9 Aug 2017

Collins Lake - Smokey skies

I had planned for a lengthy stay for field work but the smoke from the wild fires put a damper on that. Not to mention the blistering heat. We arrived Saturday afternoon on August 5th. Doug had to leave Monday night so he could get back to work during the week. I stayed until Tuesday evening. By this time I could not see the road across the lake and Nanika's cabin was slowly beginning to disappear.

Bear tracks barely visible on dry road.
Grizzlies in the area but no problems from them. We did observe something that came out from all this smoke. We can get so caught up in ourselves that we tend to forget the struggles wildlife are having to deal with out there.

On Monday, a bald headed eagle made a break from the heavily smokey area. It came through the sky like a jet. You could hear it slicing through the air. I never heard an eagle soar so fast in my life. I could barely see it. It was that fast. As it came over the lake, it tilted sideways (the only time I could see it in the air) making a wide turn and then slowed down to land on a tree by the side of the lake. A mating pair of Ospreys did not like to see the eagle. So one went after it. Knocking it out of the air and in to the lake. It even tried to attack it while it was helpless in the lake. But the eagle managed to fend it off and then eventually found its way back out of the water. 

On Tuesday evening, while I was in my motor home, I heard the eagle coming again. I could hear it slicing through the air like a jet again and with such incredible speed. Once it land on a tree, the Ospreys were going to attack again but the eagle protested something fierce. Sounded desperate. The Ospreys backed off. The smoke was the thickest I seen since we arrived. Could not see across the lake anymore. 

Above photos were taken on Monday August 5th.

Just like everywhere else, Collins Lake is heavily patrolled by wolves. I never seen any fresh moose sign in the area where we were camped. Just off Collins Road in that open area by the lake. Back in 2013, I named it Charlie Bay. After Charlie the coyote. I never liked coyotes until I met Charlie. On Monday evening I did hear a moose calf bawl as it was being chased. We also came across deer tracks. A doe and her fawn. That was it.

Common Loon
We seen one of the otters. We believe it was Doc. Who we met in 2013. Never seen the beaver, although we were not there long enough. The level of the lake dropped considerably in the four days we were out there. Lots of fish jumping. Some were actually a fair size. Baby fish were friendly when a person waded in the water. Nibbling on my legs every now and then. Lots of clams, snails and toads too. 

We actually seen a grouse this time out. Normally a person sees many.

We only had to haul one garbage bag full of garbage from other campers. This time they had their garbage stashed in the fire pit. I am getting tired of picking up and hauling other people's garbage out of the bush!

If things don't clear up soon, field work will have to be postponed for the remainder of the season. I am so disappointed with how things have turned out these past couple of years. Between the wolves and smoke from wild fires, I never seen it this bad before. Doug says he can remember something similar with smoke back in the 50's or 60's. 

It is really unfortunate that we are having to deal with so many wild fires in B.C. this year. I feel for everyone. I most especially feel bad for the wildlife. The struggles out there are horrendous. Everything compounding on top of everything else and nothing getting better as time goes on. Not as many prey species with an over population of wolves all over the place. All areas are being heavily patrolled and predated. (A person needs to be extra cautious out there.) Ranchers have really been struggling with wolves too. One case, a moose calf sought refuge from the wolves by fleeing in to the ranch house yard. Wolverines have made their presence known too. 

30 Jul 2017

A silent dog can be alerting you to danger

   We always take our dogs with us. They are excellent guards. Alerting us to the many dangerous we are unable to see at the time. They don't get it easy because I have strict rules. They are not allowed to chase wildlife. They are also not allowed to visit with strangers. So if anyone comes around, we will place them inside the motor home or tie Duke up until the coast is clear. For this reason alone we tend to stay away from recreational sites when busy, and any other public camping areas. Not that they are unfriendly. Not everyone enjoys the company of dogs. Besides you want your dog to alert you of strangers, not make friends with them while you are unaware. We also want them to have the freedom to roam. You never know though, I might be unfriendly!
   You would be a fool if you believed you were safe just because you brought your dogs with you. On the contrary. It depends on your dog too. Some dogs can make matters worse. They will go tearing off after a predator just to piss if off and then return to you with the angry predator on its heels. Others will just aggravate a predator to the point of it wanting to attack. Your dogs can draw the attention of wolves and cougars.
   A person thinks they know their dog. I am still learning about our dogs' body language and signals. A silent dog does not always mean the coast is clear. It can mean that danger lurks very close by. Your dog does not want to alert it, or aggravate it unnecessarily. This is a situation that does not need to get out of hand. A person just needs to watch their facial expressions and body movements.  
   You might find your dog intently watching one or more areas. Walking around as if on egg shells. Trying to be silent themselves whenever they move. Always concerned about their surroundings. Perhaps hide somewhere out of sight. Maybe even whine but not too loud. Just enough to let you know.
   Your dog might walk across your path and stop right in front of you. Blocking you from walking straight ahead. Your dog might also lean on your legs. Danger up ahead. Let it cross or move away. 
   The only way a person will learn is to experience the woods with their dog. Not all dogs behave in the same manor. Just don't fall in to a false sense of security. Dogs or no dogs, be on guard at all times. Never allow your dogs to go out of sight. Always keep an eye on them and their body language. Remember, a silent dog can be alerting you to danger.

Barb Campbell
Field researcher
Trace Unknown

18 Jul 2017

July 2017 - Some notes from the field & wolf caution

Nadina Project
June 30th - July 2nd

   Doug and I loaded up the dogs and headed out of town for the long weekend. We would try to avoid fireworks as it frightens the dogs. Plus, we really wanted to get back out there. This beautiful swamp was our choice. Here we could watch the local wildlife. See what goes on. Never know Bigfoot might hunt, forage or just pass through the area. Of course it would be a matter of timing. Right time. Right place.

   This is paradise to a lot of birds and insects. The birds really looked happy and why not! There were so many varieties. Redwing blackbirds, Common Yellowthroats, thrashers, Cedar Waxwings and more. In the evenings the bats would appear to feast.

Eden Project
July 2 - July 16th

Sunday July 2nd

   We decided to leave the beautiful swamp for the gravel pit on Owen Lookout Road. Perhaps we might get lucky and hear more of those powerful howls we heard back in 2013. The recreation site is just a hop, skip and a jump down the road.
   There was a great spot above the pit with an ideal view of the area below, as well as, the Morice valley. We were not trying to hide. Anyone traveling on the Morice FSR below, would have seen us parked there. Other than the odd noises within the woods, not much happened.

Tuesday July 4th

   We seen a deer at the old forestry site down below. Across the road. Less than a minute later, a very large black wolf appeared. It stood still for a moment and then moved on where the deer had vanished in to the woods. We thought for certain that the deer's days were numbered.
   I took Doug home because he would need to return to work. I came back to the gravel pit with the dogs. We would remain out here for a week. Possibly more.
   Later in the afternoon, a young buck appeared just below the motorhome. It laid down for a while and then got up to do some browsing.

   The night sky was awesome. Stars were out. A band of white moved across the sky in an enormous arch. I was unable to see where it began or ended. Some of the arch spread outward about an inch. Giving a smokey appearance and it met with the coming early dawn.

Wednesday July 5th

   In the late afternoon a wolverine decided to stir up the local squirrel. This went on for a while. Some birds were also squawking. Following the commotion. This activity went on around the entire camp before finally coming to an end. Before the wolverine was finished however, it let out an angry complaint.
   Heard a moose calf bawl from the Chisholm and seen those two bald eagles again. Was a warm day.

Thursday July 6th

   Fresh deer tracks on the road. A nice warm day. Cotton flying in the air from the cottonwood trees.
   In the afternoon, the wolves tried to lure the dogs in to the woods in behind the motorhome. I brought them inside earlier than usual.

Friday July 7th

   I do believe I just caught sight of that enormous grizzly just within the pines, at the edge of the opening of the old forestry site below.
   In the afternoon, something was passing through behind us. Just inside the woods. Sometimes breaking trees. I knew it had to be a bear. It made its way to the road below. It crossed and then followed the side of the road down to the creek at the corner. I was able to capture some of it on video, once it reached the road.

   Storm clouds brewing in the distance. The wind picked up. Blowing fiercely at times. Really slamming away at my awning - quite violently.
   Doug arrived from town to spend the weekend with us. Just before bed, we seen a meteor hurl towards Morice Mountain before disappearing. It was large. About the size of an acorn. Teardrop shaped. Bluish, green. Some smokey white trailing in behind. Flashed super bright. Lasted for about 3 to 4 seconds. Covered about 2 to three inches of sky. Had no clue what time it was. It was dark. Was really incredible to see.

Saturday July 8th

   In the morning, Doug and I seen the young buck cross the gravel pit below us. It disappeared from view once it made its way in front of the large pile.
   We could hear noises in the woods around us. We figured it might be the wolverine. Later on during a walk, we came across its tracks here and there.
   Found some neat stones from an old creek bed. One looks like it might have been used as a tool hundreds of years ago. Or maybe the river just shaped it that way.

Sunday July 9th

   Doug left for home around noon. I would stay on for another week. Never heard any howls yet. I am beginning to wonder if those howls back in 2013 had to do with a loss. Someone either passed on or never made it back home.
   Experienced rain storms on and off. Very windy.
   Roughly 2.5 hours after Doug left, I heard a very loud roar to my right. I could also hear movement on gravel. A while later, a bear was going berserk in the woods in behind the motorhome. Sounding part elephant and part monkey as it complained, smashing and breaking old trees around it. Sounded like it was having a really bad day. It actually was terrifying to listen to. The dogs were so terrified they didn't know what to do. I brought them inside for a while.

Monday July 10th

   Fresh bear sign near camp. The hawk came out to visit us again. I have forgotten to mention it before. A beautiful big retailed hawk.

Tuesday July 11th

   Found some large ant hills or mounds along the edge of the woods before the road. A bear has really gone-to-town with these. Seems it found a bees, wasp or hornets nest a few feet below one of those mounds. Come to think of it, I have not seen a single hornet yet this year. One, maybe two wasps only.

   Explored the area across from me where others have camped before. I found someone's garbage pile in behind one of the gravel burms.

   I just hoped the bear was not expecting this sort of stuff from us. Damn shame that some folks have to be this ignorant.

Wednesday July 12th

   Rained last night and continued on and off for the day. Down to last water. I took one cup's worth and gave the rest to the dogs. Doug will be stopping by later on with water and more supplies.
   Meadow voles were busy scurrying around today. A massive owl flew across the gravel pit, heading towards the creek and river. I actually seen a baby toad. No larger than half an inch out on the gravel.
   Traffic on the road below seems much busier than usual today.
   Doug arrived with supplies. He said he seen fresh tracks down below. He wished he stopped to take a look. We sat down to a fresh pot of perked coffee. More rain pelted down. He worried the tracks would be ruined. Soon as it cleared up, we drove down to take a look. We kept the dogs in the back of the pickup. Wolves had been chasing an elk. We also came across tracks where a bear had been chasing a moose.
   Doug set one of his trail cams up in a new location and then visited some more before leaving sometime after 8 pm. He hadn't driven very far, when he stopped for a moment and then backed up. He had seen fresh wolf tracks over top of our tire tracks. The wolves might still be around.
   I got back inside the motorhome to film Doug leaving, but Duke sounded the alarm before Doug even reached the bottom of the pit. We had him on a chain to stop him from following Doug. Of course the wolves would want to take advantage of that. I stopped filming long enough to rush them inside. Once I seen Doug turn down the road, I turned off my camcorder then blew the air horn 2 or 3 times, so I could rush outside to grab their water dish.

   Note: These wolves also hang around Owen Flats Recreation Site. I stayed there for a week in June and had an incident occur. Wednesday June 21st, I had gone to bed and was laying there ready to drift off to sleep when two wolves suddenly tried to gain entrance through two bedroom windows. Windows were closed - luckily. I could really feel and hear the impact of the two front paws of one of the wolves, as it met with the glass of the emergency escape hatch window. At the same time, a second wolf tried to jump at the back window. The windows are pretty high up. It tried to use the chainsaw that was strapped to the bumper for footing as it tried to gain air, causing the body of the chainsaw to slam in to the wall of the motor home. The damage is a crack/hole in the wall. The entire rear end of the motor home rocked severely. The two wolves fled and did not attempt anything further. Anyone staying at the site, should be aware of the wolves. Especially if you have dogs. (There is also a cougar which we heard meow a few feet away, the night of June 24th. We later found tracks in the area to confirm the cat. We met one here back in 2013. Seemed nonthreatening at the time.)

   I wondered if the wolves would try the windows again at night. The other scary thought was where Doug has seen fresh wolf tracks over top of our tire tracks, that was in the location where he set his cam up.They had been there. Following. Watching. Stalking.

Thursday July 13th

  Fresh wolf scat out on the road near the motor home. Consisted mostly of grass.
  On and off rain storms. Wind grew strong at times. Dogs stayed inside mostly. A yellow helicopter flew over heading towards Smithers. 

Friday July 14th

   Dogs were inside having a insect-free nap, when I finally seen Duke's friend. A beautiful doe. We were wondering who he had befriended. 

   Doug arrived to spend a couple days. Sunday we will be heading home. 

Saturday July 15th

   Rained mostly today. Steady in the first half and then on and off. In the morning we seen a wild rabbit.
   We could hear the wolves but were unable to see them until the evening. Mostly as silhouettes along the edges. 

Sunday July 16th

   In the morning, we watched a deer lay down a false trail for the wolves, down at the old forestry site across the road. Seemed to be in great spirits. Crow-hopping and having some fun doing it. On our way home, we seen tracks all along that stretch of road near the recreation site. The wolves had been chasing a deer down.
   Back home for a bit before our next adventures out there.

   Despite the on and off rains, the bush is still very dry. Wind is another concern. Watch for falling trees. As dry as it is in places out there, trees are falling down from root rot too. Like the young cottonwood tree on Owen Lookout Road in video below. This occurred just moments before checking it out.

Bear track.

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