Category Archives: wildlife

Out and all about it: Nurture kids’ love of all nature

Photo by Joseph Robertia. This black bear was seen on the appropriately named Bear Mountain Trail in the Skilak area.

Photo by Joseph Robertia. This black bear was seen on the appropriately named Bear Mountain Trail in the Skilak area.

By Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter

Bears and butterflies carry exactly the same weight in my daughter’s estimation. I learned of this equality on a family outing this spring in the Skilak Wildlife Recreational Area.

My wife, 2-year-old Lynx and I had been canoeing Hidden Lake in the morning, getting up at dawn to beat the heat and breezes that come up as the day waxes on. By midday, the cloudless sky stretched in a spacious canvas of blue, and the sun hung at its zenith. A breeze as soft as a first kiss caressed our still winter-white skin, but it offered little relief to the three of us not yet used to temperatures topping out at 70 degrees.

With our watercraft securely tethered to the top of our car, we set the compass for home, but before we had even dusted our way a few miles down the gravel road my wife grabbed a fistful of my shirtsleeve and shouted, “Stop the car!”

Like most husbands in that situation, I stomped the brake hard enough to nearly put a hole in the floorboard. The car slid to a grating halt on the loose gravel surface, while I — wide-eyed and with adrenaline spiking — machine-gunned at her all the obvious questions: “What? What is it? What’s wrong? What’d I hit?”

Never turning to face me, she switched to a hushed tone and said three of my favorite words to hear while in the wilderness, “Look, a bear.”

We were at the aptly named Bear Mountain Trail. The bruin, black as midnight, seemed completely unconcerned by our presence and swaggered through the parking area and started up the hiking trail. We stared for a few seconds before it rounded a bend and went out of view.

We wanted — we needed — more.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under bears, outdoors, wildlife

Data-driven collisions — Fish and Game seeing changing trends in wildlife-vehicle accidents

File photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. A bull moose draws a crowd as it prepares to cross the road.

File photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. A bull moose draws a crowd as it prepares to cross the road.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Tourists and Alaskans alike often enjoy seeing moose, but never so up close that one of the 1,200-pound animals is crashing through their windshield. Yet that inevitably happens every year, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

“To be exact, we had 154 moose that were hit, killed and reported on the Kenai Peninsula from July 1, 2014, to June 10, 2015,” said Larry Lewis, a wildlife biologist with Fish and Game.

Those numbers are actually trending downward when compared against the averages for the past 28 years, Lewis said, which is how long records of moose-vehicle collisions have been kept by Fish and Game, compiled from their own reports as well as from Alaska State Troopers, Kenai and Soldotna police and the Alaska Railroad, since moose stepping onto railroad tracks are occasionally hit by trains.

“When you look at the data from 1985 to ’86 up to 2013, the mean number of moose hit comes out to about 248 animals, and 154 is obviously well below that,” Lewis said.

While the number of moose killed has started to come down in recent years, Lewis said that the number of moose that run off into the woods after being hit is trending upward.

“I’m not sure if it’s lighter vehicles now versus the old tankers, or if it has something to do with how people are driving, but last regulatory year we had reports of 79 hit and not recovered. We only started keeping track of this since 2000, but just since that time the average is 73,” he said.

As high as both these numbers are — 233 combined — Lewis said that the numbers still don’t paint a clear picture of how many moose are actually hit on the peninsula.

“These are just the ones we know about. By law, collisions with moose are supposed to be reported, but every year some are found dead on the roadside,” he said.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under moose, public safety, transportation, wildlife

Moose malaise is only skin deep

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. A cow moose afflicted with infectious cutaneous fibromas has been seen in Kasilof lately. The “warts” are caused by a virus and are generally harmless.

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. A cow moose afflicted with infectious cutaneous fibromas has been seen in Kasilof lately. The “warts” are caused by a virus and are generally harmless.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Moose never look regal in the spring. They’re scrawny and lean from the long winter without fresh forage and scruffy while shedding their ragged-looking cold-weather coat. But one young cow lingering in Kasilof lately has an even more unappealing presence.

“They’re called infectious cutaneous fibromas,” said John Crouse, a wildlife biologist at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, in regard to the dry, hairless, apple-sized tumors dangling from the moose’s body.

Actually a virus, fibromas affect nearly all species of the deer family and have been documented in white- and black-tailed deer, mule deer, fallow deer, red deer, roe deer, Sika deer and caribou, in addition to moose.

“The ‘warts’ can be anywhere from golf ball sized up to volleyball sized, and they can have just one or be covered in them,” Crouse said. They may also grow in individual tumors or in large clumps of them.

As a virus, fibromas are spread from moose to moose via direct contact with an infected animal, contact with an object that a moose with a burst wart has rubbed on, or by insect bites.

“It’s not too big a deal for them or their long-term health. Usually it’s the younger animals under 2 years old that get them, and it will clear up after a few months,” Crouse said, although on rare occasions some tumors can develop in sensitive areas, such as around the eyes and nose or in the armspits, and affect the animal’s sight, breathing or movement.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under moose, wildlife

Happy trails to view — Chugach program seeking volunteers

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Chugach National Forest is seeking volunteers to help with wildlife surveys, including ptarmigan, bats, owls and goats; habitat projects and other tasks.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Chugach National Forest is seeking volunteers to help with wildlife surveys, including ptarmigan, bats, owls and goats; habitat projects and other tasks.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

There’s hiking, and then there’s hiking with a purpose. Siddiq Touré, wildlife volunteer coordinator with the Chugach National Forest, is hoping to recruit Kenai Peninsula residents interested in doing the latter.

“A lot of tasks are wildlife surveys, as well as other ecological projects. There are some things like nonnative invasive pulling of weeds, things like this, different things that they do where they don’t have the Forest Service staff to take care of these tasks,” Touré said.

He’s organizing a Wildlife Volunteer Corps. of ecology-minded outdoors enthusiasts to help the Forest Service with various projects throughout the year, including bird surveys, planting vegetation and interacting with visitors. It’s work that needs to be done, but that the Forest Service doesn’t always have the staffing to accomplish in a park as big as the Chugach, covering an area roughly the size of New Hampshire.

So the Forest Service is asking for help in the form of local volunteers. The program is open to all ages, outdoors experience levels and residencies, though the goal is to get people involved in their own backyard. For 2015, with projects planned in the Moose Pass, Cooper Landing and Hope areas, that means Kenai Peninsula residents.

Help with wildlife surveys is the immediate need. Volunteers are wanted to help survey ptarmigan, bats, owls and goats. Survey areas include Palmer Creek Road, Summit Creek and Skyline Trail. Surveys involve hiking a certain area, looking and listening for signs of the target species, as well as taking stock of their environment.

“While you’re surveying them you are paying attention to their environment, their habitat, making sure everything is OK and hunky dory,” Touré said.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under ecology, outdoors, wildlife

Stranded seal pup rescued in Homer

 

Photo courtesy of Jenna Miller. “Silky” was rescued from Homer.

Photo courtesy of Jenna Miller. “Silky” was rescued from Homer.

Chelsea Alward

Homer Tribune

The Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward welcomed a Homer bay resident April 25, after a newborn seal pup was rescued from the mud flats near the Homer Spit.

According to a news release from the center, staff from ASLC were serendipitously already in the area for a volunteer training when the pup was reported as stranded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The stranded mammal is the first rescue of 2015 for ASLC through the Wildlife Response Program, an effort that rescues and rehabilitates anywhere between five to 15 harbor seals in a typical year.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under wildlife

Not far from spar — Kasilof man gets living-room seat to moose show

Photo courtesy of Leon Mensch. Two bull moose spar in a yard in Kasilof on Sunday, with blood-stained antlers from having their velvet recently sloughed off.

Photo courtesy of Leon Mensch. Two bull moose spar in a yard in Kasilof on Sunday, with blood-stained antlers from having their velvet recently sloughed off.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Living in Alaska, residents get fairly used to living a little closer to nature than their Lower-48 counterparts. With that comes seeing more wildlife. But even with that expectation, Leon Mensch, of Kasilof, woke up to a spectacle Sunday morning that still made his jaw drop.

“Not too many places you can have a morning like that,” he said.

A moose in his yard doesn’t garner much attention. A bull with a nice-sized rack warrants more than just a glance. Two bulls with racks is downright noteworthy, and those bulls smashing their racks into each other calls for undivided, mouth-hanging-open attention.

The spectacle started slowly. Mensch, a dog musher, had just gone inside after feeding his huskies. Having a yard full of dogs is usually a good alarm of anything unusual, like an animal wandering through. But Mensch said that his dogs must not have seen the moose arrive that day, because they were quiet.

“When I came back in I looked out the window and first saw just one. I went to grab my camera and when I got back to the window both of them were there, sparring in what will (next year) be our garden,” he said.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Kasilof, moose, wildlife

Wild eyed — Funny River Fire might explain increased, odd wild animal sightings

Photo courtesy of Mandy Stahl-Reeder. Heidi Hanson, of Soldotna, and friends had a productive outing wildlife watching on Skilak Lake Loop Road last week. They saw a moose, this black bear, which had two cubs, another sow black bears with three cubs, and one other black bear.

Photo courtesy of Mandy Stahl-Reeder. Heidi Hanson, of Soldotna, and friends had a productive outing wildlife watching on Skilak Lake Loop Road last week. They saw a moose, this black bear, which had two cubs, another sow black bears with three cubs, and one other black bear.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Heidi Hanson, of Soldotna, has for several years spent her summer evenings making the drive to the 19-mile-long Skilak Lake Loop Road to look for wildlife. Most years if she sees a bear every few forays she considers herself lucky, so this year has been nothing short of a wildlife-viewing jackpot.

“I’ve gone six or seven times this week and each time I’ve seen at least one bear, and on one of the days I saw a black bear with three cubs, another with two cubs and another single bear, all within about two miles and 15 minutes,” she said. “That’s definitely way more bears than I would usually see.”

Hanson has seen other wildlife, as well, primarily porcupines waddling down the road, nearly every time she has been out that way. Her belief is that more animals are in the area as a result of the nearly 306-square-mile Funny River Fire, which is still burning in some places south of Skilak Lake.

While this observation is anecdotal, Kevin Hayes, of Kasilof, also had some unusual animal sightings in his neck of the peninsula when the fire peaked near Kasilof, and as recently as last week.

“The day after the fire was close and had filled the area with thick smoke, I saw caribou down along the Kasilof River in the flats area around Last Chance Hole, where Coal Creek comes down,” he said.

“Then, a few days ago, while driving home on the Sterling Highway, I was just coming up on the guardrailed section just south of the bridge across the Kasilof River when I saw something big pop out of the woods,” he said.

Over the last decade and a half that Hayes has lived in Kasilof, he has seen many coyotes while driving between home and Kenai or Soldotna, but said that this wild canine wasn’t one of them.

“This was a big, tall, good-looking wolf. I got to within 40 yards of it. It just casually moved into the clearing adjacent to the road, then crossed the highway,” he said. “Seeing two species I’ve never seen before (in this area), I would think the fire had something to do with it.”

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under wildfire, wildlife