Category Archives: wildlife

Calorie Counting in Katmai

The countdown to Fat Bear Week has begun. The annual chubathon in Katmai National Park between the Park’s largest bears is just around the corner.

Will Holly retain her title as the bulkiest of Katmai? The brackets will begin at the end of the month.


Brooks Falls Bear Cam

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Click to link below to visit the Katmai “Bear Cam”, from explore.org:

 

https://explore.org/livecams/brown-bears/brown-bear-salmon-cam-brooks-falls

 

 


The Beaver Cam

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I recently pulled the SD card from the trail camera that I have looking out over the beaver lodge.  It had 747 images on it.

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741 of the images were of ducks.  Sometimes in pairs, sometimes solo, sometimes the ducks had a large party and ignored all social distancing.  I have ducks swimming, ducks scratching an itch (like above), ducks taking off in flight, and ducks preening for the camera.

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There are four images that contain at least one duck and one beaver.  The beavers are quite active, but have not been overwhelmed by the urge to cut down any trees.  They seem to continue to eat on the supply they cut down late last summer and early autumn.

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There are only two images of a beaver without the photobombing ducks.  Personally, I think the Beaver Cam has gone to the beavers’ heads.  Now they just slap their tail in order to get attention.  Once you start to ignore their swimming about, the aggrieved beaver fires off a tail slap.  Who knew beavers to be such prima donnas?

The big male seems to have grown quite a bit since he last showed himself.  The female remains in shape; she’s quite svelte in appearance.  There is at least one kit, that I have seen.  There certainly could be two, but only one has shown itself at a time.


The Wolf

Alaska’s Big Five: 

 

The wolf, Canis lupus, has two distinct subspecies in Alaska.  Wolves in Southeast Alaska tend to be somewhat darker in color, and smaller physically than their northern Alaska counterparts.  Gray or black wolves are the most common, but pelts can be black to near white, with every shade of gray and tan in between.

The adult, male wolves of Interior Alaska normally weigh between 85-115 pounds.  Officially, the largest male wolf from Alaska was 179 lbs., although there have been claims of wolves over 200.  Females weigh 10-15 pounds less than the males, but rarely weigh more than 110 lbs.

Being social animals, wolves tend to live in packs.  On average a pack contains 6-8 wolves, although they can reach numbers much higher than that.  Moose and caribou make up the majority of their diet, although squirrels, rabbits, beaver, birds and fish will supplement their diet.  In Southeast Alaska, wolves primary prey are Sitka Black-tailed deer, mountain goat, beaver and salmon in season.

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Photo credit: Claire Dal Nogare, Flickr; Park Ranger Denali NP&P

Normally, one female in a pack has a liter of 4-6 pups in a year, on average.  Mortality rate is extremely high for the pups.  Few will make it to adulthood.  The lifespan for an Interior Alaskan wolf is 4-10 years, with the oldest known at 12 years old.

The wolf population is estimated to be between 7000-11,000 in Alaska, with a range that covers 85% of the state.  The population has never been declared threatened or endangered in Alaska.  Population density can vary greatly due to food source availability.

 

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Moose

Alaska’s Big Five:

Moose (Alces alces), is the largest of the deer family, and the Alaska-Yukon subspecies (Alces alces gigas), is the largest of moose.

A small adult female may weigh 800 pounds, while a large adult male can reach double that at 1600 pounds.  Calves are born in the spring, with single births being the majority, but twins are common.  Calves weigh a mere 28-30 pounds at birth, but within 5 months they will often be pushing 300 pounds.  A moose rarely lives to the age of 16 years in the wild.

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There are roughly 200,000 moose distributed widely throughout Alaska.  On average, 7000 moose are harvested during the hunting season, providing 3.5 million pounds of meat.

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Happy Marmot Day!

The rascally marmot
In 2009, then Governor Sarah Palin signed a bill declaring February 2 as “Marmot Day” in Alaska.
The sponsors of the bill in the State Legislature, made the incorrect assumption that Alaska did not have groundhogs.
The folks in Juneau always forget about the Interior.
Groundhogs, or woodchucks, are found throughout the Tanana River Valley, including the Fairbanks area. In fact, groundhogs certainly predate European Americans in Alaska.
Remember the old saying: “If a hoary marmot sees it’s shadow on February 2nd, all hell has broke loose, because the little rodent should still be hibernating!”
Happy Marmot Day!


Caribou Crossing

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Driving out to the border, the wildlife viewing was excellent as usual.  I spotted several moose, flocks of grouse, and quite a few caribou.  I stopped for these three caribou to cross in front of me, and watched them make their way down the roadway slope to a frozen creek below.

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One solo caribou earlier in the day, had a harder time of it.  The snow was over belly deep, and I watched the animal from a long distance, as it determinably struggled to reach the road.  Once it did, it saw me coming, and I could feel its deflation, and hear its sigh of disgust.

The caribou went  across the road, considered hopping into the snow there, but then turned to clop down the frozen pavement.  I slowed down to a crawl, but still caught up with it.  The caribou looked me over as I came to a stop, then resigned to its fate, it crossed back to the side of the road it came from, and went back into the snow.  This caribou was stressed enough, so I didn’t  take its picture, I just drove on, with the caribou buried well past its haunches in powder.

In my rear view mirror, I could see another truck coming up, and so did the caribou.  I think it planned on coming back out onto the road once I left, but now it snowplowed its way back to the treeline where it came from when I first saw it.

No doubt, there are too many people in Alaska for that caribou’s liking.  Can’t say that I entirely blame it either.


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.