Category Archives: wildlife

Ignore at your own peril

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Forty Below brings calls about frozen pipes when you work construction.  I’m not a plumber by trade, but when Fairbanks hits a cold snap, there are not enough plumbers or heating guys in the north for all of the calls.  I don’t go out of my way to do these jobs, but if one of my regulars tracks me down, I’m not going to give them the cold shoulder.

The pictured cat belongs to one of my regular customers, and she does not like to be ignored.  This was not the first time I’ve ignored this cat, only to have it leap upon my back, or shoulder, or use my leg as a scratching post.  A thick work shirt is required here.

The cat is a curious creature: always fascinated with the work I’m doing, the tools of the job, and the materials needed.  A newly opened wall is an invitation to a new adventure, and a ladder, of any kind, causes a race to the top.

The house also comes with a dog.  The dog is not curious.  In fact, the dog is a bit of a coward.  Any work I do, sends it off shivering to the farthest corner of the house from where I’m working.  The shivering often comes with a lot of whining.  In the summer, I can let the dog outside, but at Forty Below, I’m stuck with the high pitched soundtrack coming from the corner.

First time in my life I find myself less of a dog-person.

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Bear Beware

Hibernating brown bear

Alaskans have been enjoying the recent snowfall combined with some relatively warm temperatures. Been out skijoring without your bear spray? State biologists are saying Alaskans may want to rethink that.

Due to the warmer than average weather and the availability of food, bears have not gone into hibernation just yet.

Black bears tend to start their winter hiatus in October, while brown bears like to hang around into November as they attempt to pack on every calorie possible.

This year, the bears seem to be not in any rush to turn in. Like always, it’s a good idea to pay attention out there, but don’t forget to keep the cabin site clean of trash. One brown bear in the Anchorage area has taken to raiding garbage cans this month. No one needs that, especially the bear.


Holly crowned Fattest Bear

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Holly, also known as Bear #435, outweighed Lefty in voters minds to win Fat Bear Week.

Watching the video, I think it’s safe to say that Holly put away a lot of salmon this summer.


Battle of the Bruins

Holly: Bear #435

It’s Championship Tuesday at Katmai National Park. Lefty and Holly emerged from the belly battle to face each other for the much coveted “Fattest Bear of Katmai”.

Lefty: Bear #775

Voting takes place on the Katmai National Park F/B page. Send your favorite some love before they head off into hibernation.

Photos credit: Katmai National Park & Preserve


Lurking for salmon

Photo by Robert Hawthorne

Since we’re in the middle of Katmai Week here between The Circles, I wanted to share this photo, although probably not for the reasons many would think.

The pic above was taken of two fishermen in Katmai National Park. I’ve found myself in a similar situation while fishing Alaska’s rivers. Once was with my Dad, which was more nerve-wracking than when I was solo! Forget the bear, I was worried about how my Dad would react.

What I love about this picture, from all my time in Alaska, is that the bear actually has little to no interest in the fishermen. The bear simply has salmon on its mind. We don’t have two fishermen in the picture, but three.

If given half the chance, man can live with wildlife. The two species above, can coexist. Katmai NP&P is a prime example of that. I would hope that is the lesson the photograph has to give. After all, Alaska would be a much poorer place without her bears.

The photo was taken in July by Robert Hawthorne, a photographer out of Bozeman, Montana. His link is below:

https://roberthawthornephotography.com/


Fat Bear Week: Elite Eight

Katmai Bracketology

Voting for the Fattest Bear of Katmai continues over at the Katmai National Park & Preserve Facebook page.

In round one, fan fave Otis went down to Lefty, in an upset. Divot, Grazer and #909 also moved into the second round. There is some large competition waiting for them, as Wide-Body #747, Holly, Chunk and #503 had first round byes, and could continue hoarding calories, as they watched their fellow bears compete.

Hibernation is big business.

Bracket credit: Katmai NP&P


Fat Bear Week

Katmai National Park & Preserve once again enter October Madness with their Fat Bear Week bracket.

Voting starts today, October 2, with Lefty taking on fan favorite Otis.

Four bears of Katmai have used their extensive girth to get a well earned bye: Chunk, the wide body #747, #503, and Holly.

Beadnose, or Bear #409

Surprisingly, Beadnose, the 2018 winner, did not make this year’s cut. So there will be no repeat champion.

The new winner will be crowned on Fat Bear Tuesday, October 8.

Katmai Bracketology

All images courtesy of Katmai National Park & Preserve


Pick out the ptarmigan

Hint: There are seven ptarmigan in the rocks

Photo credit: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve


Curatores Gignentia

The beaver at midnight

When I first set up the Beaver Cam, I was expecting some photos right away, but the Beav had other ideas. It didn’t come by the cam until I was out of town fishing. It does have an extensive area from which to fell his lumber, so I didn’t get too concerned.

That Pesky Rabbit; or Curatores Gignentia in Latin

The first week the Beaver Cam was up, I had 442 pictures of this rabbit. I’ve been asked, “How can you be sure it’s the same rabbit?” Because I waded through 442 pictures of the goofy thing hoping for a picture of the beaver.

The Bunny Hop

The funny thing about rabbits, is that they tend to twitch this way, and then twitch that way for endless hours of viewing entertainment. They may hop a foot or two, but then they go back to twitching. There were a lot of pictures where the only noticeable difference between shots was the placement of one ear or the other.

The rabbit returns to twitching

The second week the cam was up, when I was out of town chasing cohos, the beaver did stop by for a couple of dozen shots. I was grateful, although they were interspersed between 502 pictures of my favorite rabbit. When I finally took the cam down due to concern it may be carried off with a tree, I had close to 1000 pictures of Bugs, and 40 of the beaver.

Oh, and four pictures of Moose Legs:

Moose Legs, just to spice things up


The Beaver Cam

Castor Canadensis

This spring I heard the unmistakable sound of a beaver tail slap in The Pond. I looked around, but could not trace the slap to an actual tail. I had never seen a beaver out here, but after years of water travel, I know that sound.

A few weeks later, I noticed two canoe paddles had vanished from under the canoe, which was alongside The Pond. I put two missing canoe paddles together with a tail slap, and went exploring.

The beaver dragging a sapling

It didn’t take me long to find the lodge. Sure enough, the two canoe paddles were stuck in the mud. It took some effort, but I managed to retrieve the paddles from the muck, but I could have just left them alone. They were heavily weathered now, and split at the laminate of the blades. Still, I didn’t want to encourage bad behavior, so I carried the paddles back with me.

With a wave of the tail

The electric company had just been through in the early spring, clearcutting their right of way. This was a bonanza for the beaver, who hauled the easy pickings down to the water all summer.

Eventually, I knew it would turn to more upright trees, so I set up a trail cam along one beaver route. To say the beaver has been busy would be an understatement. It is active at all times of the day and night. Every day, the furry engineer has taken down 3-4 trees that I can trace. It really is amazing how the beaver can transform the land in such a short period of time. I imagine only man, and maybe the elephant does more to alter its habitat.

I have assumed there is more than a solo beaver, but had never seen more than one out on the water at any given time.

Until Labor Day.

Some friends were over for a BBQ, and we took a hike over the beaver’s domain. For the first time, I saw two beavers swimming in The Pond. By spring, I expect there will be a few more.