Category Archives: wildlife

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.


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