Species Parade, Episode 21

When is a not-with-your-own-eyes-sighting a sighting?

Mountain lion, as seen on game camera

For several days and nights this summer, I’ve been ponying the horses down to a small parcel of Bureau of Land Management land for some grazing while I camp overnight. Years ago, the parcel had a grazing allotment which meant that sheep grazed there for months at a time. The shepherd was not a terribly good steward and that the allotment went away, according to a BLM official.

In any case, it has been a fun place to camp with the horses, who are bound to a few hundred acres by virtue of the steep canyon walls and barbed wire fencing of private land to the south.

But it all came to an abrupt end this month. At about midnight one night, I heard a bit of a crash, then nothing more. I decided against investigating, erring on the side of sleepiness (Later, I would thank myself for this digression.)

In the morning, I inspected the horses. My big mare, Shea, had a bad scratch on one hind leg and lesser scratches on her chest. Nothing of terrible concern.

Cat scratches on our burro, Wallace

But Wallace, the burro, had scratches that clearly, obviously, frighteningly, indicated he’d been attacked by a mountain lion. They were three parallel scratches on each side of his tail.

I talked to several locals about what happened, including a game warden. They speculate that the lion was either quite young or quite old and trying to see what it could manage with this attack. Thankfully, not much. Wallace needed only minor medical care. I swabbed his superficial scratches with diluted iodine.

I’m not one to tempt fate, though, especially when it comes to the welfare of our animals. We’re done with BLM overnights.

Perhaps not coincidentally, I caught this big fella on the game camera. (photo at right)

Read about a dog’s death in the rural West.

Mammals:

Coyote

Elk

Mule Deer

Cottontail Rabbit

Bears are hungry and more visible due to lack of acorns (because of a late frost)

Brush Mouse

Rock Squirrel

Golden Mantled Squirrel

Chipmunk

Pocket Gopher

Skunk

Raccoon

Abert’s Squirrel

Muskrat

Marmot

Bobcat

Mountain Lion

Black Bear

Spotted Sandpiper

Birds:

Golden Eagle

Bald Eagle

Lewis’s Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Nuthatch

House Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

Red-Winged Black Bird

Canada Goose

Mallard

Gadwall

Great Blue Heron

Townsend’s Solitaire

Mountain Bluebird

Western Bluebird

Kingfisher

Red Shafted Flicker

Red-winged Blackbird

Steller’s Jay

Black Capped Chickadee

Mountain Chickadee

American Crow

Common Raven

Scrub Jay

Magpie

Turkey

Dark-Eyed Junco (and its many varieties)

Ringed Turtle Dove

Rock Dove

American Kestrel

Turkey Vulture

Red-Tailed Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Spotted Sandpiper

Lesser Goldfinch

Starling

American Robin

Great Horned Owl

Western Screech Owl

Rufous Hummingbird

American Coot

Broad Tailed Hummingbird

Common Poor Will

Nighthawk

 

Outdoor Retailer Bestuvs

Imagine you’re at a mall on the weekend before Christmas and all the crowds around you are fit, driven, and over-caffeinated. That’s pretty much the scene at the Outdoor Retailer at the Salt Palace convention center. Thousands of vendors and tens of thousands of buyers, managers, and working media types (like me) are meeting. It’s easy to be overwhelmed.

Among the offerings, there are a lot of technical pieces (specialized climbing rope, specialized paddle boards, specialized watches, specialized phone chargers, etc., etc.) bright, snappy clothing, and the latest on how to bring domesticity into the back country. We managed to whittle through the morass and find some excellent (and perhaps overlooked) products:

Good to Go – this Maine-based company, led by an accomplished and adventurous chef, takes the same ol’, same ol’ out of camp meals.

Pull Start Fire – taking the wishing and finger-crossing out of campfires, even in the rain.

Rite in the Rain – notebooks and writing implements that work, even in the rain.

Duckworth Wool – wool from Montana, crafted into fabulous clothing in North and South Carolina. We’re verrryy keen on this new company. Review of their Vapor t-shirt coming soon.

Benchmade – we found some female-friendly knives from this Oregon company. Review coming soon.

Green Goo – natural salves from this women-owned Colorado company. We love their Travel Packs, which come with lip balm, first aid and pain relief salves, and bug spray.

Adventure Medical – We love their Me and My Dog first aid kits. An essential for your barn, truck, or camper.

Bullfrog – horse riders sweat, too! We dig their sweat-resistant, sunscreen/bug repellant combination lotion.

And it was fun to visit with Bullfrog’s celebrity kayaker Nick Troutman, too. Read more at UtahOutsider. 

Klean Kanteen – this company sets the bar for doing the right thing in a complicated market. It’s a B Corporation and is especially innovative and transparent. “We adhere to the triple bottom line: People, Planet, then Profit,” said one representative at the OR. Aside from that, we love their new colors and kits. Check out there starter Coffee Kit here. 

Stanley – the company’s Switchback mug gets the prize for no-spill, no-drip To Go mug. It’s also pretty easy to clean between uses.

OsanaBar – a new, awesome-smelling, mosquito repellent soap that works! The company also has an excellent charitable arm. It supplies soap to communities threatened by malaria, the sometimes deadly disease carried by mosquitos.

LL Bean – the Maine company continues to introduce fun, tough, not-your-gramma’s clothing. The colors and fabrics are perfect for us horse riders. We love their Back Cove Heathered tee, their Luna jacket, and their Whisper Lodge flannel. 

Whisper Lodge flannel shirt from LL Bean

Rattlesnake Avoidance Pays Off

Here in Colorado, one niggling impediment to carefree hiking and riding is the prospect of rattlesnake encounters. The possibility of harm and crisis – for horses, humans, and dogs – is enough to motivate several preventative strategies.

There’s not a lot we can do for horses aside from education, preparation, and embracing our ability to keep calm and to keep the horse calm. Check out these helpful articles:

UC Davis report on rattlesnake issues

Wyoming newspaper column on rattlesnakes and horses

Horse blogger’s tips for rattlesnake encounters

Dogs are different and we can help them out a lot more tangibly. Like Frontline and other topical tick deterrents, the rattlesnake vaccine may help. Research is somewhat equivocal but my dogs have all been vaccinated. With it, my 30-pound sprite, Peeko, might survive long enough to get to the vet. The vaccine may also help significantly reduce the vet bill and the bite’s overall impact on the dog.

JJ Belcher works with Kip

JJ Belcher works with Kip

Another preventative measure is a Rattlesnake Avoidance class, something my dogs unwittingly enrolled in last weekend. It involves a shock collar, a big-ass rattlesnake (who goes by the name Brian, is 12 years old, at least five feet long, thick as a Campbell’s soup can, and has had his venom glands surgically removed), and an experienced canine trainer from Arizona. Watch video. Read more about JJ Belcher and Sublime Canine here.

Individually, the trainer led Kip, Peeko, and Monty to the snake. When they got curious, they were hit with a jolt from the collar. Later, Belcher returned with each dog to visit Brian. My dogs had caught on quickly; as soon as they spied the snake, they went in the other direction. When I led each dog to a bag full of snake sheds, they also steered clear.

Lesson of the Day: Stay away from something that looks or smells or moves like Brian. I was pretty confident that the education would stick. Little did I know, we’d put the training to the test almost immediately.

Jessica Kahn trains with her dog, Remington, and JJ Belcher

I was ponying a group of horses and my dogs were tagging along, off leash. We had a mile of gravel road to cover. Halfway, we encountered a rattler in the middle of the road, coiled up and ready to take on all comers. I think I saw a brief flash of curiosity, but then the dogs steered clear. Hooray!

A few days later, we saw another rattlesnake on the same stretch of road. The dogs came close (a few yards), almost by accident, but otherwise did not approach or return to it. Hooray II!

Avoidance training, said JJ Belcher, is not like ordinary obedience. It’s important not to encourage dogs to check out dead rattlers. Contact should be discouraged. For more on that, check out Sublime Canine.

Monty learns that steering clear of rattlers is optimal.

 

Hasta la Vista, Utah

The Outdoor Retailer, the multi-million dollar exposition force which lived in Salt Lake City for 21 years, has pulled up stakes and is headed to neighboring Colorado. Beginning in January, 2018, the OR will be hosted by Denver.

Read this open letter to Utah from Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard.

Read Washington Post article on the OR departure from Salt Lake City.

Thanks to Utah’s unfriendly policies and rhetoric towards public land and wilderness stewardship, the twice-a-year event, which draws tens of thousands of outdoor recreationalists and retailers, will take its $45 million annual local contribution to the Mile High State.

It’s too bad Utah representatives, Emerald Expositions (which owns the OR) along with its show partner, the Outdoor Industry Association could not come to terms with the disharmony.

Can’t say as I blame the OR. I drive through Moab often enough. I’ve lived near the public lands of the Oquirrh mountains. I’ve come to the conclusion that many Utahns are either ignorant about environmental stewardship or hell-bent on manhandling and molesting beautiful public lands. Of course, there are plenty of exceptions, among Utahns and Utah spaces. But overall, it’s ugly stuff.

It’s a shame the predominantly Mormon population doesn’t embrace a more sustainable approach.

I found this on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints newsroom pages:

“Approaches to the environment must be prudent, realistic, balanced and consistent with the needs of the earth and of current and future generations, rather than pursuing the immediate vindication of personal desires or avowed rights. The earth and all life upon it are much more than items to be consumed or conserved. God intends His creations to be aesthetically pleasing to enliven the mind and spirit, and some portions are to be preserved. Making the earth ugly offends Him.”

If only.

Species Parade, Episode 20

Lazuli Bunting

There’s a case to be made against dog companions. They warn and ward off animals you might otherwise be privileged to see. Then again, if you pay attention to what dogs notice and if you keep them obedient, you can reduce disturbing wildlife and benefit from dogs’ observations.

Thanks to dogs, I’d like to think I’m more in touch with my place in the country and more aware of our impact. Particularly, I’m keenly aware of how much we humans impact wildlife survival. Even good intentions have negative consequences: a tub of fresh water drowns a baby bird.

I practice Leave No Trace but when you think about it, Leave No Trace is an practical and existential onion with multiple layers. There’s so much impact we aren’t aware of or don’t acknowledge.

56 species for this episode. (And likely another 50 that I did not see.)

Mammals:

Coyote

Elk

Turkey displays, in hopes of saving chick (which coyote is eating)

Mule Deer

Cottontail Rabbit

Brush Mouse

Rock Squirrel

Golden Mantled Squirrel

Chipmunk

Pocket Gopher

Skunk

Raccoon

Abert’s Squirrel

Muskrat

Marmot

Bobcat

Birds:

Adolescent bear and chipping sparrow

Golden Eagle

Bald Eagle

Lewis’s Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Nuthatch

House Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

Red-Winged Black Bird

Canada Goose

Mallard

Gadwall

Great Blue Heron

Townsend’s Solitaire

Mountain Bluebird

Western Bluebird

Kingfisher

Red Shafted Flicker

Red-winged Blackbird

Steller’s Jay

Black Capped Chickadee

Mountain Chickadee

American Crow

Common Raven

Scrub Jay

Magpie

Turkey

Dark-Eyed Junco (and its many varieties)

Ringed Turtle Dove

Rock Dove

American Kestrel

Turkey Vulture

Red-Tailed Hawk

Starling

American Robin

Great Horned Owl

Western Screech Owl

Broad Tailed Hummingbird

Common Poor Will

Nighthawk

Indigo Bunting

Lazuli Bunting

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