Snow, Small Mammals and “Big”

I find it really interesting when it snows out of one side, light and fluffy,and on the other side I can see bright sunshine and bright blue. Around here I see that happening right now. Fluffy snow falling on one side and bright sun and sky on the other side.

For the past couple of days I have thought about my small Mammal adventures. I have had my share of them. So have you. I will share a few with you.

Just recently in Santa Cruz, California I saw a striped skunk across the road, in a patch of wood and grassland. That used to be a common sight in the area I grew up in. Now, for whatever reason, it is not. I am talking about a youth that happened around Washington D.C.. I had a friend who camped with me in an Appalacian Trail Shelter. He had a bunch of his gear under the lower bunk. Well his gear kept pushing out. We actually trapped a spotted skunk under his bunk by his gear. Sheer ignorance on our part, until the skunk-unruffled-ambled out from under the bunk.

 Racoons are very common down in Florida but I saw them as a child on house rooftops in Washington D.C.. Their tracks were used commonly with plasture back then to take back to a nature center and compare to deer and wild  turkey tracks that were also in plasture. I have seen large bodied racoons climb out of coniferous trees in Georgia and Washington. I have seen racoons in Pine Butte Swamp in Montana. We were actually looking for grizzly bears. My point is that I have seen racoons all throughout the USA.

I saw gray fox 3 times in Florida, twice in Maryland and once in Washington D.C. They were uncommon. By their tdack sign they seemed to be uncommon where I grew up in the woodlands of nearby Rock Creek Park and Hughs Hollow or McKee Besher state wildlife management area, a wild place about 30 miles from where I grew up.

I saw swift foxes within seconds of feelingf numerous Prickly Pear Cactus needles in my elbow in Eastern Montana. Talk about a rare mammal!

 I saw red fox around the C and O Towpath in the Washington D.C. area. I have seen 5 color phases of this fox up along the Hudson Bay coastline. I have seen this fox in the backyard of my older sister in Maryland. I have seen this same fox on the top of peaks in Wyoming and Montana simular to the racoon in distribution, but not as common, the red fox was everywhere in the lower 48 of the US. Introduced from Europe, except the ones in the Rockies, on top of peaks.

In contrast I have seen the arctic fox (locally common). This fox eats small mammals, like the lemming and they will ocassionally eat the Willow Ptarmigan when the oppurtunity arizes. I have seen them way out on arctic ice. I have seen them scavenge on mostly ringed seal remains left by polar bear in the arctic. This is a much more daytime use fox than the red is from what I have seen. The gray foxes that I have seen are either nightime or near nightime activity. The reds are active anytime but mostly in the elbows of the dat from what I have seen and heard.

Three times in Wyoming and a few times I have seen badgers in Montana and twice in Washington State in woodlands near to grasslands. Except for some habituated, and unfortunately near a busy road, youngsters, most badgers I have seen were snarling at me from a hole they were digging. They showed some very sharp canines as they snarled so I kept my distance.

I saw pine martins, 4 or 5 of them, on top of woodpiles, midwinter in the center of Yellowstone National Park. I saw 2 of them over the years staring down at me from Lodgepole Pines as I cruized by on cross-country skis in the backcountry.

I got quilled by a porcupine inWashington State as I tried to get a quill from its tail. I have owned dogs that have come to me with muzzles filled with quills.

Again, in the neighborhood I grew up in, within Washington D.C. I saw several marsupial oppossums, one in a garage, but mostly in back alleys near  my house. About 5 years ago I saw a large, seemingly slow, opossum in my older sister’s next door neighbors yard.

She and her neighbor had wood chucks (mostly young of the year) in their yards 5 and six years ago. This was in Rockville, Maryland.

I heard and saw what we called rock conies (pikas) in the Selway-Bitteroot Wilderness in rock rubble piles in the backcountry of Montana. I also saw and heard them in Glacier National Park, the Glacier high country, beeping at us as they scurried back and forth to their den harvesting grass.

What is interesting now is that the pika, or rock cony, is being studied as one of the species that may soon go extinct because of a warming climate.

 I saw several river otters in Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks and in several other places in the west and northwest but I did not expect to see them in Florida. I did. In fact I saw one behind an apartment complex, in a canal in Coral Springs, a suburb of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This was a large otter, I speculated a male looking for a mate, and he stayed around swimming for an hour, or so. I watched the otter during that time.

I saw a huge beaver in Montana, that  looked like a 60 pounder and burrowed into the bank of the river, along the Bitteroot River and I saw 20 pounders swimming and slapping tails in warning to other beavers before they dived. I saw beavers along  the C and O Canal  Towpath near Violettes Lock, these beavers built houses and dams, about 25 miles west of Washington D.C. .

On another interesting policy issue: “Big” corporations will be able to throw as much money as they can afford-in the case of Exxon-Mobile a lot-at people or issues they do not agree with, in the form of  T.V. ads. They will do just that. Do you expect these large corporations not to? I do not think so. This is so un-American but what did the public expect when Bush appointed people like Alito and Roberts on the Supreme court, and this was approved by congress (both parties). This is a form of judicial activism that will actually hurt common sense people and critical issues like mitigating a warming planet. This huge issue has potential to impact important things this decade.
To put that in perspective I have about a fifty year window of small mammal adventures. Within a decade, because of this sea change, brought about by the Supreme Court of the US, bad things can happen to our environment. UNBELIEVABLE HARM can result from this horrendous decision by an awful Supreme Court.

Matt

P.S. This  may be the nail in the human coffin!!!!!!

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