Day 4: Quiet day on the water

mg_2066.jpg?w=300 mg_2066.jpg?w=300Calm morning water on an inlet north of Bella Bella
mg_1007.jpg?w=300 Jumping chum salmon are a common sight in the still waters close to fresh water streams at the moment


Day 3: Salmon are spawning!

mg_1894.jpg?w=300 Spawned out chum salmon in a small stream in the Great Bear Rainforest.
mg_1998.jpg?w=200 Chum salmon carcass with the top of the head removed by a wolf and a fresh wolf scat besides it.

We discovered a stream in an inlet northeast of Bella Bella today in which the chum salmon have started moving into and spawning. Along the banks close to the mouth we also discovered about a half dozen carcasses that had been fed on by wolves and a couple of fresh scats.

Learn more about my project Wolves in the Pacific Northwest.

Great Bear Rainforest Day 1-2

img_0047.jpg?w=300 View from the flight into Bella Bella-a maze of rainforest clad islandsand wandering ocean inlets bounded by the Coast Range to the east
mg_1768.jpg?w=300 View from the water on my first day out in the field
mg_0899.jpg?w=300 Doug Brown, the field station manager for Raincoast Conservation Foundation,and my guide, spotted this wolf along the shore of a small island northeast of Bella Bella.


Sunshine and wolves greeted me on my first day in the field here on the central coast of British Columbia. The salmon are gathering at the mouths of the creeks and rivers here.Learn more about my current project on Wolves in the Pacific Northwest!

Black-backed Woodpecker Nest

Emily Gibson discovered this active black-backed woodpecker nest while she and I were teaching a program in the Salmon River Mountains of central Idaho.

Do mink (Neovison vison) have webbed feet?

While researching and writing my field guide I encountered various published accounts of the foot structure of mink (Neovison vison). Because of these discrepancies I sought out specimens to examine personally. I examined the feet of 3 recently deceased mink, all from western Washington as well as about a dozen museum skins at the Burke Museum at the University of Washington. All of the green specimins I examined showed mesial webbing on both front and hind feet. Some of the museum skins did as well, while others where dried in such a way so as to make analysis of this impossible. None of the green specimins or museum skins were clearly lacking webbing between toes. The amount of webbing is slightly less than in their larger cousins, river otters (Lutra canadensis) but is none the less quite clear. As is typical with the tracks of most web-footed animals, webbing can be detected in footprints in deep substrates but is often not apparent where substrate is firmer.The photos of actual feet bellow are from a male mink which was killed by a vehicle in the Snoqualmie River Valley, King County, Washington in 2009.

mg_48512.jpg?w=200 Left front foot.
mg_4852.jpg?w=300 Left front foot with toes splayed showing mesial webbing between toes.
mg_4847.jpg?w=300 Hind feet.
mg_4848.jpg?w=300 Toes splayed on hind foot revealing webbing.
mg_4854.jpg?w=300 Top view of a hind foot also showing webbing.
mg_4305.jpg?w=200 All four tracks of a mink in a typical loping pattern for the species. In this deep substrate the webbing between the toes has registered. Tracks from along the Snohomish River, Snohomish County, Washington.
mg_4307.jpg?w=200 Closer view of two tracks (left hind on top of left front) from the same set of tracks as above.
img_8254.jpg?w=200 Tracks a small (likely female) mink from along the Yakima River in Kittatas County, Washington, also in a typical loping pattern. In this firmer substrate the mesial webbing has not registered.

Clayoquot Sound Revisited

A week of journeying by land and sea has yielded some great results as I continue to collect material for my forthcoming book on Wolves of the Pacific Northwest. I am tremendously grateful to Steve and Susanne Lawson for their invaluable assistance in my fieldwork here in Clayoquot Sound thus far! Stay tuned for more photos and stories to come!

mg_01622.jpg?w=300 Sea Otter patrolling coastal waters north of Ucluelet.
mg_0170.jpg?w=300 The return of extensive bull kelp forests along the northern Pacific coast has been associated with rebounding Sea otter populations, a classic example of a trophic cascade. Bull kelp was released from heavy browsing pressure by sea urchins with the return of otters which love to eat urchins.
mg_9852.jpg?w=300 Rocky coastline close to Wye Point, north of the town of Ucluelet
mg_9933.jpg?w=300 Guess the beach brings out the playful side of more than just juvenial people. Here two yearling wolves play with washed up seaweed on an island in Clayoquot Sound.
moskowitz_9819.jpg?w=300 Wolf crossing a lead of water at first light.


mg_0154.jpg?w=300 mg_0154.jpg?w=300We watched this randy male black bear following a smaller female bear earnestly, stopping only to rub vigorous on a large drift wood log, a behavior which increases during the breeding season.
mg_0160.jpg?w=300 Oystercatchers are one of the most common shorebirds in the Sound this time of year.

Freeloading Chicken Update

IMG_0736.jpg American marten poses after dispatching the freeloading chicken.

“Dave-  I checked the White Pine camera on Sunday the 20th after two weeks, got about 640 shots of a Pine Marten, two grey jays, and a few wind triggers.  I replaced the batteries, card, bait and scent.  It only took that Marten two days to get all the bait.”–Pete Jenkins

The Curious Case of the Freeloading Chicken and the Wolverine

This weekend, following up on several sets of likely wolverine tracks biologist and backcountry skier Pete Jenkins discovered, a small group of intrepid citizen scientists set out to place a remote camera in the vicinity in hopes of capturing a photo of the illusive carnivore. Grey skies and a very thin coat of fresh snow beckoned.Clouds covered the high peaks of the Chiwakum mountains south of Highway 2 in the Washington Cascades when the group met early Saturday morning. For the project, a few unusual items were called for, not usually included in the field kit of backcountry skiers: a hammer, some chicken wire, a motion sensitive camera, and, much to my chagrin, a frozen chicken and the contents of the scent glands of a beaver (these two items ended up in the bottom of my backpack). More typical of such a ski trip, Samantha Goff insisted on the addition of a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer to each of our packs (see my blog post on climbing around the Eldorado Massive,, for background on Sam and PBR).We departed bright eyed and bushy tailed as heavy wet snow fell, providing some reprieve from the hard raincrust. A couple of hours later, a gain of 2000′ elevation, skinning on an old logging road and then up through uncut mixed conifer forest, had left us quite wet and me feeling a bit upset about the freeloading chicken weighing me down.Pete identified the location he had determined would be the best spot to set up the camera based on prievious track sightings and how animals general moved across this particular set of drainages descending from a large alpine cirque above. Not a minute too soon. I was totally fed up with my chicken (and had a sneaking suspicion it might be leaking chicken juice into my pack.


mg_8668.jpg?w=200 Writer Chase Edwards ( looks on nervously as Pete attaches the bird to the tree.mg_86712.jpg?w=200
mg_86712.jpg?w=200 Pete attaching the chicken, wrapped in chicken wire, securely to the bait tree with remote camera in background.
mg_86732.jpg?w=200 Chase unwrapping the strong smelling scent lure.
mg_8681.jpg?w=200 Chase, clearly relishing the opportunity to smear the bait tree with beaver castorum, an irresistible scent for many creatures.
mg_8710.jpg?w=200 Chase and Sam celebrating a job well done. Much of the skiing that followed, while punctuated by (brief moments of) fine turns, might otherwise be described much like dancing with a partially frozen chicken across a floor of slide alders, avalanche debris, and thinly covered raincrust. Stay tuned here for photos we get from the camera!


Seattle Times Article

moskowitz-184811.jpg?w=200 American marten (Martes americana) track in snow.

Seattle Times Article on wildlife tracking in snow, and the Cascade Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project.Check it out!Animal trackers read dramas in the snow by Kathryn True. November 17, 2010.

Bears, for a change of pace

mg_6810.jpg?w=300 Black Bear feeding on huckleberries. East of Heart Lake, Olympic National Park

A few images from a recent trip to the 7 Lakes Basin in Olympic National Park.

Black bear, Olympic National Park.
mg_6856.jpg?w=300 Black bear, Olympic National Park.
mg_7685.jpg?w=300 Darcy Ottey with the Hoh River Valley and Mt. Olympus in the background.
mg_7686.jpg?w=300 Darcy Ottey watching a bear feed in the meadow beyond her. An Olympic marmot was also watching the bear with much scrutiny. West of Swimming Bear Lake, Olympic National Park.
mg_7702.jpg?w=300 Western Heather Vole (Phenacomys intermedius). Lunch Lake, Olympic National Park.
mg_7671.jpg?w=199 Stream in the Sol Duc River Valley, Olympic National Park.
mg_6962.jpg?w=300 Black bear, feeding on huckleberries. Olympic National Park.

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