Category Archives: Wildlife
It has been snowing for two days at The Cove with single digit temperatures and as rangers have been plowing and shoveling, wearing several layers of clothing, we are still freezing. As I look around the only living things out here that are up and moving around are birds. There are a lot of different birds at The Cove and only some migrate to warmer climates in the winter. Yesterday I saw Canada Geese, various ducks, Red Tailed Hawks, a Bald Eagle, a crow and numerous American Robins out hunting for food. Have you ever wondered how they cope in the winter? You’ll be amazed at the amazing adaptations birds have to stay warm and survive the frigid temperatures.
When the temperature drops I crave warm, hearty, calorie laden foods. These foods mean packing on the calories, which I’ll have to deal with in the spring, but birds need to increase their caloric intake too. Birds put on fat as both an insulator and energy source: More than 10 percent of winter body weight may be fat in certain species. It’s important to remember this can only be done in small amounts since they are a flying animal and still need to be able to take off. As a result, some birds spend the vast majority of their day time hours seeking fatty food sources. They are adapted to find, store, and remember where the food is so they can find it quickly. This makes winter foraging super efficient.
Birds have to work smarter not harder in the winter. One of the most effective strategies for having enough energy from food to stay warm is to not do highly energetic things during the cold season such as defend territories, spend a lot of time singing (although the Geese are constantly honking!), don’t build or maintain nests, don’t produce eggs or have hungry chicks around.
Birds of prey highly detailed knowledge of its home range and patience can mean the difference between life and death. During a short break in severe weather, a Barn Owl can fly directly to the best foraging habitat in any given ground, light and wind conditions. They are more likely to hunt from a fence post than from the air; this saves energy that would be used in flight and reduces heat loss.
Since birds can’t fly over to their closest Patagonia store or order a jacket from L.L. Bean, they have to find other ways to keep warm. Here is a list of some of their other adaptations:
- During the day time they soak in the sun.
- “Feathers are incredibly specialized structures that serve many purposes including, for many species, keeping them warm,” says Peter Marra, head of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center at the National Zoo. Larger birds like geese will grow extra feathers. All their feathers help keep them warm, but especially the downy under feathers and act like tiny little North Face down coats. Bird feathers are also covered in oil which makes them waterproof.
- Smaller birds seek out dense foliage or cavities in rocks to avoid the elements and lessen wind-chill.
- Bird feet are covered with scales and have very little cold-damageable tissue in them. They are mostly bone and sinew. This minimizes the likelihood of frostbite. Bird feet are generally grabbing at rest, so it takes very little energy to stay attached to a branch.
- Ducks in Upper Deschutes huddle, bunching together to share warmth, and try to minimize their total surface area by tucking in their head and feet and sticking up their feathers. Some species like certain hawks will forgo a solitary lifestyle and form communal winter roosts.
- Some birds, like Chickadees shiver. Birds shiver by activating opposing muscle groups, creating muscle contractions without all of the jiggling typical when humans shiver. This form of shaking is better at retaining the bird’s heat.
- Many species have the ability to keep warm blood circulating near vital organs while allowing extremities to cool down; some can stand on ice with feet at near-freezing temperatures while keeping their body’s core nice and warm.
What can we do to help birds in the winter?
According to the Audubon Society’s Winter Feeding Tips for Birds: One simple way to help birds when the weather outside is frightful is to hang feeders. To attract a diversity of birds, select different feeder designs and a variety of foods. For ideas on what to get for your home, go to: Audubon Guide to Winter Bird-Feeding for tips. The birds benefit from the backyard buffet, and you’ll have a front-row seat to numerous species flocking to your plants and feeders. USE CAUTION, birds come to rely on this as an easy and unlimited food source. If you aren’t going to take the time and spend the money to keep feeders full, it’s best not to start.
Protect winter nesting sites. Just like humans need a warm place to go, bald eagles need shelter to survive harsh winter weather too. Winter can cause even large birds of prey a great deal of stress. The critical point to remember is that bald eagles are very territorial birds, and most breeding pairs return to the same nest site year after year. They may use the same nest annually for up to 35 years. If their nests are disturbed or destroyed, the pair may never build again. The less human caused disturbance the more likely we will have healthy breeding pairs in the spring.
Another thing we can do is not chase birds that are huddled together in large groups. We all know they will get up and fly away if we run at them. Their ability to survive a potential threat costs them a great deal of life sustaining calories.
One of my favorite Central Oregon animals is the porcupine, which happens to be the second largest rodent in North America (third in the world, after capybara and beaver); but it is not the animal that first comes to mind when I think of Halloween. North American porcupines eat plants and favor any number of herbaceous delicacies. Porcupines rely entirely on their nose for food search. Considered a nocturnal, generalist herbivore, porcupines consume tree bark, leaves, conifer needles, buds from conifers and deciduous trees, wildflowers, fruit, nuts, rose hips, and ground vegetation. They’ve been known to chew on axe handles and tires for salt. So I guess squash shouldn’t be a surprise.
This summer I was preparing for a porcupine program and found a YouTube video you have to see! Meet “Teddy Bear” the porcupine – Teddy Bear was orphaned and taken to animal shelter called Zooniversity in Dallas. He now travels to schools teaching people about porcupines – and winning their hearts with his cuteness! As zookeeper Allison Blankenship asks questions, Teddy’s little squeaks seem to answer her back.
- Porcupines live up to 20 years old. They are the second oldest living rodent in the world. (following Naked Mole Rats)
- They do not hibernate, they are active all year.
- Like monkeys they are divided into old world and new world species. Old World porcupines are much larger than New World porcupines with quills up to a foot long. In Africa, they are thought to bring good luck and are worn as ornaments by many tribes.
- North American porcupines have approximately 30,000 quills on their bodies.
- They are very peaceful yet territorial rodents and may become offensive when threatened.
- Porcupines cannot throw their quills at predators; rather the quills get detached from their body when in proximity to other animal’s skin.
- North American porcupines do not eat and sleep in the same tree.
- Porcupines can accidentally stick themselves to a branch, or any other thing while falling from a tree. They are the only mammal that can produce their own antibiotic.
- If you want to see one up close, visit the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon.
It’s more than just “don’t feed the wild carnivores.” But, uh, don’t feed wild carnivores.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram always seem to be full of photos of people’s outdoor adventures. But not everyone who likes spending time in the wild really knows what they’re doing out there — and according to a study published this week in Scientific Reports, that’s why humans are increasingly being attacked by wild animals.
A group of researchers from Europe and Canada analyzed data on 697 documented attacks on humans by large carnivores, including bears, cougars and coyotes, in North America, Russia and two countries in Europe.
They found that nearly half of all the observed attacks, which occurred between 1955 and 2014, involved risky behaviors on the part of the human victim.
The most common of those risky behaviors? Leaving a child unattended in the wilderness.
The researchers also found that as populations of large carnivores recover in developed countries (a result of successful conservation efforts), the number of “bold individuals” engaging in outdoor activities has also increased.
The data suggests that most people who explore the outdoors have no idea just how dangerous these habitats really are, according to the researchers.
For evidence, look no further than Lake Tahoe, California, or Water Canyon Park in Colorado, where officials have had to issue official warnings because too many people were trying to take selfies with wild bears.
“A lot of what people do is based on a total lack of knowledge about what is dangerous and what isn’t,” Stephen Herrero, a researcher from the University of Calgary who was involved in the study, told the Canadian Broadcasting Company this week.
“Half of the attacks could have probably been avoided if people had done some pretty simple things,” he went on.
But what exactly constitutes “risk-enhancing behavior”? The definition is more broad than you might think, and includes things you’ve probably done at least once in your life.
These were the five most common behaviors people were engaged in at the time of an animal attack, according to the study:
- Parents (or adults) leaving children unattended
- Walking a dog without a leash
- Hunting or searching for a wounded animal
- Engaging in outdoor activities at night or before dawn
- Approaching a female carnivore with its young
Other risky actions include feeding a wild carnivore and encountering a carnivore that has been fed by humans in the past and therefore approaches humans in search of an easy meal.
The researchers note that while these types of attacks on humans are extremely rare, they tend to have dire consequences for both the human and the animal — especially when media reports sensationalize individual attacks and make them seem more common than they really are.
In 2014, for example, Australia began a controversial cull on sharks — including great white sharks, considered a threatened species — in response to seven fatal shark attacks in three years, despite a number of experts arguing that such a response would not reduce the already low risk of attack.
The study’s authors echo this sentiment, adding that this type of reaction hurts conservation efforts for these carnivores.
“When attacks occur,” the researchers wrote, “large carnivores are frequently killed and negative attitudes toward large carnivores harden.”
If we’re all going to be the great adventurers we portray on social media, then we have to learn how to live safely alongside these wild animals, the researchers urge.
Before going on a hike or a camping trip, or entering a national park or any area that carnivores call home, make sure to follow all safety rules posted by federal wildlife agencies.
And please, leave wild animals — especially carnivores — alone.
At The Cove Palisades State Park, we do not have bears or wolves in the park; however we do have other carnivores like cougar, various omnivores and even some bolder herbivores, such as mule deer that think they should eat Doritos. Cougars dislike a lot of noise and activity. They will not walk into camp and beg for food but the others will not hesitate to search out and greedily inhale human handouts. If you feel the need to hand feed a wild animal remember that they can bite or carry disease. That cute little forest creature that you were dying to have a selfie with only moments before, can become a despised varmint instantaneously. Feeding wildlife can have devastating, even if unintentional, consequences to either animal and/or human.
While wildlife encounters are typically very safe at The Cove; practice not feeding any wildlife. There is plenty of natural food for them in the park already.
Thanks for doing your part to keep The Cove’s animals wild!
Labor Day has come and gone. The rabbitbrush is starting to fade. Geese are beginning to fly south, taking summer along with them. Crisp nights and cool mornings are a sure sign that fall is here. Is there anything to do at The Cove once the summer season is over? Most definitely! In fact, fall can be one of the most magical times here at the park. The cooler weather makes for a great time to hike the Tam-a-lau Trail.
You can access the trail from the Upper Deschutes Day Use Area and embark on a seven mile journey. The initial climb, an elevation gain of 600 feet in the first mile, is worth it when you reach the top and see the spectacular views of the park this trail affords. You are certain to see some of the most awe inspiring views of Lake Billy Chinook . It’s definitely worth lugging a camera and water with you!
Not a hiker? Being on the water provides a whole new perspective of the park, and the peace and quiet of this slower time of the year can really give you the opportunity to relax and appreciate the beauty that surrounds you. Bring a kayak, canoe or stand up paddle board and try paddling along the Deschutes or Crooked Rivers? Our all new non-motorized, water trail along the Crooked River will guide you on the best route for how far you want to go.
Prefer a little more information as you paddle along? Book a guided kayak tour of the Deschutes arm of the lake! Your guide will point out some of the geological features of The Cove and help look for wildlife as you go along. These tours are available Thursday and Saturday mornings in September and Saturday mornings in October. Call the park office for details and to reserve your space (541) 546-3412.
If you’d rather just to sit back, relax, and enjoy the beauty of the area; reserve a site at the Crooked River Campground, grab some extra blankets and wood, and enjoy the colors of fall as you watch the sun set over Mount Jefferson. If you’re up for a short walk, you can take the Crooked River Wetlands Nature Trail, accessed from the boat and trailer parking area, which provides views of the first two ponds in our wetlands. As you walk this easy quarter mile loop, you can see the bluebird house and bat boxes built by Culver students, as well as the Certified Monarch Way Station the middle schoolers planted last school year. You never know what kind of wildlife you might encounter along the way.
As summer leaves, the busyness settles down, and fall colors peek out around the park, so does the wildlife. This is a great time of year to see some of The Cove’s residents who prefer a bit less human interaction. Deer are more active as they prepare to rut, ducks are pairing up and coyotes have been howling. In fact, just about any trail or dock you wander along could afford you that opportunity. Maybe take a stroll along the water and see if the river otters are out playing. Or just find a nice, quiet, pretty spot to sit and relax and see what wanders along.
Don’t think that just because summer is over there’s nothing to do or see here at The Cove. Come on out and take a look. You just might surprise yourself.
An Ant Lion is not some strange Sci-Fi creature or the newest Marvel character but a super beneficial bug that naturally controls ants.
Ant Lions, also known as doodle bugs in the US because they make markings like a distracted artist, are a group of insects in the Order Neuroptera – translated as “nerve wings.” They are part of the Family Myrmeleontidae, which is of Greek origin myrmex (ant) and leon (lion). You know you have Ant Lions when you see these upside down cones in the dirt or sand. These are actually traps that the (predatory) larvae set so that they can eat the ants, and other bugs or spiders, when they fall in.
The larva looks like something you would see in Star Trek The Wrath of Khan or The Mummy movies, it grows to approximately an inch long and it’s head bears a very impressive and sizeable pair of sickle-like jaws (mandible) that have numerous sharp, hallow projections. In fact, their mandible is so large that it makes walking difficult and so they will typically walk backwards. They seize their prey by injecting poison that paralyzes it. Additional digestive enzymes are injected to break down internal tissue of its prey. It then sucks the liquefied contents of it’s preys body and then flicks it out of the pit. The larva then repairs the pit and waits for it’s next victim.
Ant Lion larvae eventually pupate in the soil. As scary as their adolescent stage appears, the adult resembles a dragonfly or damselfly except the Ant Lion folds it’s wings back in a tent-like fashion. They also have longer, prominent, clubbed antennae and different type of wing venation. Adults are rarely encountered in the wild as they are nocturnal. They feed on nectar and pollen.
Ant Lions are often included in lists of beneficial insects, no doubt because they prey upon ants, a common pest to humans.
You can find lots of these cone shaped traps in the Deschutes Campground and along the Tam A Lau trail. Also in the Crooked River Day Use Area. You can pretend to be prey by gently dropping a small piece of stick and watch them kick the sand out to knock the prey down into the bottom of the cone. Please be respectful of park wildlife and do not step on or destroy the traps. Ant lions do not typically bite humans but they can if they are scared.
You may notice that all of the utility hook-up stations throughout the Crooked River Campground at Cove Palisades State Park are all now red lights rather than the traditional white lights.
During the summer of 2015 a study was undertaken at the campground where 10 campsites’ utility stations were changed to red lights for illumination. Each evening the campers at these 10 campsites were asked their opinion of the change to red lighting. After they responded, they were told that the red lighting offered several advantages over the white lights.
The reasoning included:
• Most animals cannot see the red spectrum of light thereby making the campground look completely dark and more natural to the animals
• Red lights offer the same levels of illumination as white lights while allowing us humans to better adapt to the nighttime
• Red lights are not as intrusive to tent and tent trailer campers
The results of the study were more positive than anticipated. There were no negative comments and several people asked why red lights weren’t being installed at all Oregon State Parks. As an additional benefit, placing a red film over the existing white lights cost less than $0.50 per campsite.
So… enjoy the new lighting at Cove Palisades’ Crooked River campground. It is beneficial to the wildlife while being less intrusive to us humans.
Thank you to Park Host Scott Spence for spearheading this project!
What Is Light Pollution?
Light Pollution is the illumination of the night skies by mankind. We are all responsible for the causes of Light Pollution yet very few of us understand the cause and consequences of Light Pollution.
Simply put, Light Pollution is caused by manmade light sources point up or reflecting upwards.
Although picturesque, cityscapes of all sizes create Light Pollution
Highway billboards shine light upwards, wasting as much as 85% of the energy consumed
Light Pollution wastes energy, disrupts wildlife and whites out our naturally dark skies. Light pollution is a new term to most people
How Does Light Pollution Hurt Us?
Nocturnal animals that come out and make nighttime their “daytime” suffer the most. Deer fall prey to their natural predators more easily. Mice and other nocturnal rodents are easier for owls to see. Hatchling sea turtles use the moon to guide them to the safety of the ocean but bright city lights lure them away from the ocean.
Recent studies have found a link between breast cancer and bedrooms illuminated by Light Pollution.
Fewer than 2 in 5 children born today will ever see the Milky Way in their lifetimes. Less than ½ of the population of North America, Japan, Europe, India and other populated locations can see the Milky Way from their backyards.
Night skies are naturally beautiful
Light Pollution in the United States at night from the ISS
HOW CAN WE STOP LIGHT POLLUTION?
Look At Your Home
Check your home at night. Do you have light sources pointing up or horizontally? Do you really need 60 watts of light when 20 watts will work? Are your exterior lights under eaves?
Bad and good light sources
Get together with your neighbors and evaluate all of the light sources in your neighborhood.
Look At Your City
Take a look at your community. Are flag poles illuminated from the ground rather than from the top? Are billboards illuminated from the top rather than from the bottom? Does your community have lighting ordinances that reduce or eliminate certain Light Pollution sources? Consider going to a city council meeting and suggesting changes to ordinances if necessary.
As an example, Flagstaff, Arizona has had strict lighting ordinances since the early 1960’s. Any clear night of the week a person can stand in the middle of highway 66, downtown Flagstaff and see the milky way. The Flagstaff police department reports a lower crime rate than many comparable sized cities.
Become an advocate for your community. Ask business owners who contribute to Light Pollution to make changes to their exterior lighting to become more dark sky friendly. Investigate the subject of Light Pollution and offer to make presentations on the subject to middle and high school students.
International Dark-Sky Association
The Ottawa Centre’s Light Pollution Abatement Program http://ottawa-asc.ca/articles/dick_robert/lpap/lpab.html
The Journal Of The Royal Astronomical Society Of Canada
Lowes Home Improvement Centers
Urban Lighting, Light Pollution and Society
Light Nuisances – Ambient Light, Light Pollution, Glare
How Does Outdoor Lighting Cause Light Pollution?
Dark Sky Society
Open to Central Oregon Students (4th – 12 grade) in Jefferson, Deschutes and Crook Counties …
Do you love eagles, hawks, falcons, or owls? Are you artistic? Choose your medium and draw, paint, photograph or carve your favorite bird of prey and you could win cool prizes at the 21st Eagle Watch Event on February 27, 2016.
Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus) are native to western North America and are one of the most commonly seen animals at The Cove, especially in the winter when visitation is low. I was talking to a young park visitor the other day and he asked, “Do deer get cold when it snows?” And I thought, what a great question to write about!
Deer have wonderful adaptations to survive in the high desert’s frigid winter temperatures.
First of all, most deer don’t live in the same place all year. They move to winter ranges in lower elevations, where they can find more nutritious foods when it gets cold. They are commonly found on warmer south facing slopes with less snow cover. This is smart because when there is more than eleven or twelve inches of snow, it’s hard for them to move around. In fact deer typically won’t stay in area that has more than a couple of feet of snow for a prolonged period. They prefer forests with plants of different sizes for cover from predators, thermal protection and snow interception.
Deer are always eating. Fall grazing for deer is full of high energy plants, seeds and nuts that allow them to fatten up for winter. When winter comes, deer move around less to conserve energy and browse (eat) woody plants that are easy to digest like sagebrush, bitterbrush and rabbitbrush. Their metabolism falls to half of what it is in summer, so the fat stores last longer. If you have deer in your yard, it’s better not to feed them. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife discourages feeding wildlife as deer can only digest wood browse, and the extra energy used to go to and from the artificial food sources can actually exceed the energy they would get from it – making them hungrier.
Just like people, they have a winter wardrobe. Their thick winter coat has hollow guard hairs, like polar bears, and fine hair under the guard hairs act like a fleece jacket and insulate them from the cold. The dark color of their fur absorbs the suns heat and helps keep them warm. Also in extreme weather, deer experience horripilation or “goose bumps” like we do. This occurs when skin tightens up and traps a layer of air near the skins surface which helps keep it warmer.
As you fulfill your new years resolutions to get out and exercise, find a park and marvel at how amazing our mule deer are. Be sure to educate your children not to scare them though. If deer get scared and run, it just uses up necessary calories they need to stay warm. Read the rest of this entry