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Hi folks – I’ve filled up all the allowable space on this blog so I have to decide whether or not to pay the exorbitant monthly upgrade fee.  In the meantime… I post somewhat regularly on instragram (wcomalley86) and I’ll be posting more youtube videos (Connor O’Malley) soon so you can follow me on there if you like.  Thanks for reading!

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A red fox foot and a track.  These guys and rabbits are the only common animals whose feet are completely covered in fur.

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A funky set of snowshoe hare tracks.

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Marmot scat.

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The ferocious hound dog.

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Big scat from a female cougar, F61.

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Red fox that was killed and eaten by a cougar, F109.

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Bighorn sheep beds in the Gros Ventre.

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A fox scat up in a sagebrush with a gopher jaw sticking out.

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Found some really nice bear tracks so we went home to grab some plaster to make casts….

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Michelle upon finding that a tire track perfectly destroyed the perfect bear track from above.

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A knife made as a present.  Deer antler handle, deer sinew binding, pine pitch adhesive, and mahogany obsidian.

Happy new year!  Here are some tracks and sign from the last bit of 2015.

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A long-tailed weasel hunts an open meadow.

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The heavily furred feet of an American marten.  These guys have four “plantar” glands on each hind foot… I wish I had tried to photograph them but they look like tiny little bumps on the palm pad and they are used for scent communication.

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Beautiful day in the Tetons chasing mountain lions.

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A good habit that I try to adhere to, is to occasionally take a moment and look deeper for signs of life… try to see the subtle signs normally overlooked.  It doesn’t take long to notice an aphid on a leaf or some other overlooked creature.  The second step is to do some research and figure out what you’re looking at.  These are caddisfly casings from the genus Glossosoma.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossosomatidae They create these tiny stone casings with silk and are an indicator of excellent water quality since they are so susceptible to pollution. 

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Jackrabbit on the left and red fox on the right.

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Beautiful red hills of the Gros Ventre.  The jackrabbit from above was cruising around in these cliffs.

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Awesome tracks of a red fox crouching and diving headfirst into the snow in hopes of catching a meal.  In one study they found that their success rate goes up to 90% when they orient north or south before their pounce.  This one was pointed west and I have no idea if they were successful.

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Cool beaver tracks in the snow.

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Breaking trail deep in the backcountry on a snowmobile.  

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The next bunch of pictures are of the often overlooked feeding sign of red squirrels.  Just like porcupines, bears, rabbits and ungulates, red squirrels eat the bark of conifer trees.  Their teeth grooves are tiny and they usually remove smaller patches of bark although I’ve also found some very large patches from several years of feeding.  Also noteworthy is that many of the trees I’ve seen this sign were weakened by the squirrel and later killed by the mountain pine beetle.

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We caught a new cougar, F72.  Healthy looking first time mother. 

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Compare this nipple with the one below.  The brown staining is a sign of nursing.  This is F72 who has at least one kitten but likely not more than two since most of her nipples had not been nursed.

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At the base of this tree was a dead porcupine.  Look closely for the black arrows pointing to quills and fur stuck to the tree.  Mountain lions don’t just kill porcupines on the ground they will even climb up and pull them out of trees!

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This is the same tree showing porcupine cambium feeding.  The teeth grooves are much larger than the red squirrel feeding.

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I’ve been working on recognizing individual cougars by their tracks.  Here is F72.  She has a very distinctive shape of her heel pad.  It has wings that stick out.  Also her right front foot is way larger than her left front.  I think we can recognize individual animals by their tracks more often than we realize if we really look closely at the details.

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Here is M85’s foot and track.  His are pretty easy to recognize because his toes have these crazy frostbitten tips on them.

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A better picture of F72 taken by Jen Feltner.

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Here is the impression of an owl going after some small mammal.  Here is how I came to this conclusion:  There are no tracks leading up to this impression so we know it is a bird.  The only birds that hunt by sound are harriers and owls.  Harriers have left for the winter… so it must be an owl hunting a small mammal… probably a great horned owl hunting a vole.

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Cougar kitten scat.  This is one of F49’s kittens who is around 6 months old.  Cat scat is supposed to have blunt ends which is why I like this one.

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As I was searching for cougar tracks I looked up and not 4 feet from my face was this cougar kitten hiding in a tree! 

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I’m not sure if you’ll be able to see it but this little shrew tunnel is marked with a spot of urine right at the entrance.

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If you look closely at the world there are mysteries everywhere begging to be solved and often the answers are not far away.  Here some creature has been feeding on timothy grass seeds.

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They were going for these tiny little seeds.  I wasn’t sure who the culprit was but I filed it away.  A couple hours later I took a break from my hike and sat down in the snow and a huge flock of redpolls (tiny northern finches) surrounded me as they fed on the timothy grass seeds.  I took a video of them which you can see on the link below.  It was too cool to watch them land on the thin grass stems, riding them down into the snow and feeding on the seeds; covering the area in the mystery sign from a couple hours prior. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/_5Xyk5x7Aq/?taken-by=wcomalley86

Thanks for reading!

 

Stone Age Bow

Here’s a video of a bow making project from the fall.  Working wood with stone age tools isn’t very hard, it just takes some patience and creativity.  Give it a try!

Fall Pictures

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It may be difficult to see but there are round compressions in the debris running up the middle of this photo.  They look identical to the ritual trails that black bears make leading up to a bite tree but these are from a red squirrel.  The compressions are from the squirrel landing in the exact same spot along a regular travel route.

 

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I believe this is similar to the Mima mounds in western Washington.  Years of pocket gophers adding cheek fulls of dirt over time.

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Some fresh grizzly tracks walking down the road after a rain.

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Close up of a left hind.

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Close up of a left front.

 

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Nice bull killed by Frostbite – a mountain lion followed by Panthera’s Puma Program.

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Male mountain lion walking through a busy mud puddle.

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A cool look at carpenter ant galleries in this sawed off log.

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The left one fell 80 feet and hit me square on the head… surprisingly painful.  Chewed off by a red squirrel building up its winter cache.

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Difficult to see but this tree is surrounded by cougar scrapes – they make these with their hind feet for scent marking and mate finding.

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Good sized bear den from last winter.

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Aspen bark chewed off by hungry elk.

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Black tarry substance deposited by woodrats.

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Cougar scrape on a cliffband.

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Muskrat lodge in the center on the far side of the pond and a feeding island to the left on the near side of the pond.

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Arrows for elk hunting.

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Female marten tracks.

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First dustings of snow.

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This grizzly scat appears to be composed entirely of dirt.  I’ve heard that soil is part of their extremely diverse diet along with 266 species of plants,  invertebrates, mammals, fish and fungi.

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Tiny black bear tracks.

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Long-tailed weasel tracks.  The left front is center.  Left hind on the left and right hind on the right.

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Male cougar.  I believe this is M85.

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Off on a solo backpacking/hunting trip.  Some remote, wild country.

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Galls from the Poplar Twiggall Fly, Hexomyza schineri.  After the female mates, she lays her eggs in these aspen twigs where they spend the winter and later pupate.

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Poplar Twiggall Fly. Visit bugtracks.wordpress.com for a great blog on invertebrate sign.

 

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Least chipmunk.  Might look similar to the weasel but it is in a classic rodent bound pattern and the front feet (the lower ones) only show four toes (weasels would show five).

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Female bobcat.

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A mix of baby cottontail tracks. 

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Armadillo.

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Striped skunk scratching at the ground for something.  Hind right track is visible.

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Trying out some knapping photography.  Hopefully I can get way better at knapping!  Thanks for reading.

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I’ve been finding tons of flicker scats lately. Here is one. Its a good bet that a solid bird scat that looks like this (coated in white) is a flicker scat… but break it open and find nothing but ants and sand and its 100% identified.

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We found a wolf frozen in this iceberg. No idea what happened to it. This was right off the road so maybe it got hit by a car.

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Got to do some bird banding of the black rosy finches. I love the black and pink coloration on these birds.

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Spring migration in the Tetons. Back to daily bison traffic jams. No complaints here though.

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I believe these are meadowlark tracks. This is an area covered in meadowlarks and the size and blackbird shape are right. Some bird tracks are really hard to identify but I’m pretty sure that’s what these are..

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Some nice vole tracks. Voles have equal length front and hind legs so they are able to trot like you see here. Trotting helps them cruise through their grass tunnels without bumping the ceiling and it is also a great help in track identification.

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Some striped skunk tracks. Without the size reference you could mistake these for bear tracks!

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Retired cougar-hound Thor shows that she still has her woods prowess.

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If you have put in some practice but you want to step up your tracking skills, look for tricky tracks that don’t make sense at first. Try to pick out the toes, heel pads, and which feet are fronts vs hinds. Stick with it until you figure it out. Sometimes it may take a LONG time and then it makes sense. These are red squirrel tracks; identifiable by the track in the lower left – a front foot.

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Cool otter tail drag, scent marking.

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It might be hard to see but we found some bear hair stuck to this tree that a beaver took down. The paper would be titled “Relevance of Beaver Chewed Trees in Black Bear Grooming Habits.” It does make a perfect comb.

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The hind foot of an Uinta ground squirrel.

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Vole feeding sign on a choke cherry branch. I’ve heard that pocket gophers will eat inner bark through the winter so I wonder if this could be them. This looks like classic vole feeding though.

Ungulates of Wyoming Comparison labeled

I’ve been working on local ungulates. Sometimes it is really hard to tell them apart so I made this little collage as a fun exercise.

 

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