January 15, 2019

It's Tuesday, So It's Bears-day

 A news report on today's bear release.

I did not sleep well last night because I knew that I was getting up earlier than usual.

Wash, dress, walk and feed the dog, fill a go-cup with coffee, and be on the road to the wildlife rehabilitation center.

A tranquilized bear is weighed. The white ear tag
marks it as release from a rehab center.
The game wardens were already there, four of them: two men, two women, all from the Colorado Springs area.  They had already started "darting" the bears — two them lay sleeping in a corner of their enclosure, while one hung woozily from the chain-link wall.

My job as a Colorado Parks & Wildlife wildlife-transport volunteer was just that: transport. In this case, I was a bear-stretcher bearer. Once a knocked-out bear was on the stretcher, one of wardens and I carried it to a hanging scale, where it was weighed (less 15 lbs. for the stretcher and webbing). Then it was out across the snow to a waiting culvert-trap, now repurposed as a transport trailer.

Two trailers, four yearling bears in each, butt to butt, so that they would not accidentally roll onto each other's muzzles and cut off breathing.

Then, after two hours (that's 15 minutes per bear, pretty good teamwork), the two rigs left the property, headed north to somewhere in El Paso or Teller counties. (Exact location of the artificial dens is confidential, of course.)

When bears are released in summer, they are given a wake-up drug first, so that they, literally, hit the ground running. 

Game warden Corey Adler arranges the
tranquilized bears for transportation.

In the winter, however, they are hauled on sleds to the man-made dens, four yearlings to a den, and left there, still tranquilized, to wake up later among familiar scents.

To see those dens, view the photos with Jennifer Brown's article in The Colorado Sun.  That"180 acres" is wacky wrong though. The wildlife rehabilitation center is much, much smaller.

Weighing between 110 and 160 pounds (50–73 kg) , the seven males and one female are roly-poly fat, thanks to massive donations of fruits and vegetables from the Cañon City Walmart, fish from CPW, and meat donated by big-game hunters. Trying to grab hold of one is like grabbing Jello.

All the while, photos are being emailed to a CPW public relations guy, and the TV station crews will be waiting near the release site.

Six more bears remain to be released in the near future.

Most of these bears were orphaned last year when their mothers were killed, either by vehicular collision or by a game warden when the mother had repeatedly broken into homes, looking for food.

The wardens know that they have to make that difficult decision sometimes, but they don't like it. As one of them said today, "This is our chance to show that we don't always kill bears."

January 14, 2019

Back When the VW Bug Was an Off-road Vehicle

In 1956, if you owned a Type I Volkswagen Bug in South Dakota, you had yourself an off-road vehicle.

Here is Dad's VW with evidence of a successful antelope hunt on the roof rack and his friend Harry Linde (owner of a sawmill near Keystone, S. D.) posing with their rifles.

There were also stories about chasing jackrabbits in that car . . .

But don't go chasing across the prairie/steppe in an old VW Bug today: get a replica Kübelwagen T-82.

January 13, 2019

Where Are the Dogs of Yesteryear?

Ubi sunt?
"Mais où sont les neiges d'antan?" asked the medieval French poet François Villon. Usually that is Englished as "Where are the snows of yesteryear?"

And where are the dogs of yesteyear?

M. with Jack the Chesapeake Bay retriever and Shelby the collie-Lab mix, also known as the Bandit Queen. North Taylor Creek, Sangre de Cristo Range, early winter, 2002(?).

January 11, 2019

You Can Tell That The Firewood Article Was Not Written in the West — #4 Gives It Away

An article about how to stack firewood, and it's fine, but number 4 made me laugh.

Think forest fire and keeping fuel away from the house, not termites.

Actually, I hardly have a woodpile right now, and that is nothing to brag about. The early snows caught me off-guard, and I have been the Grasshopper, not the Ant, ever since. I go out on nice days and cut some rounds from this big, beetle-killed pine trunk near the house, wheelbarrow them home, and then split them.

Next summer, I need to be more the Ant.

There are, in fact, more ways to stack firewood, and you can find them by skimming back issues of Mother Earth News or, I am told, by visiting Norway.

January 09, 2019

Smoke-Phase Turkeys in Southern Colorado

Two smoke-phase wild turkeys were part of a small flock.
Two days ago I bumped in a small flock of Merriam's wild turkeys in a residential area of eastern Custer County. Mixed in with the normally colored birds were two light ones — not true albinos, but definitely whiter than normal.

It turns out that these turkeys are called "smoke phase" or sometimes "smokey gray." You might wonder if their wild parents mated with a domestic bird, but not so, says this Minnesota outdoor writer.
"The partially white or smoke-phase turkeys occur naturally," said Tom Glines, Minnesota's senior regional director for the National Wild Turkey Federation. "The white or gray feathers are black-tipped and the birds are beautiful."

There has been some concern that landowners have released pen-raised turkeys into the wild -- a practice that is illegal without a permit -- and that some of those captive turkeys have bred with the wild turkeys, resulting in the smoke-phase turkeys.

There is no hard science to back up those concerns.
 No, they do not turn color in the winter. They were a new sight for me though.

January 04, 2019

Graves in the Woods (2)


Two little graves in the San Isabel National Forest
Unlike the graves mentioned in "Graves in the Woods (1)," these are not human graves, I think — unless they were infant twins — which would be extremely weird.

More likely they were for two pet animals, small dogs or cats. We found them near a Forest Service road when we first moved here in 1992, and they looked pretty much the same back then. The Mason Gulch Fire of 2005 missed them by a few yards.

I wonder if whoever  buried them there ever comes back for a visit.