March 28, 2021

Colorado Revives Wildlife Area "Pass" for Non-Hunters/Anglers



Tomahawk SWA offers fishing access to the South Platte River in South Park.

Last year, Colorado Parks and Wildlife identified a problem with state wildlife areas: too many people were turning them into campgrounds, etc. without holding a hunting or fishing license.

Many people do not realize that quite a few state wildlife areas are not public land. Many lakes, for example, are owned by irrigation companies and such who lease fishing rights to the state.

So CPW announced that a hunting or fishing license would be require to "recreate" on a state wildlife area, and fishing license sales rose. That is $46.48 when you throw in the required "habitat stamp." Selling more fishing licenses is good too because it means Colorado gets more

Now, something new. A state wildlife access permit! They tried that in 2006. Back then it was $10. But that fee died a quiet death. Now it's back and oddly enough, the annual pass is priced exactly like a fishing license!

Here is the news release:

(March 23, 2021 DENVER) – At its virtual meeting last week, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission voted unanimously to approve a new Colorado State Wildlife Area Pass as an option to access state wildlife areas. The new pass will go on sale May 1, 2021.

“This is an important step in ensuring everyone who visits our state wildlife areas is contributing to their management and maintenance,” said CPW Director Dan Prenzlow.

The annual Colorado SWA Pass will be available on May 1, 2021 by visiting any CPW office or online at cpwshop.com. The pass will be priced similarly to a resident annual fishing license and revenue from the new SWA pass will be used to manage and maintain SWAs.

Colorado State Wildlife Area Pass
annual: $36.08*
1 day: $9
Youth (ages 16-17) annual: $10.07
Senior (ages 65 and older) annual: $10.07
Low-income annual: $10.07
(Fees include a $1.50 Wildlife Education Fund surcharge)
*Plus a fee of $10.40 for a Colorado Wildlife Habitat Stamp

The annual pass is valid from March 1 – March 31 of the following year, also aligning with the 13-month season for fishing licenses in Colorado.

History and funding of state wildlife areas in Colorado
CPW now manages more than 350 SWAs, all set aside to conserve wildlife habitat with dollars from hunting and angling licenses. Those funds are also matched with federal income from the excise taxes collected on the sale of hunting and fishing equipment.

While these properties have been identified as critical wildlife habitat, over the years they have also gained significant value for outdoor recreationists.
Because these properties have always been open to the public, not just to the hunters and anglers that purchased them and pay for their maintenance, many people now visit these properties and use them as they would any other public land.

As Colorado’s population - and desire for outdoor recreation - has continued to grow, a significant increase in traffic to these SWAs has disrupted wildlife, the habitat the areas were acquired to protect, and the hunters and anglers whose contributions were critical to acquiring these properties.

That’s why in July of 2020, new regulations went into effect requiring all visitors 18 or older to possess a valid hunting or fishing license to access any SWA leased by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

CPW had historically been bound by stringent guidance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on how income earned from these properties could be accounted for, making the creation of another kind of pass to access these areas financially unfeasible. But in late 2020, CPW received approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a new accounting approach that made adding a pass as an option for access to these properties feasible.

In November 2020, an SWA Working Group was created with CPW staff and stakeholders from around the state to determine what a new pass might look like.

A new State Wildlife Area Pass
At its January 2021 meeting, the CPW Commission heard recommendations from the SWA Working Group on creating a new Colorado SWA Pass.

Recommendations:
The group recommended pricing the annual pass at a similar level to the annual fishing license, offering discounted passes to youth and seniors priced comparably to youth and senior fishing licenses, offering a 1-day pass option priced comparably to the 1-day parks pass, requiring a Habitat Stamp and a surcharge for the Wildlife Management Public Education Fund in addition to the pass, and offering a discounted low-income annual pass option. The age at which a hunting license, fishing license or SWA pass is required to access SWAs was reduced to all persons 16 years and older to better correspond to the youth pass and license options.

Now that the Colorado SWA Pass is available, the SWA Working Group will move into Phase II of its work, completing an audit of all Colorado’s SWAs to determine which properties may require additional restrictions on allowed activities, seasonal closures for wildlife, and reviews to determine if the property is still meeting its intended purpose as a wildlife area.

More information and SWA FAQ about CPW’s state wildlife areas is available on CPW’s website.

March 23, 2021

Giving Names to Boulders

I mentioned the ill-fated Bonsai Rock on March 21st — ill-fated from the "bonsai" trees' perspective, pretty much life as usual for a boulder, except for some flaking due to heat.

Pasqueflowers growin on a boulder.
So M. and I have been walking this ridge for some years now, and we have not named too many boulders. There is Hairy Rock (its flat top catches pine needles, giving it a shaggy look), Pasqueflower Rock (they bloom there early, maybe because it warms up early), and Ringtail Rocks, a collection of huge boulders fallen from the rimrock above, including two that formed a sort of lean-to shelter.

No sign of earlier human inhabitants in the shelter though, unless some Middle Archaic hunter dived in there to get out of a thunderstorm. It's pretty cramped. But the buried hunter from a cave just a little farther north was only 5 feet 3 inches tall, said the experts. 

Two days ago, we took a different path and came to a boulder above the "shelter" that I had not examined previously, although I had been setting a scout camera not far from it, picking up ringtails, gray foxes, and occasionally black bears.

 The last of recent snowstorm was melting—and more was coming—so we were taking advantage of a typical warm pre-storm day.

A gray box barking last September. Note the boulder's base at upper right, in shadow.

On top of the boulder, we found the smallest of vernal pools . . .


"Skywater!" M. said, thinking of one of her favorite novels, Melissa Worth Popham's Skywater. (Preview it here.

I looked around and was thinking more in terms of "Fox Shit Rock." Obviously, this is the place to proclaim your superior fox-ness through high-level pooping.


But I think it's going to be Skywater Rock.

March 21, 2021

Bonsai Mullein, Drip-Irrigated Moss

I was walking in the woods today with M., our last chance before the next snowstorm hits, and she noticed the "bonsai" mullein growing out of a crack in this boulder.

We use" bonsai" as a term for all plants growing in rock cracks,  often Douglas fir or ponderosa pine. To me the term combines a certain cuteness with admiration for Life's Unwavering Force — or something like that. 

In Japanese, it means "tray planting," a term for "plants that are grown in shallow containers following the precise tenets of bonsai pruning and training, resulting in an artful miniature replica of a full-grown tree in nature."

But I like it better when it just happens. 

There is a big boulder on the way to Camera Trap Spring that I named Bonsai Rock for the little conifers growing from it. Then a forest fire came through, but I still use the name.

Her eye was caught by mullein, since it is a medicinal herb, and she keeps a mental catalog of what grows where. These plants do seem a little fragile to harvest, but there might be more growing inearby.

And in this year of "moderate drought," we crouched to admire the moss growing below. It is on the boulder's north-facing side, and it must be sustained by rain and snow melt that descends through fractures in the rock.

March 19, 2021

How to Defend Yourself against Dog Attacks

There is a kind of hostile big German shepherd-mix dog who runs through our woods sometimes. Yes, I know who owns him, and yes, if this were a just world, the dog would feast on his owner's body, but in the meantime . . . 

So I read this article on how to defend youself against dog attacks with interest.

Dog attacks occur all over the world. In Thailand and Cambodia, I’ve locked eyes with the vicious, feral dogs lurking in the alleys. In Haiti, I met what locals called “the Haiti dogs,” that have killed and even eaten humans at night. I don’t know the statistics for bites in those countries, but they can’t be any better than ours. Given the grave damage and high frequency of these incidents, it would behoove us train for these encounters. Some beasts want to bite you. Today, let’s learn how to bite back.
You have two arms, but you could get along with just one, right?

And before you start in with "What caliber for," let's remember that in some times and places, firearms may not be an option, or that using one might get you into a whole 'nother set of problems. So it is good to know your options. (Bear spray has worked for my wife and myself also.)

March 03, 2021

When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It

The director of the Raptor Center called with  a phone number of a man who had an injured juvenal red-tailed hawk at his house "in Florence." But when I called him to get the address, it was some distance out of town, out in the coal fields. 

I did not even know there were private homes in that area; I thought it was a re-claimed open pit mine. I said that I would give him another  call as soon as finished some in-town business and was on the road.

A young woman answered the same cell phone. "Ricky" was outside some place, but yeah, just come up the county road and turn at "that yellow sign at the fork in the road." 

It was the third? fourth? driveway — anyway, if you come to the blue dumpster, you missed it

The overall domestic vibe was heavy on old tires and pitbulls, but the dogs were friendly and so were the people once we made contact. The fiftyish man and the young woman with a cigarette tucked behind her ear had been at a local wetlands "natural area" the day before and found the hawk, weak and unable to fly. They had picked it up. 

"I stopped at the bait shop and bought some worms," he said proudly. "And we gave it some water with a dropper. It's been eating pretty good today." 

Worms — not what I would have thought of, but still better than the woman who fed a great horned owl with oatmeal because she "read it on the internet.  Water was a good idea. (More below)

Something is wrong with those feet.
 
Here was a juvenal red-tail then, sitting on a puffy quilt in a metal dog crate with black shade-cloth clothespinned to the top. Thoughtful!  Not having come from home, where all my own travel crates are stashed, I just loaded Ricky's crate into the Jeep and took off.
 
At the Raptor Center, the director uncrated the bird. Wings good. A bit dehydrated. No obvious burns as from flying into a power line. Los of big burrs on its underside — from when it was grounded? She snipped them out, washing and gently massaging. One foot still seemed limp.
 
Further examination was to come once it was rested and rehydrated. I left for home. I know by now that more than half of the birds that come in are past helping, but I will check back in a couple of days so that I will have news for Ricky when I bring his crate back. 

Update, March 4: The hawk is being treated for botulism, which can cause "flaccid paralysis beginning with feet and legs.”  Waterfowl carry botulism, and the hawk was found in a wetland area, which might mean something — maybe it killed or scavenged an infected duck?

February 23, 2021

Woods Work — The Firewood Scramble

I feel like I was more the grasshopper than the ant this wood-burning season. I blame that on 2020 and on repeated bouts of Influenza B — or whatever it was.

Last spring we got a bonanza of scrap wood, free for the hauling, but really it amounted to only about one cord, good until Christmas or so. The trouble was that I was feeling easily fatigued and lung-congested. The fall season was pretty much of a waste for hunting, wood-cutting, anything.

I got better after the new year, and by then we were about out of wood, so it was time for quick scavenging of Gambel oak, dead junipers, whatever. I located a nice beetle-killed ponderosa pine that I had overlooked, felled it . . . . and while the tip section was dry, the butt section was still too moist to burn. 

A smaller pine lasted ten days through the mid-February cold snap, when the lowest temperature was -16° F. — warmer than out on the High Plains, though.

And then I remembered a larger Douglas fir that was back in an oak thicket, another windstorm casualty. It had lots of forearm-size branches that make for that perfect intermediate size log to transition from kindling to big chunks. 

It might get us through March, and then April is anyone's guess.


Here is the butt section (about 16 inches diameter) of a Douglas fir that toppled
in a windstorm several years ago.
When I started splitting, it was primo — perfectly dried.
The little dirt road up back is too muddy for driving on,
so the load comes down one wheelbarrow at a time.

February 09, 2021

120 Colorado Bears Killed Last Year, Mostly over Human Trash

This bear's ear tags, caught in an infrared photograph show that it was trapped
and relocated before. "Two strikes and you're out. (My scout camera photo, 2014.)

Some 120 bears were "euthanized" (often with a state-issued .308 rifle, I think that means) in 2020, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife reports.

This number refers to killing judged necesary by game wardens, not by hunters during the fall season, which is tallied separately.

Another 89 were trapped and relocated.  

“Unfortunately I would classify 2020 as a fairly ‘normal’ year for bear activity,” said Area 8 Wildlife Manager Matt Yamashita. “‘Unfortunate’ is in reference to the still substantial number of conflict bear calls across the state. Compared to 2019 statistics it appears that human-bear conflict numbers have decreased and the situation is improving. However, wildlife managers are hesitant to draw conclusions from a comparison between two years.

Often you will find a sow bear being killed and its cubs sent to our neighbors the wildlife  rehabilitators. I have hauled a lot of donated food for those cubs and helped get them loaded up for return to the wild. I know the rehabbers do their very best for them. But it's still not real life, so to speak.

A skinny black bear mom and her cub.
(My scout camera photo, 2020.)

"CPW responded to almost five thousand bear reports in 2020. Of those, a third had trash documented. Bird feeders (411 reports), unsecured chicken coops (254) and livestock (391), among others, are all pieces of the puzzle wildlife officials document when tracing conflicts.

"Trash and bird feeders are typically a bear’s first association with people. It is their first step that leads them to becoming habituated, or losing their natural fear of humans. After learning this house or neighborhood has easy calories available to them in those forms, the next place they may look to for more is in an open garage, or pet food on your deck, or even break into your car for a treat it can smell.

"Being rewarded with food over time makes a bear willing to take greater risks to get the calories it needs. The next and most dangerous step they may take is to break into a home. In 2020, CPW documented 362 reports that had bears breaking into homes, cabins, dwellings and garages (forcible entry into a garage, not walking into one left open)."

This is CPW's "Be Bear Aware" page, and its advicce works outside Colorado too. 

It helps to remember this part: "With a nose that’s 100 times more sensitive than ours, a bear can literally smell food five miles away."

February 07, 2021

'Firewood Warms You Twice' — Another Cruel Lie

You cut the tree — now how many times will you lift it?

I heat with wood, mostly. There is a propane furnace to keep the house at 55° F, and my wife and I make judicious use of electric heaters, like in the bathroom when showering, but when we want to raise the overall temperature from "not-freezing" to "cozy," we burn wood. 

And there is lots of wood around: the natural self-coppicing of Gambel oak, elderly junipers, and thanks to the mountain pine beetle and its associated fungus, occasional dead ponderosa pine trees.

Tell people you heat with wood, and they will present you with their Great Wisdom(TM): Firewood warms you twice. My normal response is this mental picture (right), not for wood-cutting but for skull-slicing

Who gets the blame? Henry Thoreau drops this particular Great Wisdom (TM) in Walden (1854): "As my driver prophesied when I was plowing, [these stumps] warmed me twice—once while I was splitting them, and again when they were on the fire, so that no fuel could give out more heat."

So he admits he was just recycling some existing New Englander Great Wisdom (TM).

Yet there are earlier printed references going back as far as 1808. I will come to one in a minute.

But that's not half of it. Sometimes wood-cutting reminds of coal-mining, back when it was done with picks and shovels, only without working bent over in the half-darknesss for a ten-hour shift.

I cut a medium-sized dead pine yesterday, limbed and bucked it, and moved the rounds down to a little dirt road that runs up behind the house.

There was no way to bring my utility trailer near the tree, and if I had come as close as possible, I would still have been carrying all the rounds uphill to the trailer.

So I opted to roll them downhill, sort of a two-handed bowling. They roll a few yards, then fetch up against a pine truck or a cluster of oak brush. I pick them up and "bowl" them again. Eventually they go where they are supposed to — except for the occasional escapee that has to be tracked down.

By that point I have lifted the weight of the entire tree at least four times. That is when I start thinking about the old-time miner shoveling tons of coal.

Add it up what is left to do:

  1. Stack the rounds (that's a lift)
  2. Split them (that's more handling, another lift or two). It would be the same even with a power splitter.
  3. Load the splits into a trailer or for smaller runs, a wheelbarrow (it's a lift either way)
  4. Dump them at the house, then carry them up to the porch to the woodbox (a lift)
  5. Carry them as needed inside to the stove (a lift)

So now I have picked up that tree nine times. Warms you twice

One source for the proverb seems to be the mountainous French department of Jura. According to an 1819 text,

The peasant who sets out for that purpose [to collect fuel] of a winter's morning from his house in the valley, begins by ascending some neighboring mountain, and having there made up the pieces he has cut into the form of a rude sledge, and secured them together properly on the brink of the declivity, he takes his station on the load, so that he can touch the ground at pleasure with his feet, and committing himself to a narrow, winding, slippery path, and frequently of beaten snow, and generally bordered from place to place by precipices, he gets back to his family with almost aerial velocity. Others again, who live on the top of some naked hill, and who cannot find a declivity suitably gentle to admit of their using a sledge on the mountain where wood is to be obtained, are obliged to throw it down the precipice, at the bottom of which they afterwards collect and carry it home on their shoulders. The proverb of the country is, that wood warms a man twice.

A firewood sled. I think I tried that once with with an Army-surplus pulk. But "throwing it down the precipice"—been there, done that. Five stars, will do again.

February 04, 2021

Cañon City Is a 'Mountain Town'? Who Knew?

If you can see mountains, are you in a "mountain town"?
I am guessing this is Otero County, but you get the idea.

A website called OutThere Colorado offers a combination of clickbait headlines, barely rewritten government news releases, and possibly some original reporting.

This is clickbait: "Up to 25 inches of snow possible as second storm is set to roll through Colorado."

Unfortunately, writer Breanna Sneeringer left out the decimal point. Here in the so-called Wet Mountains, we got two-point-five inches. I don't know who got the 25 inches.

It's good for LOLs though. My latest hit was on the death of a rare albino buck mule deer in the southern Colorado town of Cañon City.

Wait, Cañon City is a "mountain town"??

Sitting in a valley known as as the "Cañon City embayment," with a landscape of rocks, cholla cactus, barbed wire, and more rocks? With an elevation about the same as Denver? 

With its primary employer being the Colorado Department of Corrections? 

With more cultural connections to Pueblo than to say Aspen, Telluride, or Crested Butter? 

If I lived in Fairplay or Leadville or Breckenridge, I would protest!

Is OutThere Colorado being written by digital drones in Bangalore?  Or do the writers just need to get out more and see the places they are "creating content" (I won't say "writing") about.

Will This Be the Next Extreme Winter Sport?

A winter trek in southern Poland (credit
Notes from Poland.com)
Do you think you're tough? I mean, Polish-winter-near-nude-hiking tough.

Poland has its own subculture of winter-swimming. Some of these  "extreme swimmers" have decided to take their game onto the land.

Growing numbers of Poles participate in chilly outdoor dips, with several winter swimming clubs opening up. An annual four-day gathering of winter swimmers in the coastal town of Mielno last year was attended by 6,000, up from 5,000 in 2019. The next edition is planned for 14 February this year. . .

The group has now also begun organising mountain treks for members dressed in shorts. “This year they have become extremely popular,” says Guzy, though he warns that they are not for novices. One should build up some experience of winter swimming before embarking on the treks, he advises.

At the start of the year the club organised a winter trek – with most of the club’s members showing up shirtless – on Kozia Góra (Stefanka) hill in southern Poland. Today, the group climbed Klimczok (1,117m), and it is soon planning a trek up Babia Góra (1,725m) on the border with Slovakia.

Asked why he does it, Guzy claims that such practices help boost immunity. He works in a coal mine and says that, despite the mass outbreaks of the coronavirus among miners last year, he has repeatedly tested negative for the virus, while other club members have also remained healthy, reports Gazeta Wyborcza.

I see one major barrier to topless hiking catching on in the Rocky Mountains. How is our vibrant outdoor recreation industry going to market it when it's all about wearing less?

January 01, 2021

Blog Stew — Best Eaten in Your Sleeping Bag

 



• Now it will be CabelasBassProShopsSportsmansWarehouse.  There is an interesting angle as to what happens to the Remington firearms brand in this merger. Maybe it becomes a sort of house brand?

An obviously incomplete "history of sleeping bags." But check out the two men repairing their reindeer skin (?) bags. Those are Teddy Evans and Tom Crean, members  of Robert Scott's last expedition to the South Pole. They survived because they were cut from the final group that "dashed" for the Pole.

• There is a new herd of genetically pure (more or less) bison in Bent County, part of Colorado State University's research herd. The site is the 25,000-acre Heartland Ranch Nature Preserve.

December 27, 2020

Arizona Ponders Ban on Hunters' Scout Cameras

Two "bear boxes" partway through painting and another vintage camera wrapped in UCP camouflage tape.

Earlier this month the Arizona Game and Fish Commission voted to adopt this rule governing the use scout (game, trail) cameras:

R12-4-303: A person shall not use a trail camera, or images from a trail camera, for the purpose of taking or aiding in the take of wildlife, or locating wildlife for the purpose of taking or aiding in the take of wildlife.

The commissioners listed several reasons for the proposed new regulation, according to the website GoHunt.com:

  • Concerns over the use of trail cameras as it relates to Fair Chase. Commission Policy on Fair Chase includes: “…new or evolving technologies and practices that provide hunters or anglers with an improper or unfair advantage in the pursuit and taking of wildlife, or may create a public perception of an improper or unfair advantage…” This applies to areas where water is primarily point source water and game cannot escape detection.
  • Concerns that the use of trail cameras has become an increasing source of conflict between and amongst hunters, including the sense of ownership over a water source and hunting area.
  • Concerns that frequent visits to set/check trail cameras are creating a significant disturbance to wildlife during extended dry periods of the year.
  • Concerns among some livestock operators that frequent visits to set/check trail cameras are negatively affecting livestock operations.
  • Concerns over the potential biological effects of setting/checking trail cameras on point source waters, especially during the ongoing drought.
  • Concerns stemming from photos being taken of other people in the field by trail cameras.
  • Complaints about the high numbers of trail cameras on the landscape and water sources, and concerns over the high number of trail cameras that may be on the landscape in the future as the population in Arizona continues to grow rapidly, technology continues to improve, prices go down, and availability increases.
  • Complaints about damage to and theft of trail cameras.

Information on where to submit comments during January 2021 is here (scroll down). 

I am conflicted, I will admit. Is this another case of Something is OK when a few people do it, but a disaster when a whole mob of people do it

I rarely see a scout camera, and when I do, it has more often been on private land, where I was hunting with permission but the landowner had given someone else permission to hang a camera. OK, no problem. You don't have to be this guy:

Whenever I come across a game cam in the woods I give them a "full moon"  :)

 I have two up all summer on public land, one BLM and one national forest, but I take them down in advance of (rifle) big-game seasons. One was found by a bowhunter once—he told me about it when I met him while dog-walking, and I knew it was mine by the description. 

The problem is, how do you differentiate between general wildlife study and hunting? I like getting pictures of animals that I do not hunt, but I will admit that at times I have seen some buck mule deer, for example, and drawn conclusions about hunting in that area.

One more exchange from the comments at GoHunt.com:

I urge Commissioners to vote for a total ban. The trail camera has help create a class of hunters that have little skills and knowledge about game. Spent some time in the field scouting and truly learn about the animals you are hunting, the country where the live. Head out before first light and learn how to read signs, weather patterns, game movement, and how to read a map and use a compass. Thank you, Mark S

followed by

Hi Mark, I was harvesting big animals before trail cams. Not all of us that run cams are bad hunters! If fact most are good hunters but enjoy the Treasure hunt. If we must have a cam season so be it.
But here is the cold hard facts. There will always be Trail cams on public land. Anybody without a hunting license (birdwatcher and sierra club member or family member) or a tag can put up a cam as long as they are not taking or aiding in the taking of wildlife.
Why would any hunter want another freedom taken away?

and this

I have no problem with a cam near a whitetail stand back East but in AZ at least, outfitters canvas an area with cams and target specific animals for clients. It's not one hunter and a few cams. It's no longer fair chase.
Um, yeah. The concern about cameras concentrated at water sources, however, could applied anywhere in the southern Rockies. Don't think that New Mexico and Colorado will not be paying attention.

December 20, 2020

Blog Stew with Spikes

• Colorado's Most Dangerous Trails! Yes, Death-Defying Dangerous —  and Search & Rescue Will Come *For Free* Because They Are Crazed Adrenaline Junkies

Here's the list. It's kind of an ad for shoe spikes, compasses, etc.

The list is based on the number of rescues conducted and emergency GPS signals near those trails. . . .

Shane Leva, general manager of Mountain Chalet, a hiking outfitter in downtown Colorado Springs, said he agrees with the selection of the four trails on the list.

"For a lot of those, you'll be in fourth- and fifth-class settings, which means you'll be using both your hands and your feet to be scrambling," he said. "Think like low-grade rock climbing, essentially. You'll have hundreds if not thousands of feet under you. You'll need to have some good mountain sense and know how to navigate through that type of terrain

Which remind me that I need to check out the new Mountain Chalet location, but I have not been in Colorado Springs since March, the day before lockdown began, when I went up to see my dentist. 

• How to Photograph the Winter Solstice Jupiter-Saturn Conjunction

Some good advice here  (your tax dollars at work), even if you are just staggering out into the cold night with your smartphone.

And no, this is not the feckin' Star of Bethlehem or the star of anything. Those ancient Zoroastrian astrologer-priests, a/k/a wise men from the East, spent more time looking at the heavens than you do, and they knew the difference between wandering planets and fixed stars. 

If you have been outside recently after it gets dark, you might have noticed a bright pair of “stars” in the sky lying southwest — or left — of where the sun sets.

In reality these are the two giant gas planets, Jupiter, the brighter of the two, and Saturn. Even though they are separated by hundreds of millions of miles in the solar system, they have been moving closer and closer to one another in our sky for quite awhile.

 

• Please don't geo-tag the good places writes Greg McReynolds at Mouthful of Feathers

I can't agree more: 

You can post all the hashtags you want, but please knock it off with the geotagging and mapping bird hunting spots. Social media hotspotting is not cool man. Name a state. Name a region. Name a large city with a good BBQ restaurant. But don’t name spots. I know it’s not just hunters. It happens in fishing and mountain biking, sometimes splashing back on hunting. I’ve lost many a blue grouse hunting spot to user-created mountain bike trails, many of them spurred on by social media stoke. And I’ve given up a lot of spots over the years.

 

December 12, 2020

Black Bears Matter


M. and I  been watching (and hauling food for) this young black bear sow since July, when she was brought to our neighbors' rehab center after having been arrested in the little town of Beulah on a charge of raiding chicken coops and porches for food. Not the most efficient raider, she weighed only about 35 lbs. (16 kg.) at the time— undersize for a yearling.

So she came to the center and occupied a large enclosure alone, being too big to be put in with this spring's group of orphan cubs. She ate. She was bored. They tried to give her some "enrichment" — things to play with etc., most of which she destroyed, being a bear, after all. She smashed a couple of dogloos too —again, not a surprise. (They go through a lot of dogloos.) And she ate.

I saw her on the two weeks ago and was astonished at how she had grown — up to 140 lbs. (63.5 kg.), they said.

Gretchen Holschuh, the district wildlife manager who had trapped her (that's her cranking open the gate) chose the release site, which was on private land this time, with a cooperating landowner. They always wait for all the big-game hunting seasons to be over before releasing bears — by December, bears should know it's time to get serious about hibernation.

Free at last, she ran off into the snow as fast as she could. Considing the summer's drought, she was probably better off in terms of weight than most of the other bears. I hope she stays away from chicken coops this time.

December 01, 2020

To Light a Camp Stove

Jørgen Brønlund was a Greenland-born Inuit and the last to die.

If you read this blog, you probably have read Jack London's famous short story about an Yukon prospector set in the early 1900s, "To Build a Fire." (Actually there were two versions with diffrent endings. The second one is the one most of us have read.)

Only a few years later, the last survivor of a 1906–1908 expedition, sponsored by the Danish government and known formally as the Denmark Expedition to Greenland's Northeast Coast, died after failing to light his kerosene (?) stove in a freezing cave.

His body and his diary were found in 1908, but the stove itself was recovered only in 1973. 

A possible reconstruction of his last hours suggest he might have tried to use a diary page — and other stuff — to help pre-heat the fuel.