Showing posts with label deer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label deer. Show all posts

September 28, 2020

A Mountain Lion in the Morning


I hung this scout camera on May 9th at a little seep that I call "Camera Trap Spring." (You won't find that name on Google Earth, not if I can help it.)

It's in little bowl in the foothills about 45 minutes' walk from my house, but a walk that involves scaling a step ridge, negotiating a small talus slope, and winding through a lot of oak brush. 

The camera also recorded turkeys, bears, deer, elk, and gray foxes, all drawn by a tiny water source that kept running through this drought summer. When I finally got motivated to retrieve the camera today (the batteries had died in mid-July), I was truly surprised to find water there. That probably explains the bear with a muddy rump that was captured on another camera on my side of the ridge—if they can't do more, bears like to just plop their butts down in the water.

When I stand up at the spring, I can see houses, maybe hear a far-off dog bark, and watch traffic moving on the state highway. Yet because there is no vehicular access—and it's a serious hike in—the animals act undisturbed, like this cat having a drink at 8:49 a.m., no fear at all.

The camera recorded some deer there two hours earlier. I wonder if he was thirsty after a meal.

June 20, 2020

An Orphan Fawn with Pretty Good Prospects

Orphan mule deer fawn arrives at the rehabilitation center.
This is the time of year when fawns are dropping and wildlife agencies are telling people, "Don't think that fawn has been abandoned unless it is still there 24 hours from now! Its mother had to go eat, but she knows where she left it, and she will be coming back."

Generally that is true, unless she is lying dead by the side of the highway, which is the back-story to some of the wildlife transport runs that M. and I do every June. That was the case with this little mule deer from eastern Fremont County.

We picked him up two days ago from the woman who had found him. He had a quick 45-minute ride to the wildlife rehabilitors, and now he is in the antelope/deer fawn enclosure, behind a high chainlink fence reinforced with barbed wire and electric wire— all to keep predators from thinking it is some kind of snack bar. (So far, so good.)

As all Colorado Parks & Wildlife volunteers are trained to do, we politely thanked her for taking care of the fawn and for contacting CPW about it.

As I picked up the carrier, she asked that I hold it up to the passenger seat of her Chrysler Pacifica so that the young kids in the back could say good-bye to the fawn. I did that. 

I got the impression that she had kept it longer than she should have as a learning experience for the kiddies. Like some people let the cat have kittens so that the kids can witness "the miracle of birth."

On the plus side, she had given him goat's milk, which  he accepted, and he was alert and lively when he arrived at the rehabbers' place. No harm.

Not like the woman who lived in a little house up the river in Huerfano County and found an injured great horned owl. I think it had collided with a fence or power line.

She kept it for about four days while looking up information on the Internet, where she got some site that told her to feed the owl oatmeal or something equally wrong for a carnivore.

Finally she or someone talked to the Raptor Center in Pueblo, and I was dispatched to get it. When I picked up the owl, she cooed over it, "You'll be going to a better place where they will make you all better."

No, you will be going to a better place where you will get the needle because you are too far gone.

But I was polite and (I hope) upbeat, even though I knew it was a hopeless case.

So if Colorado  Parks & Wildlife ever moves on behind the "Leave the fawns alone!" message, which is super-important, maybe they could add, "If you pick up an injured bird or animal, call now, not two days from now!"

February 03, 2020

Exurban Mule Deer: Middleweight Sparring

These boys don't care who is watching. Or maybe they want an audience.

June 26, 2019

Give a Man a Pile of Rocks . . .

. . . and he will spend a while trying to stack them into a balanced cairn.

I say "man" because the boot tracks down here were pretty large, just in case you are questioning my gender assumptions.

There used to be a road under this slide, but then came a forest fire, followed by flash-flooding.  I used to know the area well. Now it's all changed. Time for re-exploring.

Yes, the ridge in the background was burned pretty thoroughly. Gambel oak is coming up in profusion, so the deer, bears, and turkeys will benefit from acorns.

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.

January 29, 2017

Colorado Wildlife Commission Endorses "19th-Century Science"

Mule deer does in recently burned area — good habitat for them!
M. and I own a cabin in the Wet Mountains, near our home, which functions as a guest house, occasional writing hide-out, and which we also rent to tourists now then.

Recently a woman from Virginia whose family stayed there last summer wrote, "I thought Colorado was better than this."

And by "this" she meant the Wildlife Commission's decision to "capture and kill up to 15 mountain lions and 25 black bears each year in the Piceance Basin [and in the upper Arkansas River drainage] of northwest Colorado. beginning in the spring of 2017."

 From the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

Wildlife crews will capture up to 15 mountain lions and 25 black bears each year using cage traps, culvert traps, foot snares and hunting dogs, then shoot them, according to CPW documents. . . .  The plan will cost about $4.5 million, according to CPW. Predator control is one of seven strategies identified in CPW plans to restore the state's mule deer population, which currently sits about 80 percent of wildlife managers' desired population of 560,000.

The first source, NPR, said,  "The state said it would also pay $435,000 per year for a nine-year study of the "effects of mountain lion population density on mule deer populations."

Times nine years, that makes $3.9 million plus change. OK, let's take the lower number. It is equal to selling 10,142 nonresident deer licenses, or 126,290 resident licenses.

Maybe. But is it good science?

"We find it surprising that CPW’s own research clearly indicates that the most likely limiting factors for mule deer are food limitation, habitat loss and human-induced disturbance – not predators,” wrote CSU biologists Joel Berger, Kevin Crooks and Barry Noon in a letter to the commissioners.

 "Nineteenth-century scicnce" is what they called the state's proposal.

But the designated "sportmen's representative" on the Wildlife Commission, John Howard, chose to mock the three biologists on his blog, calling them tools of "various groups on the left side of the conservation movement."

And he was upset that they did not cancel class or whatever and come to a commission meeting when it was held in Fort Collins.

The implication seems to be that unless the commenter kneels and kisses Howard's ring, then their comments, whether written, emailed, or telephoned in, can safely be disregarded by the commissioners.

If you want mule deer, create mule deer habitat. It's that simple.
Ironically, big forest fires create mule deer habitat — they like brush better than deep woods — so maybe the commission should hire some arsonists instead of hired guns from USDA Wildlife Services (Motto: "Trapping and poisoning animals is not all that we do.")

In 2014, I got a nice buck on a ridge that burned in  2012, and I had never seen so many deer there as I did that summer and fall.

So Colorado Parks and Wildlife scores a twofer: While dodging the real issue on mule deer populations, they have given the state a black eye noticeable all the way across the country.

UPDATE: Now there is a lawsuit filed by WildEarth Guardians.
The lawsuit contends mule deer numbers in Colorado are rising at a pace that by 2020 could result in the population reaching CPW’s goal of 501,000 to 557,000 deer. It also says the agency’s population goals fail to account for loss or degradation of historical habitat due to development.

December 26, 2014

How Deer See Blue Jeans

Depth of concealment . . . not.
At his Hits and Misses blog, Gerard Cox discusses another study of deer vision and human camouflage:

"Within this blurry focus, however, some colors are better perceived than others.lue, violet, and near ultraviolet light are seen more clearly by [whitetail] deer than other colors. Near sunrise and sunset, blue and UV makes up much of the light available, and that's what deer see better than other colors. So keep those jeans at home, boy."

And if you say that you have shot plenty of deer and elk while wearing blue jeans, well, I have done that too — from a distance.

At left, a photo from an old experiment of shooting pictures of hunting clothes in B&W to try to simulate deer vision. The model's camo sweater is black/blaze orange, and shortly after this time, Colorado changed its regs to forbid blaze orange camouflage — you had to have a solid color. He is wearing blue jeans.

As I understand, this is all about color-blindness in men, not about deer or elk. If a man is color blind, he can still see the blaze orange as a light color, even better than he could see "safety green," which is right in the center of the human visual spectrum.

For a time in my early twenties I sold menswear in a department store, and I was surprised how often a customer would select a shirt, for instance, and then say, "I'm color-blind, so could you pick out a tie to go with this shirt for me?"

Edges of reflective hat band catch your eye.

Yet some say that color-blindness has evolutionary value, giving those men affected a sort of predator-type vision, an ability to spot movement against jumbled backgrounds.

More information:

• "Behavioral measure of the light-adapted visual sensitivity of white-tailed deer" (abstract only).

• Camopedia: The Camouflage Encyclopedia.

•, another compendium of military camouflage from around the world.

• "Portraits, Cubists, and Camouflage" — how pre-World War One artists influenced military camouflage design.

• The U.S. Army's ongoing camouflage controversy.

• A history of digital camouflage development, focused on the United States and Canada.

November 30, 2014

Who Came to the Gut Pile?

On the afternoon of November 5th, I walked out the back door and hiked to some burned-over BLM land about 45 minutes from the house.

Maybe it was my scouting and camera work at "Camera Trap Spring," maybe it was the red gods' favor, but about an hour after leaving home I shot a mule deer buck, three points or four points (Western count), depending which side you looked at  — not a huge buck, but since I would be backpacking the meat out, that was OK.

I boned the meat and filled my Osprey Talon 22 day pack past its design specifications, I am sure, but it's a tribute to that design that it still felt comfortable, even though heavier than I had ever loaded it.

The next morning I returned — with a larger pack —carefully glassing the area as I moved through the burnt pines, lest a bear have found the gut pile, bones, etc. No, just a few crows were flying around and talking.
Magpies came first, the morning that I set the camera.

So would a bear or other scavengers come? One way to find out — I brought a scout camera with fresh batteries, piled bones, hide, rib cage, and skull with the guts — and set it to cover the scene.

Today, twenty-four days later, M. and I went back for it. The deer's remains had been rearranged considerably.

The well-nibbled rib cage and spine were a few yards away, downhill. The hide was in several pieces, and the head was not immediately visible.

The slideshows are 19 MB and 16 MB, so if you don't want to load them, see highlights below.

The bear came later. An ear-tagged bear, meaning it has been relocated once — not like there is any vacant habitat.

The golden eagle made multiple visits.

Golden eagle

The ear-tagged bear has a feast.
Of course there were lots of crows visiting, and a couple of ravens and a red fox. And other deer walked past the scene unconcerned.

July 31, 2014

Blog Stew: Who Lit the Fire?

¶ After a year, is El Paso County about ready to prosecute someone for starting the Black Forest Fire? It seems obvious that it started at someone's home.

Women & Guns celebrates a 25-year anniversary with a retrospective article about the magazine, concealed-carry purses, bra holsters, and the evolution of the firearms market.

¶ The Denver Post looks at the decline in Colorado's mule deer population, which I think the robust elk numbers tend to mask.

Energy development on the Western Slope — what we used to call "the deer factory" — gets some of the blame.

June 17, 2014

Fawn-Transport Season Starts with a Thud

M. and I were preparing to go to Pueblo when the telephone rang. On a hot, dry day with the wind blowing, that sound always makes me jump. (Why I prefer email.)

A game warden was driving down from Colorado Springs with a newborn, weak fawn. Could someone meet him and shuttle it to the rehabbers? I went quickly, but he was quicker—when I reached the roadside cafe that was our rendezvous, I could see the big tan pickup with the light bar on top parked under some cottonwood trees.

The fawn—one of two whose mother had apparently been hit by car—was almost limp. Just a rag doll. He lifted it from his pet crate into mine, and we took off on our separate ways. It bleated a few times, but I had twenty miles still to go, which was too far, as it turned out.

Still, we tried. This was a legitimate rescue—the mother was dead. Al Cambronne at Deerland has a good post with photos of fawns that may look abandoned but are not, no matter how tiny and helpless they look.
It was hard to just stand back and wait for the mother to return. But I guess by deer standards, those does are being very good parents.
The only time to pick up a fawn is if you see the mother dead or if it is obviously injured and bleeding. Or if a wildfire is coming. Otherwise, leave them alone.

Cottonwood fluff in the air, red flag warning, and orphan fawns. It must be late June.

December 10, 2013

It's a Deer's Life

November 11: There is something odd going on the woods. I'll slip around before dawn on this concealed trail!

November 22: I feel safer now, and it's time to party! Where are the ladies?

November 25: Did someone say "party"?

June 13, 2013

Fawns by the Five-Pack

Fisher's Travel Crate is Appropriated by Fawns
Yesterday I posted the picture of a firefighter with a mule deer fawn during the Black Forest Fire; today I held it too. It's one of these five little mule deer. One of these was described to me as the "fawn that was on the news," and I think that it is the same one. Whatever.

One or two of these were rescued from the fire area directly. Three were already at the home of a rehabilitator who herself had to evacuate. Another transporter brought them from Colorado Springs to Penrose, where M. and I transferred them to our Jeep and brought them to Wet Mountain Wildlife.

I wonder if there will be more.

UPDATE: Here is KOAA Channel 5's news report about these particular deer, including "the famous fawn."

May 19, 2013

Spring Comes to the Burn

On May 16, M. and I re-visited the burned ridge behind our house for the first time since November. It burned last October 23, part of an extremely fast-moving fire that destroyed 15 homes and various outbuildings in the space of about thirty minutes, reaching a total extent of 2,500 acres
Here is the area that we re-visited as it looked at 6:40 p.m., October 23, 2013.
Fisher, our Chesapeake Bay retriever, came too. On the ground behind him you can see scattered clumps of shredded bark, mixed with grass seed and dropped from a helicopter on April 13-14, 2013.

Fisher, not bothered by dirt and ash.
This particular area is public land (Bureau of Land Management), although most of what burned was private.
Attaching a sling-load of mulch and grass seed to a helicopter—April 2013 (Pueblo Chieftain).
Concerned about the possibility of ash and dirt washing down into streams, the BLM paid for re-seeding of its portion, which is mostly along a higher ridge.

Mulch had fallen into the little spring. Fisher decided to clear it out.
The first thing that we always do is visit a little seasonal spring that we call Camera Trap Spring. It is the place where a sow black bear attacked a camera, where Fisher narrowly avoided a rattlesnake last year, and where I have gotten pictures of a variety of wildlife.

Then we went to see if the seeding had had good results.
Grass coming up through the mulch.
This was one of the better-looking patches. And I should add that mulch was used only on the steeper slopes. Other areas received a grass-seed mix with no mulch. Since the seeding a month ago, snow and rain equivalent to 2–3 inches of precipitation has fallen, luckily without serious erosion.Whether this counts as acceptable results in re-seeding, I do not know, although I am attempting to check on that. Some other areas do not look as good.
Dandelion and deer droppings (to left of central rock, top of clear spot).
Here, for instance, is a dandelion and some other plants growing, plus evidence of deer passing through the burn. Some of the new grass had been nibbled too. There were no tracks at the spring, however—if there had been, Fisher probably obliterated them!
Golden banner with 500 ml bottle.
This looks like golden banner (Thermopsis divaricarpa), a member of the pea family. Self-seeded, I assume.

And of course the burnt Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii), which could probably survive atom bombs, is sprouting from its roots. As the CSU Extension office says, "Fire readily kills the above-ground portions of oak brush. However, intense sprouting follows almost immediately and usually causes the stands to become even denser."

Birds seen: some crows, two woodpeckers (probably hairies—did not have a good look), and to our surprise, two Western tanagers (migrants).

December 30, 2012

Blog Stew with Mystery-Animal Ingredients

• Who is buying guns? Women and Democrats. The Washington Post says so, and they would not lie about it.

• A new journal of crytozoology discussed in a long post by Darren Naish, one of the contributors.

• Colorado writer Dave Petersen brings "the mule deer wars" to The Huffington Post.
In fact, the most dangerous long-term enemy of mule deer and hunting throughout the West is a growing and increasingly consumptive and nature-ignorant human population, causing habitat loss, degradation and splintering.

October 19, 2012

Telling the Deer to Cross the Interstate is Irresponsible

Want to hear a talk-radio host with nothing to say? I heard about this episode when I arrived in North Dakota Tuesday. Now it has gone viral: Donna the Deer Lady.

Another example of being disconnected from the larger world.

August 26, 2012

Synchronized Fawning

I have been too busy for much blogging, but here is a scout camera pic. I always think that fawns should be losing their spots by now, but not so. They are still in their summer coats, even as the adult deer are starting — some of them—to change.

And some of the narrowleaf cottonwoods down by the (dry) creek have already turned golden and then dropped their leaves— even while the wild plums are not yet ripe enough to eat.

June 19, 2012

Wildlife Taxi: Two Typical Fares

Diana Miller examines a kestrel as a visitor looks into the Raptor Center's ICU.
I put about 250 miles on the wildlife taxi (volunteer wildlife transporters) yesterday and today.

First was a call to pick up a fawn — M. and I were the third leg of the relay that brought it three hundred miles from Durango. These are all volunteer wildlife transporters — no Colorado Parks and Wildlife official vehicles.

The Fawn

Fawn getting a bottle.
The backstory as it was given to me: Some rafters (on the Animas River?) found a fawn struggling in the mud by the water. When they tried to help it, they discovered that it had a broken leg.

The leg was wrapped in an elastic bandage, but the fawn herself (as we later learned) was alert. In fact, she made soft "mewp" noises during much of the remaining forty miles. Someone had given her some colostrum supplement and milk replacement — and sent the remainder along with her. But she was less than a week old, still showing her dried umbilical cord, and she was hungry.

At the rehabilitation center (a private home) she got more milk and water and was left to to rest in a quiet, carpeted shed.

We got the news this afternoon that she had gone to the vet — and it was not a broken leg at all, but a knee dislocation. The bone was re-set, and the leg was placed in a temporary cast to keep it in place. So her prospects are pretty good.

The Hawk

This morning's call came from the Raptor Center — could we go to a different southern Colorado town and pick up a red-tailed hawk that had "fallen from the nest."

OK, we could. (Insert long drive.)

The hawk was at a warehouse / operations center belonging to San Isabel Electric Association. But it was no red-tail, it was an American kestrel. That is sort of like confusing a pickup truck with a Smart Car.

The SIEA manager had it in a cardboard box, which was good. Its nest mate was flying in the same roofed-over, open-sided storage area, landing on coils of wire and old transformers leaking PCBs into pans of kitty litter. A sign on the wall said that that was the storage area for PCB-problem equipment.

The sibling seemed stronger, although not yet fully confident about this whole flying business. Nearby on a wire one of the parents (I assume) was giving the kestrel "killy killy killy" call.

So kidnapping one offspring was enough, it seemed to us. I told the manager not to worry about the other bird, that it would probably be all right.

Back at the Raptor Center, director Diana Milller lifted the kestrel from the box in front of a group of kids who were on an educational visit. "American kestrel!" shouted one. Give that girl a prize.

Diana said the bird had grease or oil on one wing and set about washing it. Other than that, it looked all right, and I hope that with a little food, rest, and some time in a flight cage, it will be ready to be released.

There's More
As I was typing this, the telephone rang. It was the local rehabber. "Our" fawn already has a roommate, as two more came in today. And another might have to be shuttled down from Lakewood. Could we be available tomorrow?

UPDATE, JUNE 20: We picked up the fawn. The relay system worked, so we had to go only twenty miles for it. It was healthy—apparently seized from some ignorant person who had found an "abandoned" baby.

May 22, 2012

Unexplained Camera Trapping

Bearly there.

Glow-in-the-dark deer.
Fox Mulder pursued by mysterious globes.

The truth is out there.

March 31, 2012

March Drought and the Considerate Thief

A mule deer doe sniffs a scout camera.
March came in like a lamb and leaves like a thirsty lamb. Not a drop of rain or snow—no, take that back, it did rain once for thirty seconds.

Spring beauty
We are seeing some wild flowers thanks to the winter snow. Spring beauty (Claytonia) popped up on schedule a couple of weeks ago.

With the ground dry, I put up a few scout cameras. This picture of the doe was unusual only in that deer normally ignore a camera, but this one seems to have decided to give it a look and sniff, back on the 14th.

There is another place near home where a large concrete culvert runs under the state highway. It is more like a tunnel, really—rectangular in cross-section and tall enough to walk through upright.

I was curious to see if deer, turkeys, or other wildlife used it as a crossing. I thought that I could up a camera near the culvert and then remove it before turkey season, which begins April 14th. The camera went up on March 12th, and on the 23rd, M. and I walked up there to check it.

The camera's display showed 17 images collected. Something about the camera was different though, but my hay fever-slowed brain did not register it that at first.

At home, I opened the camera case to remove the SD (memory) card. But there was no SD card. And it was not that I had forgotten to insert one, because there were no images in the camera's built-in memory either.

About then it occurred to me that that particular camera had been covered with camouflage tape. Now all of the tape was gone but for a small strip on the bottom.

Obviously someone had pulled off the tape looking for a way to open the camera—not really necessary. Then he (?) had removed the card. Was he
(a) Afraid that someone would see his picture?
(b) Interested to see for himself what wildlife images might be on the card?
(c) Just sending an "I don't like cameras" message?
But at least the camera itself was undamaged, and for that I am grateful. SD cards are cheap on eBay.

December 16, 2011

Blog Stew with Link Dumplings

• Eclipse-chasing in the badlands of New Mexico.
From the Colorado Springs Gazette

• Eleven-year-old boy gains some understanding of the larger world, dresses himself, and rides a bicycle for a mile. His actions gain wide praise in these nanny-state days.

• Some people make fun of mounted deer heads in the living room. Yet they can be useful!

• How to pronounce "Casa Grande," Arizona.

• How to pronounce street names in Colorado Springs. Having also lived in Portland, Oregon, I have to stop and think about "Willamette Street" before I say it.

• Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife seeks photos taken at state parks for a "Best of 2011" contest.

• Pressured by lawsuits, the U.S. Forest Service draws up new rules about dropping fire retardant into waterways.