to compete for the office if legislation he introduced this week becomes law."

He is not specifying Grand Junction, however, but you can expect that he is pulling for a Colorado location. Still, there a political realities:
Gardner has gotten what he called a “great group” of Senate bill sponsors from a number of Western states, with the sponsorship list growing. But he acknowledged that those senators may have an interest in seeing the headquarters moved to their home states. And he’s previously noted that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, of Montana, might want to see it moved there.

So if the measure passes, “this will be a bit of a — I think I’ve said it before — a bit of a Western food fight (to land the office). But I think Colorado comes up pretty good in this,” he said.
The BLM's Colorado state office is already located in Lakewood,  at a satellite location of the Denver Federal Center (an office complex that grew up post-World War Two on land that had held  a military munitions factory).

Speaking as a former BLM contractor and someone with an interest in public lands, I am all for moving the national office. Just don't put it in Utah. After the anti-public lands performance by Utah's governor and congressional delegation — so stinking disgraceful  that it has driven the outdoor industry's annual trade show out of SLC —that state frankly does not deserve it.

April 30, 2017

Why Didn't the Hummingbirds Die in the Snow?

"I'm not dead yet!" (Cornell University).
It snowed here two nights ago. It snowed a lot. We had at least eighteen inches — fifty centimeters for those you who like cute little centimeters — or as I prefer to say, "a cubit and little more."

Yesterday the temperatures got barely above the freezing point, but today was warmer, and with the southern Colorado sun beating down, the snow is fast retreating.

But yesterday, when it was still cloudy and cold, a resident posted to one of the county's Facebook pages (usually devoted to photos of  sunset-over-the-mountains-from-the-deck-of-our-new-home), a photo of a hummingbird at a sugar-water feeder with a question: Why was the hummingbird just sitting there and not moving? Was something wrong with it?

I think that she had a great opportunity to observe the topor of the broad-tailed hummingbird.

The Cornell ornithology lab's site says of them, "To survive the cold nights in their high-elevation habitats, Broad-tailed Hummingbirds can enter torpor, slowing their heart rate, and dropping their body temperature."

Speaking of hummingbirds in general, here is more on torpor:
Besides being among the smallest of all warm-blooded animals, hummingbirds also lack the insulating downy feathers that are typical for many other bird species. Due to their combined characteristics of small body size and lack of insulation, hummingbirds rapidly lose body heat to their surroundings. Even sleeping hummingbirds have huge metabolic demands that must be met simply to survive the night when they cannot forage. To meet this energetic challenge, hummingbirds save enough energy to survive cold nights by lowering their internal thermostat at night, becoming hypothermic. This reduced physiological state is an evolutionary adaptation that is referred to as torpor.

Torpor is a type of deep sleep where an animal lowers its metabolic rate by as much as 95%. By doing so, a torpid hummingbird consumes up to 50 times less energy when torpid than when awake. This lowered metabolic rate also causes a cooled body temperature. A hummingbird’s night time body temperature is maintained at a hypothermic threshold that is barely sufficient to maintain life. This threshold is known as their set point and it is far below the normal daytime body temperature of 104°F or 40°C recorded for other similarly-sized birds.
And there is this advice:
When hummingbirds sleep and are in the Torpor state, they have been known to hang upside-down. If you find a hummingbird that is hanging upside-down and they appear to be dead, it is actually more likely that they are just asleep. They will probably not even respond if you touched them. If at all possible, leave them alone and they will wake up when they get warmer. 
The male broad-tails usually arrive during the first two weeks of April — this year it was April 7th. I always expect one snowstorm after this arrival, and this year (so far) there have been three. Obviously, the reproductive advantage of showing up early to claim a good territory must outweigh the chance of becoming a hummingbird-sicle. And torpor is how they do it.

Today the resident male (they are all named Chico) was back at the sugar-water feeder.

April 22, 2017

First There Is A Mountain, Then There Is No Mountain

Click to embiggen.
I look at the façade above the front door of the defunct Ponderosa Restaurant in Magdalena, New Mexico, and I wonder why it is asymetrical.

Then I see that it duplicates the outline of Magdalena Peak on the southern horizon.

And I think of a pleasant piece of psychedelic pop from years ago.

April 14, 2017

MOAB (Mother of All Bison) and Other Links

Steppe bison were the ones painted at
Altamira Cave in Spain (Wikipedia).
Research suggests that all North American bison (buffalo) are descended from one steppe bison, or Bison priscus, an ungulate that roamed Europe and Asia for millions of years.

And they were a lot bigger in the good ol' days:
"The scientists compared the mitochondrial DNA from the fossil found at Ch’ijee’s Bluff [Yukon] to that taken from 45 other bison remains, including one of the oldest and most interesting specimens, the fossil of a giant, long-horned bison — belonging to the species Bison latifrons — found in Snowmass, Colorado.

Bison latifrons is an interesting beast,” said Dr. Duane Froese, a geologist with the University of Alberta, in a separate statement.

“Its horns measured more than two meters across at the tips, and it was perhaps 25 percent larger than modern bison.”
All the kool kidz will be using these on their desert campouts soon. The Burners will have to have them. 

• Another illusion shattered. Human flesh may not be as nutritious as you thought.

April 13, 2017

America's Best Outdoor Recreation Value Will Cost a Little More

Trail signs, Colorado National Monument.

America's best recreational value.
Maybe someone realized that ten dollars for a lifetime senior national parks pass was just too good a deal in 2017. At any rate, the cost is going up — to $80.

If you are 62 or older, however, there is still a window to buy the pass at the old cheap price:
But if you get a lifetime pass before the change is implemented, it will cost only $10. Passes can be purchased online for an additional service fee of $10 or at any of the parks without an extra charge.

National Park Service officials are unsure how long it will take to implement the change, but it’s expected before the end of 2017. Meantime, they are spreading the word informally.
It's one good deal. Just show that pass to the ranger at the gate, and a whole carload of people get in. Some groups have been known to rearrange themselves so that the pass holder is driving, but I don't know if that is really necessary.

Even at $80, the pass would pay for itself if you made three national parks visits in a year.

IN OTHER PARK SERVICE NEWS:  President Trump donated his first-quarter 2017 salary to the National Parks Service, according to The Hill, a website focused on political news. That sum of 78,333.32 is, what, about equivalent to the annual salary of national monument supervisor? What do they make, anyway?

It's a nice gesture — and an under-reported one — but the park system needs a lot more money than that, mostly for non-spectacular stuff like repairing water systems, upgrading employee housing, fixing roads, etc.