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Showing posts from February, 2010

So you think you can be a field biologist in Yellowstone do you?

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You're trudging through white, wintery Yellowstone, following tracks of a wolf laid several days before.  The triangulation from those past few days suggest that the wolves may have made a kill, because they remained in the same area for a considerable amount of time; enough time to eat a large ungulate.  Finally, after four hours of hiking and dodging thermal pools, you begin to see good evidence of a kill...really good evidence...



Because you are an observant field biologist, you are very good at identifying the animals around the kill and evidence of the kill.  Or are you?  Get out your necropsy kit and identify the following:







Answers:
1- Bone fragment, with some meat and blood remaining.  (Almond with red frosting)
2-Wolf "meat scat," a very liquidy scat left by wolves 12 hours after eating a large meal.  (Chocolate pudding)
3-"Normal" wolf scat. (Tootsie Roll fragment)
4-Pee spot... (Yellow frosting)
5-Adult bison (Bison bison), wolf-killed, only partially…

Canis update-icus

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Five kills in three weeks.  That’s approximately one kill for every four days.  The uncollared pack (the “Who” pack, as we call them) continues to ravage the elk in the Madison canyon.  More and more often, the herds are found closer to the safety of water.  But, inevitably, one of the herd is lost to the perpetually hungry wolves.  The pack is an interesting group of cronies.  The alpha male is a large, powerful-looking black wolf, massive paws and a demeanor that suggests much wisdom wrought from hard life lessons.  Silver and gray hairs line his underbelly and face, contrasting superbly with his black coat.  As for the rest of the members, well, they all look like puppies to me.  Maybe the alpha male is so big in comparison, that all the others just appear to be of a younger age, but every time I see them, there’s the big black alpha male, with a couple of gray and black little dudes behind him.  Their prey has consisted of three adult and one calf elk (tomorrow one more will be ne…

A Brotherly Affair

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A visit from Luke: Written by Luke.

My natural instinct is to avoid decomposing flesh. I think this is a normal human response. When I was a child my parents did not have to tell me that rotting carcasses are not to be touched. It only took two of my five senses to come to this conclusion. Something has changed since then. Maybe it was my anatomy and physiology class that changed my mind. Possibly microbiology has dulled my senses. Today I gladly lay hands on carcasses, inspecting everything that the wolves, coyotes, eagles and ravens have turned their noses to. Jesse has similar dullness to his natural senses.

Two days ago Jesse spotted 7 wolves congregated upon a kill. Today I had the privilege of going through the leftovers of that kill to identity the victim and the suspected killers. When we came upon the site I was initially surprised. What we saw seemed to me, very little. An elk is a large creature. If we were to weigh all the body parts we found it wouldn’t have been more tha…

Another Planet -- By Madeline Magnuson

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The first thing that struck me during my all-too-brief foray into the life of an aspiring ecologist was the sheer volume my trip added on to me. I refer not to body fat (although Jesse and I did improvise a fairly mean pad thai) but to layers of clothes. First, I donned long underwear, then a turtleneck, then a fleece vest, then Jesse’s down coat, then my ski coat, and then the monster green refrigerator suit, which was also the culminating layer of my lower half: long underwear, flannel pajama pants, snow pants, refrigerator suit. Then, I added wool socks and hand-warmers used as toe-warmers, then attached on all of the external accoutrements: liner gloves, outside gloves, neck gaiter, balaclava, and then the crowning glory: a snowmobile helmet. Suddenly, I no longer resembled an 18-year-old girl on Earth but rather an age-vague, genderless astronaut on Mars or some other alien planet. My 31-hour stay in Yellowstone with Jesse was both the closest I would ever come to seeing wolves a…

A Moonlit Giantess

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The days wear on here in Yellowstone, but I have no less excitement and appreciation for being here than when I started.  I don't even want to take a day off, as I fear I might miss a wild, inspiring event.  Today, however, I took the day off.  After sleeping in (which was only a half an hour longer than my usual wake up time of 6:45am), I headed to West Yellowstone to keep my life in order (ie getting online [ie getting on facebook, blogging, etc.]).  Thus, this post.

Last weekend, the Depperschmidt parental units and friends loaded into an old, yellow snowcoach and traversed their way up the Madison and Firehole drainages to Old Faithful.  On their way, they spotted a pack of eight wolves, which, unbeknownst to the wolf researchers (Megan and me), had suddenly shown up in the study area.  With much determination, I interrogated Jack and Caroline, demanding all information and photographs for corroborative evidence.  And sure enough, for the next five days, the Who pack (as we ha…