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April through June, 2009

Scatology

5 by 5 Bull Elk

This bull elk wandered by our bedroom window one morning. By the time Gary got the camera, it was outside his office window. We really need a better camera — it is difficult to see the antlers in this shot. Hmm, wonder if he is going to shed those antlers soon?

Our Activities

At the end of last quarter we assumed we were done burning slash for the season. A big snow with more in the forecast offered an opportunity to start a burn on April 2. We had trouble getting started and had to shovel snow off to keep the fire going. Zip was happy to take a break as Jennie and Dan worked hard.

The pile had wet needles in it and burned very slowly. 10 hours later, most of the wet wood on the surface had burned but the needles were still frozen masses around the periphery, with unknown amounts remaining below. By comparison, a small pile of loosely stacked branches nearby burned completely in 6 hours and the large pile we burned March 25 was ashes within 8 hours. It snowed heavily through the night and next day; 24 hours later this burn was still smoldering. A record-setting 4½ feet of snow over the next 4 weeks helped put it out.

The dogs (Zip, Pumpkin and Neko) like burns because they get to spend a day with us in the forest chasing sticks we throw and looking for mice under the snow.

Two coyotes frequently try to engage Pumpkin. Neko barks, but will not go far from the house; if she teamed with Pumpkin the coyotes would probably leave. Scat found near the house is large — according to Scats and Tracks, typical coyote scat is 3" long and 0.6" in diameter, while wolf scat is 4" by 1.25". This specimen is 11" by 1.1" and is mixed with coyote or dog scat. The hair in the scat and its length indicate there are plenty of Winter kills to keep bears, mountain lions, wolves and coyotes fed. Canids often mark their territory with scat; perhaps we are in disputed territory.

In other scatological news, we can report plenty of elk and deer scat everywhere, and moose scat around the slash piles we burned. No bear scat, yet.

After taking the scat picture, a big snow returned the elk to our side of the canyon. Pumpkin (running at right) was determined to herd the 100+ widely spaced elk into a tight group. She got 50 of them grouped by dinner time, then gave up and returned home. When she does manage to get them all into a tight group, she seems content to stand guard. She has had no training, so this must be her Border Collie genes showing,

Green was in evidence at the beginning of May. We were dog-sitting Tug (at right) and took him for a hike across the creek to see the other half of our property. There was plenty of ‘scats and tracks’ evidence of the moose and her calf, but we did not see them. We did find a torn-up wasp nest, indicating the bears were active and hungry.

Signs of Spring: “suddenly there came a tapping, As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.” This robin challenged its reflection for days. The rapping was mildly annoying, but the scat he left on the windows, patio and patio furniture was disgusting. The dogs gave up trying to chase him away; they just lay in the sun and watched.

In the past we have seen similar behavior in bluebirds, but they are cuter and don't leave a mess. Our woodpecker friend has returned to rap on the roof, but these birds eat the pests destroying our trees. We frequently hear the strange warbling of Sandhill Cranes. They prey on mice in our grasslands. At a distance, their slow, gliding flight (always in pairs) is suggestive of pterosaurs.

May 22: After hiking to the mail box and back (1.5 miles, 400 feet lost and gained) on a warm day, Pumpkin contemplates a cool dip in our creek (officially Place Creek). In spite of the record snowfall in April and record warm temperatures in mid-May, there has not been much flooding.

Dave and Andrea visited us from France the first week of June. They were not quite prepared for the snow we encountered on a three day trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton Parks.

Jennie helped put in a garden. Consulting with the local ranch supply store, we opted to keep animals out with two 3 foot high electric fences spaced 3 feet apart. The rationale is that large animals cannot jump over the two fences. Sure enough, the first night something attemped the jump and failed. Stringing one of the lines about 3" off the ground keeps the small animals out. So far there is no further evidence of attempted break-ins.

Memorial Day was a record 4 moose day. Jennie called to say the moose cow and her calf were visible from the Carriage House. We spotted them but could not get a picture through the brush. Gary tried to circle around but was overly cautious and they kept their distance. Later, Dan, Jennie and a friend joined us for a barbecue and two moose juveniles wandered by the Main House as we ate. They were very wary: one tried to hide behind a small tree. Our new camera captured a low light shot through our bedroom window.

We don't know how many moose are around because they are very secretive. However, we do know of at least one more: a large bull moose.

31 May 2009: Exactly 2 years ago we had to dig up this area to fix a leak. This time, water came into the Mud Room during Spring thaw. After cutting into the Mud Room wall board and scraping foam insulation from the concrete wall, we traced the leak to where the roof joins the house foundation. Then we removed landscaping and dug down to the membrane covering the Mud Room roof and ran numerous experiments to locate the most likely culprit. We think one of the screws used to fasten the membrane to the foundation broke out and allowed water to get behind.



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Parting Shot
Bridger Bowl Base Area from the Ridge



Closed for over a month. Why?


Parting Shot, Take 2
Bridger Bowl Base Area from the Ridge



After four unseasonably warm, windy days.
Check Out the Ridge Cam


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