By Melissa Wynn
Wildlife abounds in our neck of the woods but not all of our animal neighbors are warm and fuzzy. A select few are cold blooded, slither and come equipped with a deadly liquid poison known as venom. California hosts six venomous species of snakes. All six are Rattlesnakes:
• Southern Pacific Rattlesnake
• Speckled Rattlesnake
• Red Diamond Rattlesnake
• Western Diamond Back
• Mojave Rattlesnake
We all know these venomous vipers make the hair on the back our neck stand on end when they earn their name by shaking the rattle at the end of their tail. Here are a few things you may not know:
• Of 8,000 cases of venom poisoning per year in all of North America, only 10-15 result in fatalities.
• In many snakes, the left lung is reduced or absent.
• Some snakes lay eggs and others give birth to live young, such as the Rattlesnake.
• Venom is a prey immobilization adaptation in snakes, defense is secondary.
• Venom is 90% protein.
• Venom is composed of neurotoxins (attack nervous system) and/or hemotoxins (attack circulatory system)
• Rattlesnakes can meter the amount of venom injected when they strike.
• Rattlesnakes gain a new section to their rattle each time they shed their skin.
Many people fear snakes because of their creepy appearance and forget their importance in the natural world. Most are harmless creatures that play a vital role in their ecosystems as highly skilled predators of rodents.
Common sense is the best protection against Rattlesnakes when wandering in the nature. Watch where you place your hands, where you place your feet, and where you sit. If you find a snake, LEAVE IT ALONE! Give it plenty of space and safely enjoy the great outdoors.
Facts Courtesy of sbsc.wr.usgs.gov
By Melissa Wynn
I was so excited when photos of wolverines were captured proving that these shy and illusive creatures still exist wild in the Sierra. The photos were taken right next door in Tahoe National Forest, so it isn’t far fetched that Plumas or Lassen National Forest might have a yet undiscovered population as well.
I believe I saw a wolverine in Seneca canyon in the mid eighties but there must be a photo or some other tangible evidence to be a documentable sighting. Have you ever seen a wolverine in Plumas or Lassen National Forest? We would be thrilled to discover that one of our readers documented the first Plumas or Lassen National Forest wolverine sighting.
Many outdoors enthusiasts who thought they saw a wolverine in fact saw a North American Badger. The two are quite different and it is easy to tell them apart when you know what you are looking for.
The North American Badger is known for its short and stocky build. The mostly black legs are short and the grizzled looking, grayish body is wide and almost flat, like a footstool. Unique facial markings however are what really tell that a badger is a badger. The nose and snout are black and the black continues between the eyes and up over the head. A broad white stripe divides the black from the center of the snout up over the top of the stubby-eared head.Cream colored or white cheeks, chin and under belly top off the tuxedoed appearance of the bossy badger.
Wolverines wear a totally different coat and build than the badger. Wolverine fur is long and often sports a dark reddish brown saddle marking. A lighter coat color extends from the wide black snout and face, over the head and surrounding the saddle to the base of a long shaggy black tail. The sturdy black legs can move these mysterious critters over mountain tops at speeds of forty miles per day.
Badgers and wolverines are both dangerous, wild animals. Never approach them! Snap a photo from a safe distance or gather a hair or scat sample once they’ve gone to document your sighting.
By Melissa Wynn
Wildlife abounds in the Sierra Nevada and the babies of Spring attract visitors to our neck of the woods from around the world. Who could resist catching a glimpse of some of our most famous furry forest friends? Spring is the time of year when the baby black bears come out of hiding and begin to explore. Our local bears are born at just a tiny seven ounces, during the winter while mother is sound asleep. By late March or April they weigh near ten pounds and are ready to cause a ruckus in the woods. Rough and tumble, sniff and learn.
Late April and early May bring coyote pups out of their dens ready to meet the pack. Coyote litters can be as small as a single pup or as large as nineteen pups in years when food is abundant. Six cute, blind, floppy eared coyotes is an average litter. These cunning canines are ready to be on their own at around nine months. The parents will stay together for many years and raise several litters together.The males will run off to seek their own territory but the females will stick around and join their mother’s pack. Keep your eyes peeled and you may see a coyote family along the way.
The predatory puma, or mountain lion, also frequently introduce their kittens to the world in late Spring, although these ferocious felines can breed year round. Contrary to popular belief mountain lions do not always den in caves to have their young. In fact, they don’t construct an elaborate den of any kind. As long as the spot provides a refuge from predators (coyotes, golden eagles, other cougars) and shields the litter from heavy rain and hot sun a mother lion will call it home. Stop, look and listen when exploring in puma territory. Her kittens stay close to her until they are well over a year old although she will leave them for days at a time to hunt as they get older. Dad was long gone before the kittens were born. Whether you refer to them as a cougar, puma or mountain lion, show respect and keep your distance. Cougar kittens usually mean that mother is nearby!
Come visit us this Spring in Mountain Valley territory and see our adorable sierra babies of Spring!
Facts courtesy of nhptv.org
By Melissa Wynn
It would seem that the wild and wonderful Gray Wolf OR7 likes to hole up in our neighborhood as much as we do in late winter. February 7th-12th found our four-legged friend kicking around Central and Western Plumas County. On Valentines Day the curious canine caroused Eastern Tehema County, he continued exploring there through February 22nd. Any wolf that enters California is protected as endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Act. OR7 entered our own Northern California back yard after traveling from northeast Oregon in December of 2011. His wandering vagabond behavior, called dispersal, is not atypical of a wolf his age. We are honored to host the rambling rogue, welcome OR7!
Date Entries courtesy of .dfg.ca.gov
By Melissa Wynn
It is true when they say that the journey is half of the adventure. When road trippin’ in our neck of the woods you are sure to spot some kind of critter along the way.
Each of our small mountain communities hosts its own population of magical mammals. The most common are deer, having a small herd in the front yard is a common site in these parts. Less often, but frequently we catch a glimpse of our other four legged, furry friends like the elusive Coyote and crafty Red Fox. Rare and special sightings include the majestic Brown Bear, timid Bobcat and the stealthy stalking Mountain Lion. Fell lucky if you spot one of these but keep your distance. These are dangerous predators.
Local photographer Jeffrey Woodall keeps his camera close at hand and, as you can see, it pays off frequently. During a late Spring visit to Westwood, Ca’s Walker Lake he captured these great shots of a happy little raccoon family. They let him get so close! Many animals call Walker Lake home including a large population of Osprey, the aerobatic fishing falcon. An afternoon on the shore is sure to bring many wildlife sightings.
If birds are what wish to see the Lake Almanor causeway on the edge of Chester, Ca offers a wide range of species, year round, and every day brings a whole new feathered crowd. Regal Bald Eagles, Turkey Vultures, White Pelicans and countless water fowl are just a few that may catch your eye.
Red Bluff and Chico areas host healthy populations of strange but cute Virginia Opossum. Keep your eyes in the trees, they love to climb. Watch the roadside along the way in these areas and you just might find yourself racing the speedy Road Runner like we did near Payne’s Creek. Wander near waterways and you are sure to see some amazing amphibians like silly salamanders and a wide variety of funny frogs. Don’t forget to watch for all the little weasels as well, like Ermine, Fischer and the playful, fish loving River Otter.
Grey squirrels and chipmunks scamper about all over the Sierra, adding their chatter to the music of the forest. Twitchy and always busy they are really a joy to watch.
From Reno to Redding , Chico to the Oregon border and everywhere in between a simple drive is a wildlife viewing adventure the whole family will enjoy. Forget playing “slug bug”, count squirrels and chipmunks. How many critters will you spot along the way?
By Melissa Wynn
One of cutest wildlife sightings in our Mountain Valley neighborhood is the busy ermine. One of the smallest members of the weasel family these tiny but vicious critters weigh in at a mere three to fifteen ounces. They rarely make a single pound. Males are longer than females.
During the summer months our furry friends are a chocolate brown color with a white underbelly. In winter their coat changes to pure white except for a year round black tip on the tail. Ermines grow seven to thirteen inches long and up to five of those inches can be all tail. Elegant ermine tails historically graced the robes of royalty as a sign of purity and prosperity.
These scampering spitfires are a joy to watch when the do the famous “marten run” in which the hind feet are tucked in by the front feet, causing the back to arch, and then extend. It reminds me of the inch worm at high speed, too funny. They also enjoy a good rough and tumble play, chasing and rolling about at full speed.
Although the ermine (also known as the stoat) looks like a cuddly stuffed animal nothing could be further from the truth. These stealthy carnivores are constantly on the hunt for rabbits, small rodents, amphibians and insects and kill their prey with thirty four razor sharp teeth, with a quickness and without mercy.
Male ermine reach maturity at around one year and they are the late bloomers. Females are ready for their first litter of kits at just a few months old. Mother ermines have one litter each year ranging from three to thirteen babies. At around eight weeks she will wean them and teach them to hunt. At this point the boys are off to seek their fortunes and the girls are ready for a family of their own.
Ermine make their dens in rock crevices and under old growth trees in the roots so look closely as you hike through our wonderful wilderness. Maybe you too will catch a glimpse of elegant little ermine.
Facts courtesy of blueplanetbiomes.org
If you suspect your home or garage has been invaded by bats, it is a good time to call an expert. We spoke with Gary and Eric Foss of Gary’s Bat Removal at Lake Almanor, who charges just $80 for a complete inspection in the Almanor Basin. The company charges a bit more for sending inspectors out of the area, but a consult with this company may save time and money in the long-run. They have been doing bat inspections and removal for 18 years and have learned much in the process. While many home inspection companies offer bat inspections, this pair claims that their comprehensive search of a structure is the best way to go.
Bats can enter a home through a crack or hole less than 3/8″, so shining a flashlight in the attic may not tell the whole story. Often, bats will burrow their way through attic insulation. They have seen much evidence of bats doing severe damage to a home. Homeowners insurance will often cover damages caused by bats.
In one case, Eric told us bat urine was actually visible on the ceiling’s sheetrock, yet went undetected by a common inspection. In another case, the urine was visible on the ceiling, down the wall and even over the bed. He added that it takes years of infestation for leakage to penetrate through sheetrock. Another case revealed guano so deep in the attic that the ceiling actually fell through. Older homes and log homes may be more apt to attract bats due to crevices which expand and contract regularly over time and with changing weather conditions. Eric said, “While bats are beneficial to the environment, they are not beneficial to your house or your health.”
Safe removal of bats includes installation of a one-way barrier system. Eric has designed what he feels is the best available on the market today. The problem with sealing up a home and not leaving a way out for existing bats, is that when bats are trapped and need food, they will immediately begin searching for water. Heating and air conditioning vents or bathroom fans can provide access into the home. They once removed a bat from under the rim of a toilet. He explained that heading for water often means finding the shower or toilet.
It all sounds pretty creepy, I know. That’s why I had their crew out to my home after doing some research on sounds I heard last year. I was amazed at how many cracks and crevices they found and sealed. The one-way bat escape seemed to do the trick and the mysterious critter sounds disappeared from my 75+ year old home.
They stress the importance of finding every place where these critters can get in. “The point(s) of entry are not necessarily the same places where the bat guano is found.” He told us, “Bats are mammals and like to return to the same place each year to nest. They are persistent creatures who will search out any spot they can find to re-enter “their home” (aka “your home!)
Bat bugs, closely related to bed bugs, are another problem that come with bats. These insects suck the blood from bats and rely on the bats for existence. In the months when bats may leave the area, these bugs can go in search of their diet by biting humans. Eric said, “The invasion of bats can be a serious problem and requires a serious approach. Homebuyers should insist on a proper inspection and should beware of a the quick approach. Getting a second opinion is a good idea. Sealing off a few places near the evidence of bats is not likely to remedy the problem.” Their team is equipped with a state-of-the art vacuum system and 18 years experience. If you are buying a home or hear strange sounds like I did, you can contact them at 530-258-2811.
By Melissa Wynn
One of my favorite parts of a Plumas County summer is watching the butterflies. Over eighty species call this neck of the woods home so step outdoors and have a look around to see who is fluttering by. Here are a few of our favorite neighbors; who’s in your backyard?
The Melissa Blues
lay their eggs on the beautiful Lupine plant and have a symbiotic relationship with ants. The ants protect the newly hatched caterpillar which in turn secretes a sugary substance to feed the ants for their trouble.
The Tiger Swallowtails are a treat to watch in yellow and black as they dance through the air. Look for their caterpillars resting on a mat of silk hidden in curled leaves. This species is a hardy breed and their chrysalis hibernate.
The Cabbage White is likely to be the first butterfly to catch your eye each year. These small white and black beauties are usually the first to emerge each spring. Their chrysalis also hibernates.
Those catching a glimpse of the Callippe Fritillary are the luckiest viewers of all. This butterfly has The Nature Conservancy rank of T1 – Critically imperiled because of extreme rarity (5 or fewer occurrences, or very few remaining individuals), or because of some factor of its biology making it especially vulnerable to extinction.
Monarchs are probably the most familiar butterfly but they are far from common. These seemingly delicate insects make massive migrations from August-October, flying thousands of miles south to hibernate along the California coast and in central Mexico. At the Mexico wintering sites, Monarchs roost in trees by the millions.
They all look so similar but each species is very different, who knew?
Facts and photos courtesy of
abirdshome.com and digitalmedia.fws.gov
By Melissa Wynn
All foxes are members of the dog family and how often do you see a dog up a tree? If the dog happens to be a Grey Fox it is more often than you might think. Extra long claws on their hind feet give these cunning canines a catlike grip to venture into the conifer canopy, while the front feet are used to grip the trunk like a bear. The agile Grey Fox climbs trees not only to escape predators but also to hunt small birds, lizards, eggs and other tree dwelling foods. Unlike their Red Fox cousins the Greys do not dig dens but prefer to make their homes in hollow logs, rock formations, brush piles and even (you guessed it) in the trees. Grey Fox dens are often lined with a comfortable bed of grass, leaves and/or shredded bark. There’s no place like a tree house home.
From a distance, the Grey Fox looks like a small. pointy eared dog. Adults are 35 to 44 inches long and weigh in from 5 to 14 pounds. The sides of its stocky neck, backs of its ears, and underside of its tail are a pale, rusty yellow. A vivid redhead orange band separates the white throat and belly from the salt and pepper colored upper sides and back. A black mane of long, coarse hair extends along the top of the bushy Grey Fox tail from its base to the all black tip. Handsome as can be these forest frolickers are a “foxy” sighting for the lucky few who catch a glimpse of the Grey Fox during daylight.
Nocturnal by nature, our illusive neighbor prefers the nightlife and manages to mostly keep out of sight. I have only seen one Grey Fox in my lifetime. He came for a drink across the water from where my father and I were night fishing for catfish. A bright moon let us watch him have his drink and then quietly slip back into the woods. The Grey Fox is a rare sighting so keep your eyes peeled and remember to look up. Is that a Grey Fox up a tree?
facts courtesy of blueplanetbiomes.org
dennispollardphotography.com..pic pending permission.
Courtesy of dnr.state.wi.us
What happens to animals when the days get shorter and the snow starts to fly? Many head for warmer climates. Others get ready for winter by putting on a thick coat of fur. Some animals head underground for a long winter’s nap. This is called hibernation. These hibernators go into a deep sleep. If you saw a hibernating animal you might think it was dead.
How does an animal know when it’s time to get ready for hibernation? How does its body know to slow down during hibernation? Scientists have found a special substance in the blood of hibernating animals. It’s called HIT (Hibernation Inducement Trigger). If blood is taken from a hibernating ground squirrel in the winter and injected into an active squirrel in the spring, the active squirrel goes into hibernation. (Pretty weird, huh?)
There are different kinds of hibernation. The “true” hibernators sleep so deeply that they are almost impossible to wake up. Woodchucks, ground squirrels and bats are “true” hibernators. A woodchuck’s heart rate goes from 80 beats a minute when active to 4 or 5 beats a minute when in hibernation. Its body temperature drops from 98 degrees Fahrenheit to 38 degrees Fahrenheit. And, the woodchuck’s incisors, which grow continuously and are kept short by all the gnawing it does, quit growing during hibernation. True hibernators do get up every few weeks to nibble on food, and in the case of the woodchuck, use an underground toilet room. When bats are ready to hibernate, they must find a place that stays above freezing. They gather together in caves called hibernacula.
Bears are not “true” hibernators. They are one of the “light sleepers.” They are easily awakened from their winter slumbers. These in-between hibernators are simply taking long winter naps. Skunks, raccoons, opossums are also in this group. These animals breathe a little more slowly and lower their body temperature a few degrees while sleeping, but they wake up to forage between winter snows.
Can you think of any other animals that hibernate? How about our cold-blooded friends snakes,turtles, and frogs. Since cold-blooded animals can’t warm themselves up, they need to find a way to protect themselves from the cold. Frogs and turtles bury themselves in the mud below the frostline. They get oxygen from air trapped in the mud. In the spring when the sun warms the mud, out they’ll come. Some snakes head underground to hibernate, others gather together in sheltered places, like rotted out logs. Imagine walking in the woods on a spring day and coming across a bunch of snakes emerging from their wintering spot. What a sight that would be!
Hibernation is still somewhat of a mystery and an amazing animal adaptation. The next time you are sitting around the fireplace all snug, warming up after playing outside, think about all the animals that are sleeping, snug in the snow.
By Melissa Wynn
The unmistakable Wild Boar is an omnivorous, gregarious mammal
, characterized by large heads with tusks and a distinctive snout with a disk-shaped nose. Short necks, relatively small eyes, prominent ears, and a coat that has dense, dark bristles add to the tough guy appearance of this long hunted beast. This wild species is the ancestor of the domestic pig,
which was one of the first domesticated animals.
The fur consists of stiff bristles and usually finer fur. The color usually varies from dark gray to black or brown. During winter, the fur is much denser. The stiff bristled hairs were historically used for making toothbrushes and today are still used for hairbrushes and paintbrushes. Wild boar piglets are colored differently from adults, being a soft brown with darker stripes. The stripes fade as the piglet grows, when the animal takes on the adult’s grizzled gray or brown color.
Wild boars live in groups called sounders. Sounders typically contain around twenty animals, but groups of over fifty have been seen. In a typical sounder, there are two or three sows and their many piglets; adult males are not part of the sounder, outside of breeding times, and are usually solitary. Breeding takes place two to three times per year. Birth, called farrowing, usually occurs in a secluded area away from the sounder. Piglet litters are typically 8 to 12 cute, wiggly piglets.
The term boar also is used more generally to describe an adult male of certain species—including, confusingly, domestic pigs. It also applies to the males of such species as the guinea pig,badger, skunk, raccoon , and mink. However, for the wild boar, the term applies to the whole species, including, for instance, “sow wild boar” (female wild boar) or “wild boar piglet.”
The Wild Boar is a spunky swine and won’t back down from a challenge. Never approach a wild animal. If surprised or cornered, a boar (and particularly a sow with her piglets) can and will defend itself and its young with intense ferocity . The male lowers his head, charges, and then slashes upward with its large intimidating tusks. The female charges with its head up, mouth wide, and bites. Few predators, other than wolves, dare to mess with the aggressive Wild Boar.
Facts courtesy of newworldencyclopedia.org
What could be more frightening than bats in your belfry? Bat bugs!
The bat bug (Cimex pilosellus) is a close relative to the bed bug. Both are blood-sucking insects and prior to the recent increase of bed bugs, the bat bug was the more common representative of this group from the Cimicidae family. Bed bugs are the most difficult to deal with as they can coexist with humans. The bat bug requires a bat host, which can live behind walls and in attics. When bats migrate or are removed from the area, the potential for these bugs to migrate to human areas exists. The bugs move in search of a new bat host.
To prevent rare but potential human bites, human areas should be sealed off from bat areas after the bats leave, but the bottom line is that these bugs will not be able to sustain or reproduce without a bat host. If you think these critters may be dwelling in YOUR attic, calling a professional bat removal service is advised, one who handles the safe removal of bats with no harm to the bats.
Ref:Wikipedia, Colorado State University Extension: Bat Bugs, Bed Bugs and Relativesby W.S. Cranshaw, M. Camper and F.B. Peairs1 (Revised 3/11)
By Melissa Wynn
The Common Poorwill is the smallest of the “nightjars” in North America, and is considered the western counterpart of the eastern Whip-poor-will. The Hopi name for the Common Poorwill means “the sleeping one”, as they are the only bird known to hibernate.
In cold weather, they enter a hibernating state, called tupor, with a lowered body temperature, heartbeat, and rate of breathing. Hummingbirds also enter into tupor but only for short periods. The heartier Poorwill can stay in tupor for weeks.
Hibernation is not the Common Poorwill’s only odd characteristic. They also have whiskers, that’s right whiskers. Like an odd mustache on either side of their tiny beak. This not quite birdlike feature adds to Poorwill’s odd look. Feet so tiny that they are rarely seen are another Common Poorwill trait that makes one cock their head and wonder.
These well-camouflaged cousins of the also whiskered Whip-poor-will are brownish gray and mottled with a white ring around the base of the neck. This coloring makes them hard to spot, but a beautiful song means they are often heard, especially near dusk and dawn.
Dry, open, grassy or shrubby areas are where our strange feathered friends call home. Lovely Autumn is when all share in the rare sightings as a few are still toughing it out in the higher elevations. Meanwhile, others are moving lower toward the Great Basin and foothills. It takes a sharp eye to get a glimpse of the Poorwill as they sing their twilight serenades.
The Common Poorwill feeds exclusively on night flying insects such as moths and nocturnal flying beetles. They preserve energy by watching from a perch and then ambushing their prey and it flies by. A quick flutter and a snap of their beak and the first course is over.
Keep yours eyes peeled and your binoculars handy so that if you hear their distinctive, high pitched, two whistle call maybe, just maybe you can get a look at the strange and interesting Common Poorwill.
facts courtesy of sdakotabirds.com and allaboutbirds.org
By Melissa Wynn
For generations kids in Eastern Lassen and Modoc Counties along with those in Nevada’s Washoe County have played outside and chased the Northern Desert Horned Lizard or as they are sometimes called, horny toads. These spiked, scampering, sun lovers of the sagebrush are a blast to watch as they zip around desert areas. When caught however, these flat but frisky lizards hiss and will bite. They prefer to not be handled and will use camouflage and stillness as a first line of defense. Short speedy departure is an option when necessary.
Northern Desert Horned lizards are flat-bodied with short spines on their head and have one row of pointed scales fringing the body. Belly scales are smooth. Most of these radical looking reptiles are red, tan, or dark gray, with wavy cross bands on the sides of the head and have dark blotches on the sides of the neck.
Basking in the sun is a favorite pastime of horned lizards during the cooler morning hours but, like an old car, once they are warmed up they are ready to roll. By night our desert day tripper burrows under the sand to keep warm but leaves his eyes above ground to watch for danger.
Northern Desert Horned Lizards breed April through July and the little ones begin scurrying about in the fall, as our young ones scurry back to school. The babies are called hatchlings and average 7/8 to 1 and 1/8 inches long. Sometimes they bury themselves in the sand as soon as they hatch and have a cautious look around. Mom and Dad don’t stick around so the hatchlings hunt for themselves immediately. These self sufficient beginners are adorable with their tiny horns and smooth skin, like little punk rockers.
Next time you are wandering about our Eastern desert neighborhoods don’t forget to look down and around for the lizard that looks like a dinosaur, the Northern Desert Horned Lizard.
Facts courtesy of desertusa.com and californiaherps.com
By Melissa Wynn
Recently, while visiting a friend, I noticed the prettiest pink bird fluttering around his bird feeder. After a bit of research, I learned that it was a Purple Finch. Hmmm, why not call it a Pink Finch? Males of this small sparrow-like species have a raspberry colored head and sport a bit of a mohawk. The pinkish tinge of color lightens as it flows down the back and chest, almost like they have been dipped head first into a glass of cherry kool-aid. Female Purple Finches are, like most female birds, more plain and lack the brilliant red coloring. They are coarsely streaked below, with strong facial markings including a whitish eye stripe and a dark line down the side of the throat.
Purple Finch females are not easily impressed and their male counterparts work hard to win a mate. The boys are required to softly sing, often with a twig in their beak, while strutting their stuff in a sort of fluttering, hopping dance. As if being pretty in pink were not enough! If all goes well, the pair will build a nest among the branches of a tree or shrub and fill it with 2-7 tiny greenish blue speckled eggs that will hatch in about twelve days. Although Purple Finches make short work of entering the world, they take their time in departing. The oldest recorded Purple Finch lived to be 11 years 9 months old.
Black sunflower seeds in my friend’s feeder are a favorite for the Purple Finch, but they feed on wide variety of seeds, berries, cherries, apricots and even nectar that they harvest by biting the bases off of selected flowers. These fat little fluffs of feathers also dine on several insects including aphids, caterpillars, grasshoppers, and beetles.
Whether you see them around your bird feeder or catch a glimpse in the forest, the singing, dancing Purple Finch is a joy to watch.
facts courtesy of allaboutbirds.org
Gary’s Bat Removal ~ Lakeside Construction, Inc. (530) 258-2811
Safely remove and relocate bats * Clean up hazardous guano in attics * One way bat doors installed * Bat houses sold and installed * Home Inspections * Licensed * Bonded * Insured
With over twenty eight years experience as a licensed contractor in the state of California, Gary’s Bat and Bird Removal should be your first call. As a registered bat excluder with Bat Conservation International (BCI), we only use approved exclusion methods and materials. Gary’s Bat Removal Service is a FULL SERVICE BAT EXCLUDER. Exclusion is the ONLY effective solution for permanently removing bats from buildings. Trapping and relocating alone is ineffective since bats have excellent homing instincts and simply return, even when released at great distances. The use of pesticides against bats is illegal and counterproductive. Poisoning greatly increases the likelihood of bats coming into contact with people and pets.
Ultrasonic devices, chemical repellents, and smoke are not approved by BCI as effective methods to evict bats from buildings. In addition, canned spray foam is not an approved sealant for cracks and holes in most situations. It is not only unattractive, but can result in the death of bats that come into contact with it. This product should never be used when bats are still present. Our service uses exclusion methods that ensure the safety of both bats and people.
Gary’s Bat Removal is **Recommended by Bat Conservation International as a preferred Bat Excluder **
(Click on image below to enter Gary’s Bat Removal website)
By Melissa Wynn
Rubber Boas are a bit of an oddball in the slithering world of snakes. Unlike most snakes, they are perfectly at home in cooler, higher mountain areas. Many cold-blooded creatures prefer to bask in the sunshine, but not the Rubber Boa. These shy serpents prefer to spend the daylight hours underground or under cover beneath logs and rocks. Always cautious, these constrictors do their carousing by night. Slow and stealthy is the way of the Rubber Boa.
As far as snakes go, the Rubber Boa is among the easiest to get along with. Rubber Boas almost never bite. While most snakes will curl up, hiss and strike when cornered, Rubber Boas prefer to try to fake their way out of the situation. Using their blunt, stubby tail, they “strike” from a curled position, hiding their head. This practice is also used when hunting baby rodents. Rubber Boa tails are often scarred from the bites of mother mice attempting to rescue their young from the cunning constrictor. These docile characteristics make the Rubber Boa a very popular pet.
Rubber Boas are a small snake, rarely growing past thirty inches. Living up to fifty years in the wild, these hearty reptiles continue to breed very late in life. Rubber Boas give birth to one to nine live young in mid to late summer.Young snakes are pink or tan and can be brightly-colored. Adult snakes are light brown, dark brown, pink, tan, or olive-green above, and yellow, orange, or cream-colored below. Rubber Boas are usually uniform in color on the back, but sometimes dark spots or mottling occur, especially in northern populations. Smooth, shiny, small-scaled, loose and wrinkled skin gives the snake a rubbery feel and its name.
If I am destined to run across a snake during my hiking adventures, I hope it will be the shy, slow, docile Rubber Boa.
Facts courtesy of californiaherps.com and rubberboas.com
Photo by Nicole Tripp of theroamingnaturalist.com
By Melissa Wynn
Everyone loves sweet sticky honey. Most of us know that we have the busy little honey bee to thank each time we indulge ourselves with this golden ancient treat. Honey Bees however give us so much more than honey. These tiny workaholics are perfectly designed to pollinate many of the fruit and vegetable crops consumed in America. Each Spring when fruits and veggies are in blossom each flower must be pollinated to bear fruit. No pollinator, no goodies.
The body of the always female worker honey bee, is a pollen moving machine. Small hairs covering the bee become charged with static electricity as she buzzes through air. Therefore, when she touches down on a flower pollen clings to her like socks cling to the towels in the dryer. As if that were not enough, our little lady often gets a crown of pollen placed upon her head as she gathers her nectar reward from the flower. She will trade this for a new hat at the next blossom. The fine hairs on the legs of the hurrying honey bee gather and drop off pollen at each flower as she walks around as well. She gathers her nectar for honey making and in the process pollinates crops for millions of hungry humans.
During the 1980s, a pear growing region of China, lost their entire population of honey bees to pesticides. High demand for the pears and orders from their government forced the human keepers of the pear orchards to pollinate every blossom in the orchard by hand. This tedious and time consuming process is completed by dusting the center of each flower on every tree with gathered and dried pollen using a piece of bamboo outfitted with a “brush” made of chicken feathers. Can you imagine hand dusting hundreds of acres of apple trees or blueberry bushes?
As the buzz about their day the happy, humble honey bee keeps the produce coming to dinner tables all around the world. Like all true workaholics, honey bees work overtime and ask nothing in return for all their hard work. Keep buzzing the blossoms little honey bee, I like both lemon and honey in my tea.
By Melissa Wynn
One of my fond memories of childhood is catching crawdads, or crayfish as they are sometimes called, in the streams and lakes where my daddy would take us fishing. Sometimes we would set traps at night if we were planning a crawdad boil, but mostly we just moved rocks and caught them by hand.
Crawdads normally live about two years, so reproduction is top of the list of things to do. The quickly carousing crawdad becomes sexually mature and mates during the first fall after it’s born, but fertilization and egg laying usually occur the following spring. Between ten and eight hundred fertilized eggs are attached to the female on the underside of her jointed abdomen. The egg-carrying female is said to be “in berry,” because her clutch of eggs looks something like a bubbly blackberry, dark in color at first, but becoming translucent as they mature. Females are often seen “in berry” during May or June so have a look if you can catch one. The eggs hatch in two to twenty weeks, depending on water temperature. The new baby crawdads stay attached to their mother until shortly after their second molt. Molting is the shedding of the hard outer shell which the crawdad does throughout its life to accommodate growth. The old shell splits and the bigger crawdad simply walks out of it, leaving his home behind. The new shell is a bit soft the first few days after molting and the crawdad is most vulnerable to predators during this time.
Crawdad color ranges from dull grayish brown to bright blue but all crawdads turn red when cooked like their lobster cousins. Crawdads are closely related to the lobster and look very much like a miniature version. Like the lobster crawdad heads have two pairs of antennae and the eyes are out of the head on movable stalks. The legs, or pereiopods, include four pairs of walking legs which, as well as walking, are to probe cracks and crevices between rocks looking for food. Crawdads also own one pair of claw bearing chelipeds, which it extends in front of its body while moving. These strong pincers are specialized for cutting, capturing food and fighting it out with other crawdads. They are also handy for giving curious kids a good pinch to be set free. Crawdads also has several pairs of specialized food handling “legs,” balers to cycle water over the gills, and five pairs of swimmerets on the under belly. All of these “legs” will grow back or regenerate if broken off. How cool is that?
These crazy crustaceans of the creek are most active at night when they come out of hiding to feed on snails, worms, salmon eggs, incest larvae and dead fish. Most crawdads seen during the day are young and smaller than the big ones seen after dusk. Next time you are out fishing move a few rocks, catch a crawdad and check it out. Crazy crayfish are actually quite interesting.
info from mackers.com
photo from bigstockphoto.com
Marc Kenyon, DFG Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3515
Kirsten Macintyre, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8988
An orphaned black bear cub was safely returned to its remote northern California forest home in late February after five months at a Lake Tahoe wildlife care facility. Once near death, the male yearling cub has been deemed by experts to be fully rehabilitated, healthy and very likely able to survive on its own.
The cub was emaciated and weak when it was first spotted by a logger working in the Lassen National Forest (Tehama County) last September. Evidence at the scene indicated that the tiny bear’s mother had died before it learned to forage for food on its own. It was also suffering from severe hair loss, which would have made it unlikely to survive the approaching winter.
A warden from the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) was able to easily capture the cub with a trap. When it arrived at Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, a licensed rehab center, the tiny bear weighed only 18 lbs. — far less than the usual weight of about 30 lbs. for a cub that age. With the assistance of charitable donations, staff at the nonprofit center treated the animal for ringworm and nursed it back to health over a five-month period.
At the end of February, DFG biologists picked up the cub – which then weighed a hearty 90 lbs. – and transported it from Tahoe back to the Lassen National Forest.
Courtesy of DFG
A wild free-roaming horse or burro, as defined by Federal law, is an unbranded, unclaimed, free-roaming horse or burro found on Western public range lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). Wild horses and burros are descendants of animals released by or escaped from Spanish explorers, ranchers, miners, U.S. Cavalry, or Native Americans. The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 gave the Department of the Interior’s BLM and the Department of Agriculture’s USFS the authority to manage, protect, and control wild horses and burros on the nation’s public range lands to ensure healthy herds and healthy range lands.
Horses For Adoption, Burros too!
FROM OVERGROWING POPULATION OF WILD HORSES
Opportunities Still Exist to See Horses in the Wild
Over 30 years ago, I was graced with the privilege of seeing a herd of wild horses run on the plain below me in the Gerlach area. We turned off our dirt bikes and sat to watch in wonder. It was an experience I will not soon forget. Long, flowing manes bounced in the whisking of more than a dozen stout horses, big and small, in a variety of colors. It reminds me of a plaque I once saw, amended slightly and expanded upon for this vast area of beauty and adventure: “If we’re lucky enough to live where we live, we are lucky enough.” The experience, almost magical and seemingly mystical, drew me to another cliche, this time from a song, “I will ride them someday.” (Rolling Stones: Wild Horses,
During the same year that wild horses finally gained federal protection: Released June, 1971)
When I saw those horses, it had been just more than a decade since the institution of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act and it was not uncommon to see such a scene in the wild deserts of California and Nevada. The good news is there are places where you can still behold such a vision. One pretty sure bet for seeing wild horses is the Buckhorn Back Country Highway, according to Jeff Fontana, of the USDA Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Public Affairs. He took me on a tour through the wild horse facility in Litchfield, CA near Susanville, where hundreds of horses are available for adoption and viewing. The Buckhorn Back Country Byway is a good dirt road, accessible in good weather out in the high desert area between Ravendale and Nevada. Fontana says you have a really good chance of viewing horses there and if you stop by their Eagle Lake District office on Riverside Drive in Susanville, they can offer you a map, or you can call them at 530 257-0456 for directions.
There is also a herd which can be seen along Highway 395 just north of Ravendale. Looking off to the west with binoculars, you may find them. Binoculars are always good for viewing wild horses. according to Fontana, as they are wary animals.
Before the Wild Horse and Burro act of 1971, wild horses were gathered up commercially and sold off to glue factories. That was until one little gal got involved known as ‘Wild Horse Annie.’ Velma Johnson (her real name) was tired of seeing such a magnificent breed of animals being poorly treated and ultimately slaughtered, she worked hard for decades to see the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act become a reality in 1971. She was recently inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame.
Adopting Horses or Burros of Your Own
Governed by the USDA Bureau of Land Management, over 230,000 horses and burros have been adopted out since 1971. The problem today is the lack of adopters as opposed to the growing population of horses they capture on public lands. According to a recent release by the GAO (Government Accountability Office) a report correctly depicts the difficult situation that the BLM finds itself in with regard to maintaining unadopted or unsold animals in holding facilities. While the GAO report notes that the BLM has made “significant progress” toward setting and meeting the appropriate management level (AML) of wild horse and burro herds that roam BLM-managed rangelands in 10 Western states, the report shows these costs are spiraling out of control, accounting for three-fourths of the Bureau’s wild horse and burro budget of $37 million. A large increase in adoptions is needed.
After the adoption process including one year of caring for the animal, complete title is issued to the adopter and animals can be sold. Fontana told me a story of a family who adopted a horse for a child who then competed with the horse for many years. The family ended up selling the animal for $10,000. The wild mustangs are excellent competitors in endurance rides. The horses are also known for being exceptionally strong and loyal. “People love these horses”, Fontana said. It is also just seems quite impressive that these mighty beasts are direct descendants of Calvary horses and other carriers through history’s wild west adventures. Perhaps you are a candidate for adopting a wild horse or burro.
Every wild horse or burro is different. They come in all shapes and sizes, and each animal has its own personality. They are of no particular breed, although some exhibit characteristics associated with certain breeds. As far as records go, their breed will always be labeled as Mustangs. A typical wild Mustang stands about 13 to 15 hands high (52- 60 inches) and weighs about 700 to 1,000 pounds. Wild burros average 11 hands high (44 inches) and weigh about 500 pounds. Because the BLM only recently removed them from public lands, wild horses and burros put up for adoption are not accustomed to people. As an adopter, your challenge will be to develop a trusting relationship with your wild horse or burro.
It may not be as difficult as you think. There are horse trainers out there who can help adopters and horses transition, and there are volunteers across the state who act as mentors for adopters.
To adopt a wild horse or burro, you must:
* Be at least 18 years of age (Parents or guardians may adopt a wild horse or burro and allow younger family members to care for the animal.);
* Have no prior conviction for inhumane treatment of animals or for violations of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act;
* Demonstrate that you have adequate feed, water, and facilities to provide humane care for the number of animals requested; and,
* Show that you can provide a home for the adopted animal in the United States.
You must provide a minimum of 400 square feet (20 feet x 20 feet) for each animal adopted. Until fence broken, adult horses need to be maintained in an enclosure at least 6 feet high; burros in an enclosure at least 4.5 feet high; and horses less than 18 moths old in an enclosure at least 5 feet high. You should not release an ungentled animal into a large open area, such as a pasture, since you may not be able to recapture the animal for training or to provide veterinary care. However, once the animal is gentled, you may release it into a pasture or similar area. You will be required to meet specifications for the construction of corrals and shelters, etc.
How do I adopt a wild horse or burro?
If you meet the adoption qualifications requirements, you can complete an online Internet Adoption Application or you can fill one out and mail or take it to the nearest facility. The minimum or base adoption fee for each wild horse or burro is $125.
The cost of caring for a wild horse or burro is comparable to caring for a domestic horse or burro. Depending on local costs and conditions, this can exceed $1,000 per year. You are responsible for all costs associated with the care of your animal. If you adopt a mare, there is a very good chance that she is pregnant, so you may have the additional expense of caring for a foal. Though the adoption fee may seem minimal, you should also consider the following costs when calculating your wild horse/burro budget:
* Stall/Corral Rental Shoeing
* Veterinarian Worming
* Vaccinations Medicine
* Insecticides Salt/Supplements
* Feed Grooming Supplies
BLM wild horse corrals on Highway 395 just North of Litchfield is about 21 miles from Susanville. They are open to the public Monday through Friday from 7:45 – 4:30. During the summer, hours are 6:30 – 3:30. For information about tours or horse adoption call (530) 254-6575 or (800) 545-4256.
For more information got to http://www.blm.gov and search wild horses.
By Melissa Wynn
I was blessed growing up deep in the woods of the Sierra Nevada as a child. Porcupines were a very common wildlife sighting. In my late teens, I commuted on HWY 36 from Westwood out past the HWY 32 turn off for work and porcupines were every bit the road hazard at night that the deer were and continue to be. I can also remember my father many times pulling on coveralls and thick gloves to go out and pull porcupine quills from our naughty dogs that couldn’t seem to resist a chase every time they managed to sneak out of the yard for a forest run. But in the last several years I have not seen a single waddling pin cushion of the pines, dead or alive, in all my travels through this neck of woods. I have to wonder if I have just been unlucky or if others have noticed the absence of our spiky little neighbors. Things that make you say hmmm? Porcupine are quite intriguing to watch as they perch in the trees nibbling the bark, twigs or spring buds. These large rodents have front feet much smaller than the back and use them almost like hands as they feed. Like their beaver cousins, the front teeth of the wood munching porcupine never stop growing but are constantly filed down at mealtime. These amazingly strong teeth like chisels are also orange in color. Porcupines breed September through November and have only one baby after about 210 days, so the early babies will be coming in late April. I hope to catch a glimpse of at least one this year. They used to be so easy to spot in the snowy trees during the winter, but not so anymore. The woods are still full of trees to dine on, so why are we not seeing them?
photo from bigstock photo
How about you my Mountain Valley Living friends, when did you last see a porcupine? Please log on at mountainvalleyliving.com and post a comment telling us when and where you or your dogs last encountered the seemingly missing porcupine.
By Melissa Wynn
Although monogamy is rare in the animal kingdom there are a few species that pick a mate and stick with them at least “until death do they part.” The poster birds for fidelity, the noble bald eagles remain faithful to each other until one dies. Recent studies of DNA from the feathers of other eagle species support the idea that monogamy is the norm among raptors. Swans are also rumored to have what it takes to keep the love alive. They can be seen floating serenely along, heads together creating the very symbol of Valentines Day, the simple heart. Colorful love birds, turtle doves, often seen at weddings, and some species of parrots are just a few more of our feathered friends dedicated enough to be lovers for life. Maybe love is for the birds.
pics from bigstockphoto.com
raptor facts courtesy of livescience.com
By Melissa Wynn
Late in November while traveling along scenic hwy 36 near Paynes Creek I was blessed to spot an eccentric Greater Roadrunner. As the name implies it was running beside the road, and boy was he speeding along. Reaching speeds up to 17 miles per hour makes the greater roadrunner content to spend most of his time on the ground. These odd members of the cuckoo family can fly in short bursts when necessary but prefer to walk or run away when threatened.
The one I saw seemed to be running just for the joy of it. He was quite a colorful fellow as are both sexes of the greater roadrunner. The head, neck, back, and wings of our feathered friend are dark brown-black and heavily streaked with white, while the breast is mostly white. The eyes are bright yellow and surrounded by a streak of bare blue and red skin. A particularly comical feature is the head crest of black feathers, like a Mohawk, which is raised or lowered at will. Overall, the body has a streamlined appearance, with a long tail that is often carried at an upward angle. The legs and beak are blue. The feet are zygodactylous, with two toes pointed forward and two toes pointed backward.
When the weather is cool greater roadrunners like to sunbathe with their back to the sun, fluffing out their back feathers to expose the black skin beneath that acts as a solar panel. Nothing typical about these silly birds. No wonder the greater roadrunner became a cartoon star. Beep Beep.
Sources, USDA animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu
photo from bigstock photo
If seeing a spider in your home sends chills up your spine and thoughts of “KILL IT! KILL IT!” run through your head, there’s good news: most spiders that share your space do much more good than harm. I’m not saying all spiders you find in and about your home are harmless – far from it. Some can be very dangerous and steps should be taken to identify and avoid them.
Spiders tend to gravitate toward warmer surroundings as winter settles in. Most potentially dangerous species tend to find secluded, undisturbed areas to inhabit during cold weather, such as under porches, decks, under eaves and woodpiles. Most of the species that don’t mind sharing space with humans and pets tend to be harmless.
The need to instinctively squish is based in fear. Learning to identify spiders that tend to infiltrate even the best-insulated homes is essential to overcoming the urge to squish.
Brown recluse spider – The famed ‘violin shape’ (it starts from the head and points down toward the abdomen), the “telltale” sign for this species is sadly not confined to brown recluses, nor do all brown recluses possess it. The best way to identify this spider. It’s true! While most spiders have 8 eyes, the brown recluse is unique in that it has only 6. In addition, the abdomen of the recluse spider is devoid of markings, and their legs are smooth with no thick hairs.
Brown recluses have a smaller range than most people think, not straying further west than the Rocky Mountains and rarely venturing north of Nebraska.
Hobo spider – The hobo spider is definitely a spider that people need to be more aware of. They are the true cause for countless numbers of reports of spider bites in which the brown recluse was wrongfully blamed, because both species look fairly similar at a glance and their bite patterns and symptoms are nearly identical. Hobo spiders, unlike the brown recluse, are more mottled in coloration and have distinctive ‘herringbone’ patterns on their abdomen. Their legs are also hairier than those of the brown recluse.
The easiest way to differentiate brown recluses from hobo spiders is to gauge the geographic location they are found in. The hobo spider was introduced from Europe to the Port of Seattle in the late 1920s and they have since spread throughout the Northwestern United States and Western Canada, making them the leading cause of serious spider bites in the Northwest. Brown recluses do not live in the Northwest or Canada.
Jumping spider – If you ever see one of these little guys hopping around on your furniture, don’t be alarmed, these curious spiders are one of your greatest friends in the pest-ridding business. They are easy to identify because of their unique eye pattern, and inquisitive behavior. If approached, instead of scurrying away like other spiders would, the jumping spider will jump and turn to face the advancer, sometimes even looking up and studying them. Jumping spiders are regarded by many as being ‘cute’ because of their antics and large eyes.
Daddy Long Legs spider – Several species of spiders have this name given to them, and arguments ensue when trying to identify a specific type of Daddy Long Legs spider. In our area, the most common is the long bodied type, usually light brown or gray, with exceptionally long legs. These spiders are excellent hunters, yet often find a quiet corner to hang out and wait for flying insects to pay a visit. Another kind has a round, full body with no discernible divisions, though these spiders prefer being outside, away from humans or pets.
Ok! So now you know a few of the spiders in your home which are dangerous and which are your friends. Have fun getting to know your spiders!
By Melissa Wynn
North American Mink are soft and slinky members of the weasel family. Similar in smell, size and shape to the common ferret, mink are extremely agile and fast as can be. Having partially-webbed feet gives the North American Mink a great advantage in the lakes, rivers and streams where they fish for their favorite aquatic prey. Although fish, crayfish and other freshwater creatures make up the majority of the mink diet, they also hunt birds, rodents and insects on land. North American Mink also love eggs and have been known to raid the occasional chicken coop. Unlike most carnivores, mink will kill merely for sport as well as for food. How can something so cute be so viscious? North American Mink have long been trapped for their dense and luxurious coat. Most commercial mink fur now come from mink farms around the world. With the exception of an occasional natural-born albino, all wild North American Mink are dark brown. Farm-raised mink have been scientifically bred to a variety of mutation mink colors that include blue, gun metal, pale brown and beige. North American Mink are primarily nocturnal so it is the lucky and few dedicated evening hikers of the Sierra that encounter the musky and illusive mink in the wild. Break out the snowshoes and you just may be one of those lucky few.
Facts from Funk and Wagnall Encyclopedia, US Fish and Wildlife Service
photo by Robert Barber/Painet Inc. from dnr.state.il.us
By Melissa Wynn
Even if you have never seen one close up, everyone can recognize a skunk. Skunks are mammals of the weasel family, characterized by their conspicuous black and white markings and use of a strong, highly offensive odor for defense. The scent glands of skunks produce an oily, yellowish liquid, which the animal squirts with great force from vents under the tail; this produces a fine mist which, in addition to stinking, causes choking and tearing of the eyes. Skunks don’t usually make use of this weapon unless severely provoked and then only after raising the tail in a warning display. Most animals quickly learn to avoid skunks, which are consequently quite fearless and move about openly.
The two common skunks of the United States, the striped skunk and the spotted skunk, are nocturnal animals but are often spotted in late evening and early morning. The little stinkers’ diet include rodents, insects, eggs, carrion, and vegetable matter. They live, often several individuals or families together, in dens made in abandoned burrows, buildings or in rock piles. In northern parts of their range the sassy skunks sleep through much of the winter, but they do not truly hibernate and may emerge during warm spells to feed.
Skunks are adorable in appearance only. It is NEVER a good idea to approach any wild animal but always stay far away from the sassy, stinky skunk. In this case, the dynamite is truly in a small but cute package.
facts courtesy of encyclopedia.com
photo by Dave Herr