Posts Tagged ‘wildlife’

Cougars on state trust lands

October 29, 2015
cougar kittens

If you see this in the woods: don’t touch and don’t hang around! Although alone at the time, these four cougar kittens were not orphans, and quite likely mom was very close by. Photo: DNR.

Felines live all around us in Washington state’s wild areas, including state trust lands managed by DNR. We’re talking about bobcats, lynx and cougars–the largest North American feline.

Also known as mountain lions or pumas, the exceptionally powerful legs of Puma concolor enable it to leap 30 feet from a standstill, or jump 15 feet straight up a cliff wall. The cougar’s strength and powerful jaws allow it to take down and drag prey larger than it is, according to the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Living with Wildlife webpage on cougars. While it is estimated that there are fewer than 3,000 cougars in Washington state, these large predators can be found in pretty much any rural or semi rural area where cover and large prey — including deer — are in abundance.

Adult males average approximately 140 pounds but can be as large as weigh 180 pounds, measure 7 to 8 feet long from nose to tip of tail and stand about 30 inches tall at the shoulder. Adult female cougars average about 25 percent smaller than males.

Sometimes, people hiking through thickly wooded or brushy areas come across cougar kittens, such as those seen in the photo with this article, and assume that they are orphans because the mother is not around. Don’t be fooled. Cougar kittens stay with their mothers for 12 to 19 months after their birth. While she hunts, the mother will leave the kittens in a ‘daybed’ which can be a cave but in less-mountainous areas can be a thickly forested area, a thicket or under large roots or fallen trees. And if you are hanging around when she returns…. well, re-read the paragraph about their strong jaws and leaping abilities. The fact is that while stronger than humans, cougar-human encounters almost never turn out well for the cougar. If you spot a cougar and have concerns, contact your local state wildlife office or, if it’s an immediate emergency, call 911 or any local law enforcement office. And never, ever touch one of those cute cougar kittens.

Cougars are among the many species of animals that live on the more than 2 million acres of DNR-managed forested trust land which, in western Washington, is managed under a comprehensive habitat conservation plan.

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Spring is for the birds

April 30, 2015

After a long winter, life seems to suddenly return to the forests, as well as the backyards, parks, shorelines and, even, along streets and highways of the Pacific Northwest.

Townsends warbler

Townsends warbler

Between March and May, migratory songbirds arrive to take advantage of the explosion of insect life in our temperate forests and countryside. Many of these birds return yearly from Central and South America to breed and remain with us through the summer months. Others merely pass through on their way to breeding grounds farther north, using our forests and shores to refuel and rest. Listen carefully at dawn to the chorus of song, as birds declare breeding territories and try to attract mates.

Research suggests that some of our migratory birds (western tanagers, Townsend’s warblers, flycatchers) may key in on our deciduous trees either because of the insect populations, or because the trees are similar to the broad-leafed forests where they spend the winter. Interestingly, many of the neo-tropical migrants arrive as trees are leafing out. Conifers have more consistent habitat features, with needles present all year long, and provide habitats utilized more by year around residents such as chickadees and nuthatches.

Western pee wee. Photo: G. Thompson.

Western pee wee. Photo: G. Thompson.

Rich shrub layers and overlapping canopy trees can provide critical habitats for these nesting birds. Many like snags along the forest edge, particularly if there are meadows or water nearby. Watch for flycatchers “hawking” (catching on the wing) insects by darting up into the air and flying back to their favorite perches. There are at least eight species of birds known as flycatchers that will grace your forest this spring and summer including the western wood pee wee and both the Hammond’s and dusky flycatchers. These birds nest in forked branches high up in trees, and actively feed throughout the day. Try telling them apart by their behavior and calls. Appreciate the journey they just made from central Mexico or Arizona back to our area.

This blog first appeared in a longer version in Small Forest Landowner News, a free e-newsletter published quarterly by the DNR Small Forest Landowner Office. Click here to get Small Forest Landowner News delivered to your email in-box each quarter.

Look up! It’s the forest canopy (Part 2)

June 20, 2014
Forest canopy at Deception Pass

Forest canopy at Deception Pass. Photo: Ken Bevis/DNR.

The canopy layer in the forest—the interacting tree crowns that create a remarkable maze of three-dimensional spaces between and on the branches—is a habitat niche with specialized functions for many species of wildlife. The surfaces of these branches and leaves provide shelter and food for a wide variety of arboreal (forest canopy inhabiting) mammals, birds and insects.

Arboreal mammals

Truly arboreal mammals are not as numerous as bird species, but are important members of the forest wildlife ecosystem. Our native conifer squirrels are the Douglas and red squirrels (members of the genus Tamiasciurus), locally known as chickarees. These two species are actually very similar, but occupy different habitat regions. Douglas squirrels are associated with wetter, westside type forests dominated by Douglas fir and hemlock. Red squirrels live on the drier and colder east side, as well as in Rocky Mountain forest types we have in Northeast Washington. Both are common and important mammal species directly tied to the forest canopy as conifer specialists, actively harvesting and caching cones each year. Who among us woods walkers hasn’t been scolded by one of these little dervishes?

Fungi (mushrooms), which help trees grow by adding root absorptive surface to trees, is food for squirrels. The squirrels spread spores throughout the forest through their feces. Flying squirrels occupy a similar niche, but work the night shift, often foraging on the ground for mushrooms to cache. For this reason, flying, Douglas and red squirrels can be considered keystone species in forest ecosystems, e.g., species whose presence has far-reaching impacts. These squirrels need canopy to provide hiding places and food, but also need down logs for cache sites, and woody cavities in snags for denning. Habitat for these squirrels also includes low branches for resting and eating cones dropped to the ground.

Caring for the Canopy    (more…)

DNR weekend reading: Are golfers fire hazards? … and other interesting news from recent scientific research

March 22, 2014
elk in the Cowlitz River

An elk drinks from the Cowlitz River in eastern Lewis County near Packwood, Washington. PHOTO: Scott Hilgenberg/DNR.

Here are links to articles about recent research, discoveries and other news about forests, climate, energy and other science topics gathered by DNR for your weekend reading:

University of California, Irvine: Titanium clubs can cause golf course fires, study finds
Titanium alloy golf clubs can cause dangerous wildfires, according to UC Irvine scientists. When a club coated with the lightweight metal alloy is swung and strikes a rock, it creates sparks that can heat to more than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit for long enough to ignite dry foliage, according to findings published Fire and Materials (includes video).

Manchester University: Linking storms to climate change a ‘distraction’, say experts
Connecting extreme weather to climate change distracts from the need to protect society from high-impact weather events which will continue to happen irrespective of human-induced climate change, say University of Manchester researchers.

University of Cincinnati: A ‘Back to the Future’ Approach to Taking Action on Climate Change
Through an interdisciplinary research technique for approaching climate change vulnerability called Multi-scale, Interactive Scenario-Building, researchers are examining ways to begin dealing with the disastrous consequences of extreme climate changes before they occur.

Duke University: Lessons Offered by Emerging Carbon Trading Markets
Although markets for trading carbon emission credits to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have stalled in United States federal policy-making, carbon markets are emerging at the state level within the U.S. and around the world, teaching us more about what does and doesn’t work.

Science Daily: Animals losing migratory routes? Devastating consequences of scarcity of ‘knowledgeable elders’
Small changes in a population may lead to dramatic consequences, like the disappearance of the migratory route of a species. Scientists have created a model of the behavior of a group of individuals on the move (like a school of fish or a flock of birds) that reproduces the collective behavior patterns observed in the wild.

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DNR weekend reading: Magnetic fields guide salmon home

March 9, 2014
State trust land

Fog and below-freezing temperatures combine to give the illusion of recent snowfall on a tract of DNR-managed state trust land in Pend Oreille County. Photo: James Hartley/DNR.

Here are links to articles about recent research, discoveries and other news about forests, climate, energy and other science topics gathered by DNR for your weekend reading:

Oregon State UniversityStudy confirms link between salmon migration and magnetic field
The Earth’s magnetic field may explain how fish can navigate across thousands of miles of water to find their river of origin, say scientists following experiments at the Oregon Hatchery Research Center in the Alsea River basin.

Cornell UniversityDeer proliferation disrupts a forest’s natural growth
Cornell researchers have discovered that a burgeoning deer population forever alters the progression of a forest’s natural future by creating environmental havoc in the soil and disrupting the soil’s natural seed banks.

Science DailyWhat has happened to the tsunami debris from Japan?
The driftage generated by the tragic 2011 tsunami in Japan gave scientists a unique chance to learn more about the effects of the ocean and wind on floating materials as they move across the North Pacific Ocean.

Harvard UniversityInfrared: A new renewable energy source?
Physicists at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences envision using current technologies to create a device that would harvest energy from Earth’s infrared emissions into outer space.

DNR weekend reading: Earthquake lights, tallest trees, and more

March 1, 2014

Hoarfrost in Capitol State Forest near Fall Creek campground. Photo: Bryan Hamlin/DNR

Here are links to articles about recent research, discoveries and other news about forests, climate, energy and other science topics gathered by DNR for your weekend reading:

Nature: Earthquake lights linked to rift zones
A new catalogue of earthquake lights — mysterious glows sometimes reported before or during seismic shaking — finds that they happen most often in geological rift environments, where the ground is pulling apart. The work is the latest to tackle the enigmatic lights, which have been described by eyewitnesses for centuries but are yet to be fully explained by scientists.

Science Daily: Temperature Most Significant Driver of World’s Tallest Trees
The tallest specimens of the world’s nine tallest tree species grow in climates with an unusually small seasonal temperature variation. Understanding the role of temperature in driving tree height, may help scientists forecast how forests adapt to climate change.

University of California-BerkeleySuburban Sprawl Cancels Carbon Footprint Savings of Dense Urban Cores
According to a new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, population-dense cities contribute less greenhouse gas emissions per person than other areas of the country, but these cities’ extensive suburbs essentially wipe out the climate benefits.

University of California-Santa Barbara: Cities Support More Native Biodiversity Than Previously Thought
Rapid conversion of natural lands to cement-dominated urban centers is causing great losses in biodiversity. Yet, according to a new study involving 147 cities worldwide, surprisingly high numbers of plant and animal species persist and even flourish in urban environment.

environment360: Urban Nature: How to Foster Biodiversity in World’s Cities
As the world becomes more urbanized, researchers and city managers from Baltimore to Britain are recognizing the importance of providing urban habitat that can support biodiversity.

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National Bird Feeding Month

February 20, 2014

bird bro!Even though February is a winter month, not all birds fly south to find warmer weather. In fact, February is National Bird Feeding Month. Time to dust off those bird houses and crack the ice on the bird bath because our feathered friends are here and they are hungry. Whether you are a seasoned feeder or just wanting some natural music in the back yard, this is the month to do it.

Several different types of birdhouses and feeders cater to a wide variety of birds. Knowing what birds you might be catering to is a great place to start. There are several sites that can help you find what you are looking for. Here is a quick rundown of a few of the basics types of feeders you can use.

Feeder types:

  • Tube Feeder: Good for fending off squirrels and feeding chickadee-like birds
  • Hopper Feeders: Good for multiple birds at once, it will accommodate all types, even larger birds.
  • Suet Feeder: Good for attracting insects to organically feed woodpeckers and the like.
  • Thistle Feeder: Good for small-beaked birds and keeping bigger animals out.
  • Ground Feeder: Good for all types of birds, even those who would not fit on a hung feeder.
  • Nectar Feeder: Good for long-beaked birds like hummingbirds

When setting up a feeding station, keep in mind the location and what you are putting into the feeders. If you are looking to excite the local aviary population, add some variety to the diet. Mix in a few berries or bits of fruit here and there or give them a reason to stick around with some peanut butter. Just having a different seed mix every once in a while can make all the difference.

Due to the cold in the winter, most of the natural food supply is exhausted during the winter. So have a good time making a birdhouse and then fill it up for all to enjoy.

Here is a quick FAQ with some of the dos and don’ts of winter bird feeding if you would like to get more involved.

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A few scary facts for Halloween 2013

October 31, 2013
common garter snake

In Washington State, the common garter snake (which is nonpoisonous) is found from coastal and mountain forests to sagebrush deserts, usually close to water or wet meadows—or your garden. Photo: Jon McGinnis/WDFW.

If the parade of costumed tricker-treaters coming to your door tonight or the endless reruns of horror movies on TV these past few weeks (or today’s close-up photo of snake) are not enough to give you a fright, here are some scary facts about the state of the environment in Washington State, with an emphasis on biodiversity.

  • Approximately 33 percent of the Puget Sound’s 2,500 miles of shorelines have been armored with bulkheads and other structures to protect homes, ports, marinas, roads and railways, and other property. More than half of the shoreline in the central Puget Sound has been modified by port development, armoring of beaches, and other uses, causing significant loss of habitats important to beach and nearshore species.
  • More than half of the Columbia Plateau Ecoregion (roughly the area known as the Columbia Basin) has undergone conversion from its shrub-steppe landscape to cropland. What remains is a fragmented shrub-steppe, which compromises the habitat of many species that rely on this type of habitat.
  • More than 90 percent of the original Palouse grasslands in Washington have been converted to agriculture, housing or other uses. A number of plant species once common throughout the Palouse now hang on in small, isolated remnants.

What’s so important about biodiversity?

Native species (such as shellfish, salmon and Douglas-fir) and their ecosystems contribute billions of dollars to fisheries, timber harvests, outdoor recreation and other sectors of our state’s economy. Native ecosystems also provide clean water, natural flood control, and habitats for fish, plants, and wildlife.

To help protect these important native habitats that help nurture biodiversity, DNR manages a statewide network of Natural Area Preserves and Natural Resources Conservation Areas. Many of these areas represent the finest natural, undisturbed ecosystems in state ownership; they also protect one-of-a-kind natural features unique to this region, such as the Mima Mounds in Thurston County or Selah Cliffs in Yakima County.

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Plan your summer getaway on DNR-managed land

July 22, 2013

Looking for inspiration for your next nature adventure? Try the Northeast Region of Department of Natural Resources (DNR). This region of DNR manages the northeastern corner of Washington State; counties like Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille, and Spokane.

Too far to visit just to plan a vacation?
No worries, now you can take a virtual tour of many of the beautiful recreation sites this area has to offer on DNR’s Flickr page. Here’s a taste…

Starvation Lake Campground, Stevens County

Cold Springs, Loomis State Forest, Okanogan County

Sherry Creek ATV riders photo given to DNR curtacy of Gary and Ronda Nielsen

Like what you see?
DNR’s Northeast Region offers a wide array of recreational opportunities. With 27 recreational sites that include campgrounds near lakes and rivers, single-track motorcycle trails, high country hiking and horseback riding, and lowland hunting, you’re sure to find something for your friends and family to love. (more…)

DNR weekend reading: Economic value of urban trees, forests shifting northward and other stories

May 11, 2013
Capitol State Forest snag

A snag like this one in Capitol State Forest can provide shelter and forage to birds, small mammals, and other wildlife. Photo: Jessica Payne/DNR.

Here are links to articles about natural resources, climate, energy and other topics published recently by universities, scientific journals, organizations, and other sources:

US Forest Service: US urban trees store carbon, provide billions in economic value
America’s urban forests store an estimated 708 million tons of carbon, an environmental service with an estimated value of $50 billion, according to a recent U.S. Forest Service study. The annual net carbon uptake by these trees is estimated at 21 million tons and their economic benefit at $1.5 billion.

NASA–Jet Propulsion Laboratory: NASA Opens New Era in Measuring Western U.S. Snowpack
A new NASA airborne mission has created the first maps of the entire snowpack of two major mountain watersheds in California and Colorado, producing the most accurate measurements to date of how much water they hold. The agency plans to exand the mapping to other mountain watersheds.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory: New Study: As Climate Changes, Boreal Forests to Shift North and Relinquish More Carbon Than Expected
Boreal forests will likely shift north at a steady clip this century. Along the way, the vegetation will relinquish more trapped carbon than most current climate models predict.

University of Wisconsin: Decline in snow cover spells trouble for many plants, animals
In a warming world, winter and spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere is in decline, putting at risk many plants and animals that depend on the space beneath the snow to survive the blustery chill of winter.

University of Calgary: Human impacts on natural world underestimated
A comprehensive five-year study by University of Calgary ecologists indicates that conservation research may not giving enough consideration to the influence of human activity on natural ecosystems and food chains.

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