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Friday, July 3, 2015

Sharing our World

I am astounded that it is already 4th of July weekend.
While I sometimes complain about the rain, it is keeping the wildflowers blooming - and that's a wonderful thing!
It's getting to the time of year when bear food, like berries, should start flourishing. However, the usual foods are not appearing yet. For example, every year about now, buffalo berries usually turn deep red and weigh down the branches of their bushes. However, this year, I don't even see green berries yet.
I am hearing rumors of bears trying to find food near houses, and people calling for the trapping and "euthanizing" (i.e., shooting) of bears. It makes me sad and angry. Should a bear be killed because it followed its nose to the food that you left outside? I think not.

I wish that people who choose to live in the mountains would take responsibility for the wildlife with whom they share the habitat. For the sake of bears, that means locking down all food sources, and taking responsibility if you make a mistake that lures a bear close to your house.

To be honest, I fear for our biggest bear, Tiny. He's such a huge bear that he scares people far more than other bears. And the descriptions I've read of sightings make me fear that he's continuing to go near houses. My heart sinks when I imagine a world without Tiny marking trees and fathering cubs in our neck of the woods.
I am hoping that the voices of reason - the voices that say that we need to learn to live with magnificent animals like Tiny - eventually sway public thought. I am hoping that the obvious brute strength of Tiny doesn't mean that he is killed by humans.

I, for one, want to share my world with the wildlife, even the ones who have the physical capabilities to kill me if they so choose. In fact, today, I almost crossed paths with a mountain lion. I found her photo at a trail camera, and it showed that she'd been there just minutes before me.
I never saw her today, although she was probably nearby. For me, it's wonderful knowing that these large predators can share the world with us, being invisible ghosts of the forest when they want to be.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Rainy and Sunny Thursday

Today has been a very odd summer day for our neck of the woods. The sun will shine and then the world turns dark. In the next instant, a steady rain falls, drenching mountain bikers, dogs, and flowers.
Just as fast, the rain will stop, and the sun will shine, quickly drying a mountain biker's clothes, making the rain a distant memory. We rode through the storms and played in the flowers when the sun shined.
After one shower, I noticed the beauty of the a drenched Columbine.
After the next shower, I noticed the wild roses with raindrops on them.
Then, a steady rain ambushed me. Between that rain and some fatigue, it seemed to be time to call it a day. Time to rest.

And now it looks nice enough to sit on the deck. A strange but beautiful day...

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Bathing Bears

It is summertime. We and our pups play in the fields, enjoying nature's beauty.

Even the Columbines next our house (planted by me, the one with black thumb) are blooming!
Summer is in full swing.

Consequently, the bears are going about their lives in the forests near us. It's been warm lately so the few pools of water have become more popular. A young female bear took a bath in a pool with breaks to mark a nearby bear tree. She has a "mohawk" fur pattern so I thought that I'd call her "Mohawk" for now.

Sadly, I am starting to believe that there is open territory for a young sow or even two - which may be why an almost-adult sow is moving into the area. Two years ago, we delighted in watching the antics of Cinnamom with her two cubs and Mabel with her single cub. So far, I have not seen either of those sows this year. Healthy sows have cubs every 2 years so this year should be a cub year for both of them. I'm holding out hope that they may still appear but I'm also realistic. It's not easy for a bear to live a long life in such close proximity to their worst enemies - humans.

Here is a video of Mohawk taking baths and marking the tree. Notice that she carefully uses her paw to rub her face while bathing. She also rubbed her face on a pine cone. I think she had an itchy face!

I will be sharing more footage from a different pool in the near future. Not only did Tiny the Bear soak in it but a hawk, owl, and a mountain lion visited it! These pools are fountains of life for the wildlife in the summer.

Happy Summer!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Summer's Bounty

The yellow flowers, a meadow species of Arnica, continue to astound me. I've never seen so many bloom for so long. A few are starting to wilt so I know that this phase of summer paradise will pass before too long. For now, I'll keep soaking it up!
Shyla adores running in this meadow.
And it's an amazing sight to see as she rhythmically pops up out of the flowers before disappearing down into them for an instant.
As we meandered toward home, I spotted a patch of Columbines. One had just opened and looked brilliant.
Also, on our way home, we stopped to check a wildlife camera. A pair of bachelor elk had been there with their fuzzy velvet antlers. Some male elk stay down at our elevation for the summer, and they are often called the "bachelor herd". The first bull elk didn't yet have a massive rack.
But the second one's antlers looked very promising!
Last, but certainly not least, a bobcat had looked straight at the camera as he passed it early this morning.
We have so many bobcats here that they fill my wildlife cameras' memory cards with photos. What I loved about this photo was the sensation of his forward motion combined with his obvious eye contact with the "hidden" camera.

Here's to the summer wildflowers, elk, and bobcats!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sunset Sunday

The days of afternoon thunderstorms sometimes bring gorgeous sunsets. That's happened a few times recently.

Last night's sunset featured unique cloud formations on the western horizon.

When the setting sun paints the eastern sky in brilliant colors, it's a chance to capture a canine silhouette... The rock that Shyla stood on for this photo is the same one where I've seen coyotes standing to survey the meadows below. Perhaps we should name it "Coyote Rock".
Happy Sunday!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Black Dog

Our black dog, R, is having a great summer. He and the Runner have run lots of mountain trails. And R has had the chance to swim a lot!

In fact, he's been so busy with running that I rarely get to take his photo. But, here it is, our black dog in the yellow flowers!
We are thrilled that we decided to wait until later for his elbow surgery. The tentative plan is to have his elbow surgery this fall. However, he's been doing so well with daily anti-inflammatories that we occasionally allow ourselves the luxury of thinking that he might be able to wait even longer.

Part of our reason for waiting was that mountain summers are so special. They are short due to our elevation. So, we seize the days to have as much fun as we can. We didn't want R to miss a summer while he recovered from major elbow surgery.

I get to take photos of Shyla's fun more often than R's. It is so hard for me to believe that this meadow had deep snow on it so recently. That's probably why the flowers have gone wild this year!
It's not just the meadow's yellow flowers but all the flowers are going wild.
Happy Saturday to you! I hope that you can enjoy the beauty of the world around you!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Of Moose, Lions, and Flowers

Today dawned stormy, right from the start. The mountains disappeared behind the clouds.
Shyla and I took an easy mountain bike ride. I badly tweaked my neck/shoulder recently, and I've been trying to let it heal. I think it's improving... but sometimes the side-effects of my spinal problems feel endless.

During our ride, on a trail that I have no qualms about taking Shyla on, I found some interesting photos on one of my trail cameras. Our young male moose, who grew up with his mom in our neck of the woods, has returned. I know from my cameras that he'd walked about 5 miles away from here but I guess he didn't like what he found.

He and his mom spent a lot of time near this trail camera last winter. More recently, I also know that his mom and her new calf have foraged near here. I'm not sure what would transpire if he met his mom again in the forest. I suspect that she'd tell him to go away. It's time for him to find his own territory.
The next photo gives you perspective on how tall this relatively "small" moose is, especially compared to the next animal who passed this camera.
The next animal was a mountain lion. She was not huge, as lions go, but she looked positively tiny compared to the moose. She stood stock still in that spot for a long time, perhaps picking up the scent of the moose?
Then she walked onward. I have wondered recently if a mountain lion could take down a yearling moose. I now think it's unlikely, after seeing the size comparison at this camera.
 I will never get over how much fun it is to peek into the wild animals' lives with my trail cameras.

Happy Friday to all of you! We will keep enjoying our yellow flowers for as long as they keep blooming so we'll try to visit them again this weekend.
In the mountains, life seems to zip by faster because the spring and summer are so short. That truly teaches me to immerse myself in whatever is most beautiful at the moment. Right now, it's yellow flowers and Columbines!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Summer of Shyla

I haven't talked much about Shyla's training and socialization lately. The main reason is that she's doing pretty well.
We scale back our in-town training in the summer because it's just so hot down there. Our only in-town excursions are when she goes with me to Physical Therapy and occasionally we make a stop at a dog-friendly hardware store.

When people ask to meet her, I reply that "she's sometimes fearful so I always let Shyla decide whether she feels like meeting someone that day". In the past couple of months, I can think of only one person who Shyla chose not to meet (by hanging back away from him). He was very respectful that shy dogs need to have their space, and he didn't try to force things. I think that part of our recent success is that I've learned how to smoothly handle people who want to meet Shyla - and they follow my instructions.
Aside from that one individual, Shyla has done incredibly well with new people recently. When we meet individual people on the trails, Shyla initiates interaction, usually ending up giving them kisses! I tend to stand back and watch with incredible happiness about how well-adjusted Shyla has become. I think this sweet outgoing dog was hiding inside Shyla all along but she was too scared to act upon her innate people-loving instincts.
Larger groups still scare her. But she musters her courage to pass by them. One weekend, we came upon about a dozen(!) male mountain bikers (the largest group I've ever seen in our area), all standing along both the sides of the trail with their bikes next to them. The trail itself was clear and there was no way to go around them.

Shyla made herself look smaller than usual and walked very slowly through the tunnel created by the group, as if she could be invisible if she was low enough to the ground and going slowly enough. I was a little mad that the bikers laughed at her odd behavior but that didn't really matter. I was mainly proud of Shyla for finding that courage. Last year, she would have never walked through the tunnel.

This is becoming the Summer of Shyla for me. I feel like she's blossoming into the dog she was always meant to be. She'll never be as outgoing as some Labs but I love her just the way she is.
Thank you, sweet Shyla.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wordless Wednesday - A typical early summer day



Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Springtime New Life

The flowers are indescribably lush. Shyla is barely taller than some of the Golden Banner flowers. She forged her way through on parts of our morning mountain bike ride.
And the blooming Columbines are incredible, blooming beneath the canopy of an aspen grove!
At one point, we came upon a baby Grouse sitting in the middle of the trail. The baby flew straight up to a low branch, and we stood still to watch.

The poor baby grouse, on perhaps his first flight, had landed near a hummingbird nest. The mother hummer was furious.
But the Grouse just sat stock still ignoring the buzzing hummingbird who flew all around him in a frenzy.
Seeing how we'd messed up the fragile peace of the forest, I decided that we'd better leave so the poor baby grouse could go where he wanted.

The forest is teeming with new life, and I love it.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Life in the Balance

We live in such a bountiful and beautiful area that I am awed by it daily.
If you know the area, the open space is plentiful. Fields of flowers can be enjoyed in solitude.
With the open space comes wildlife. I love the wildlife, and I strive to coexist peacefully with them. I try to learn as much as I can about each species to help me be a better steward for the wildlife. Through my trail cameras, I even "get to know" individual animals, like Tiny the Black Bear.
Last week, Tiny seemed to have a sow following him. It doesn't matter that she was a couple of days behind. She could still use his scent to track him down. This is how mating season for bears works - the males mark every tree they can find. The females evaluate the scents and decide which males to pursue. I don't know this female. She looks familiar but she's not a long-term local bear.
A bit further up the bear route, Tiny continued his walk, passing a tree that he'd marked six days earlier.
Here was his marking of the tree. He probably felt he didn't need to remark it on 6/15 because no other bears had marked it since him.
The female bear continued to follow, passing that same tree. I really hope that she caught up with Tiny!
There's been some unrest in our community. Homeowners are saying that a "huge bear" has been attacking their birdfeeders and even going into unlocked houses. If, indeed, it is a "huge bear" - it must be Tiny. Interestingly, we've had three bears visit our clearing but all were smaller bears - Tiny was not among them. Another interesting thing to note is that none of the reports include any aggressive behavior by a bear.

Since I've had trail cameras, I have the privilege of seeing Tiny just "being a bear" out in the forest. Knowing him through my cams makes me far more empathetic toward him. However, I'm not sure that my empathy for him would be well received by all.

I think that our community needs to put away all food sources, lock our doors, and thereby help the bears to survive. Indeed, I just learned that our wildlife officials no longer give a bear "one free strike". If a bear has done something "bad", a trap is put out. Whatever bear is caught in the trap is killed, regardless of whether they've ever been reported before.
(This is just one photo of another long bath Tiny took in the "secret pool" the other day. I hope to make a video from the footage soon.)

Let's all hope that the natural foods that bears love to eat ripen very soon. I think that our cold May slowed the development of their favorite foods, which led some bears to follow their noses to houses for food.

I sure hope that we get to watch Tiny for many more years to come. The life of a majestic animal hangs in the balance, and I hope our community does what it takes to let him live.