Monthly Archives: January 2014

Miscellaneous Field Fun

The past few months have been diverse on the project for several reasons. Firstly, radio-tracking takes up a majority of the time spent in the field every week–checking in on up to 8 or 9 fishers a day in their respective territories means a lot of driving! However, before trapping started, finding radio-collared females was no problem, since we knew where each girl’s home ranges were. After the trapping frenzy this fall, it got a bit more hectic as all the females who were re-collared or new females who were fitted with collars began roving around the district like crazy, traveling several miles between days to different locations, and then moving again! However, it has since “settled down” quite a bit as all the females are beginning to settle nicely into their own ranges and are almost always found at any given time.

One of the other aspects of the project after the trapping frenzy of October/November was…yet more trapping! There are a few female fishers whose collars are dying, or who didn’t get captured during the first effort, that we are trying to catch before denning begins so we can check up on them (and give shiny new collars to!). So far, we have not had any luck catching “target” females but we did manage to catch a few incidental critters-as during the first bout of trapping!

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Here is a frisky spotted skunk…

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And a gray fox-

Ok, I can’t resist throwing in a female fisher captured from trapping in October! She is just too darn cute.

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As many of you may know, this is the driest California winter since records have started being kept. Despite this, about a month ago we did get a big dumping of snow, which halted field work for a few days while we waited for roads to be safe to drive again. This was an great change of pace as we were able to see tracks in the snow that we don’t often get to see.

Here is a monster of a black bear’s prints–and my size 8 boot to compare:

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Not far from this was a set of bobcat prints:

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After a while, the fun dissipates as the snow melts and all the prints meld together into an indistinguishable muddy mess. In some colder drainages, like this one on Big Chico Creek, the snow made the scenery quite enjoyable:

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But usually, there is always a “view of the day” no matter what the weather is like.

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In a few months, mother fishers will be denning and we will be able to see exactly where they will choose to rest with telemetry and motion-activated cameras-so stay tuned!

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Tracks, Hairs, and Bears, Oh My!

Tracking fishers using VHF telemetry is an extremely useful method for obtaining lots of different information about the animals, it’s also pretty fun! However, in order to implement this method, fishers must be trapped, handled, and fitted with a collar. As biologists, we love having the opportunity to work so closely with a species, but we also love the idea of gathering quality data without ever having to touch an animal. We call this type of data collection “non-invasive”, and it is the eventual goal of this project to use only non-invasive methods to monitor the fishers here on Stirling. In order to reach that goal, we recently ran a pilot study to test how well non-invasive techniques would work in collecting the information we need.

In mid-September, I ran this six week pilot study using track plate boxes fitted with hair snares (see “Field Methods” tab), as well as remote cameras. I placed 45 boxes and 15 cameras in the woods, spread throughout the western half of our district. I checked each box once every 6 to 8 days, collecting tracks, hair and photos that were left behind during that time. The baited boxes attracted lots of different visitors! Bears were especially fond of them; I commonly found the boxes ripped open and dragged away from where I placed them. Gray fox, squirrel, wood rat, ringtail, spotted skunk and even mountain lion are some of the other species I detected.

The most important visitors were the fishers, of course. Adult and juvenile animals, both male and female, investigated my boxes regularly. It appears the non-invasive methods will be a very useful tool for monitoring the fisher population here, and we plan on continuing the pilot study later this year. We are very excited to see what the data will tell us!

Below is a slideshow of images I captured using remote cameras during the study.

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Comings and goings.

Hi Folks, 

We’ve been without an update for awhile, and I apologize for that.  There is always a lot going on, and on top of that we’ve had some changes to our crew.  Some of the crew has moved on to other things, and we’ve gotten some new faces to carry on the work we do out here.

Kevin Smith, the man responsible for a majority of the posts you’re read on this blog (and some of the more interesting stories), has moved on to another project after being with us for 2.5 years.  Kevin is an amazing worker, and was a pleasure to have on the crew.  He helped us all out continuously, and his insight into where our animals were and what they were up to helped the project run its smoothest.  Kevin will continue to do great things working with Pete Figura at the California Department of Fish & Wildlife on their Sierra Nevada Red Fox Project:

The primary study objective is to “investigate and document Sierra Nevada red fox habitat use, reproduction, health, survival, and diet in order to identify factors limiting the its recovery in the Lassen Peak region of northern California.”

Through the use of radio collars that transmit daily location information to satellites, we should be able to track captured red foxes year-round with a high degree of accuracy.  As a result, we hope to identify den locations, monitor reproduction and kit survival, improve knowledge of habitat use and diet throughout all seasons, identify migration routes, and determine causes of mortality.  By taking blood and other samples from each animal captured, we will be able to determine whether they are infected with or have been previously exposed to several ecologically important diseases (e.g., canine distemper, parvoviruses, canine herpesvirus, Toxoplasma gondii) known to affect mesocarnivores in northern California.

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We’d also like to welcome Andria Townsend, Julie Shaw, and Jesse Hogg to the crew.  They’ve been with us for several months now, and they’re doing a great job of keeping us in data!  Stop over to the Field Crew page and learn a little about them.  You’ll be hearing from them regularly this year, and we’ve got some cool things coming!

Thanks for stopping in,

-Rob

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