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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wordless Wednesday

Eyes locked on mine, she took flight.

 Eyes locked on the treat, she snarfed it.

The next try was less graceful but funnier.
I love this dog more every day.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Springtime on our Mountain

Since the big snow, Shyla and I have been walking in the forest (with me on snowshoes) rather than mountain biking. Very few people have been braving the snow to go into the forest so we have no worries about who we might meet. I must say that Shyla has seemed super happy!
We play all sorts of games while we're out on the trails. Prior to this storm, Shyla spent a lot of time looking over her shoulder, seemingly worried about who or what might be behind her when I tried to play games with her. That hypervigilance started after the evil woman hit her. Since the storm, she has been totally focused on our games.

A lot of our games are "recall" games. An off-leash dog needs to come when called, especially because we share the forest with moose, mountain lions, and bears.

Indeed, as I sat writing this, a moose ambled past our windows. Moose are a HUGE reason why we need to practice recalls! The moose outside our window looked a lot like this one who I saw about a week ago. She was obviously shedding - albeit a little too soon!

She was comfortable enough with me a good distance away (long lens in use!) that she started grooming.

Just after the moose ambled through our clearing today, it started snowing - again. Just today, I could see some serious snow melting and felt hope that we'd see the ground again sometime soon. Alas, tonight may bring us another few inches of snow.
All that we can do is soak up warmth from the fireplace and hope that springtime really arrives sometime before autumn!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Nearing the end of a bear family's time in their den

You all may remember that last winter (2015-16), I had trail cameras pointed at a bear den. A sow chose the den as hers for the winter. She gave birth to two cubs, a black male and a brown female, in late January.

There was little activity, aside from a red fox going halfway into the den, until April. After the cubs starting going outside the den, my cameras recorded thousands of videos and photos. I wrote posts covering the time until about the end of April, when the cubs were becoming very active. I have a list of all the posts at the end of this one.

When I'd gone through all of the footage through the end of April, I ran out of steam.

Just yesterday, I realized that we were at the anniversary of the date that the bear family departed the den last year. I wanted to finish sharing the footage that I collected before they departed.

At the end of April, a few things happened with my trail cams at the den. Two had dead batteries, and the cubs had rearranged the others, changing which way they were pointing so that the angles were ridiculous.

I knew that those things might happen but I didn't want to disturb the family in the spring to check my trail cams. The possibility of accidentally scaring them when they were playing outside the den horrified me so I stayed away from March until June.

It turns out that those cams pointed at crazy angles by the cubs were recording some fun photos and videos!

On May 2, the pair of cubs played vigorously in front of one cam which captured some great photos of each of them. You can see the clear difference in color between them in this photo.

After the photo of the pair was taken, the black cub stayed at the tree, climbing and chewing on the bark.

I love seeing his cute little face so clearly.

He already had big claws, essential for climbing.

Then Brownie came over to take his spot on the tree.

She, too, wanted to chew on the bark.

Then, Blackie practiced climbing.

At this age, their noses are so pink that they look almost like pig's noses.

The forest near their den was like a giant jungle gym.

To give you a sense of how tiny the cubs still were, here is their mom arriving to check on them. Note a cub to her left.

She led them back to the den. Do you see the two obedient little cubs on her heels? That's how they moved through the forest for most of last summer.

On the date of those photos, the cubs and their mom were still 19 days from leaving the den. The single most critical skill for them after leaving the den is being able to climb trees. They flee predators by going straight up trees very high and very fast. Often, their mom will stay at the base of the tree, charging anyone approaching it, to protect the cubs.

On the day of all those photos, the two cubs spent a lot of time climbing the trees in front of their den. Somehow, one of the cams that they'd rearranged captured it beautifully.

I made a video of their climbing. At the end, you also hear and see a common sequence. When the cubs wanted to nurse, they went into the den. If mom wasn't there, they started bawling to call her. That happened at the end of the sequence - be sure to listen for the bawling at the very start of the clip. They seemed to take several one hour breaks for nursing and rest during the day.

You can watch the video here or at Youtube.


For those of you who would like to go back and see the previous bear den posts and sightings of the family after they left the den, here are the links.

At the Den
Cubs are born
Mom and cubs snuggled in den
Fox in the Bear Den and 1st cub sighting
First Cub Sighting Outside the Den
Cub Antics after their Mom finally let them stay outside the den
Wild Cub Play #1
Wild Cub Play #2 
Wild Cub Play #3
Cub Rescue by Mom
Cute Cub Photos from early May at the Den
Photo bonanza

Last summer after the family left the den
First appearance of the family since leaving the den
Bear family near my house
One cub separated from family and was very distressed (he found them - don't worry!)
The whole family appears at watering hole

I'll be posting a few more videos about their time at the den. I'm also hoping that we get to see the mother bear and cubs before the family breaks up this spring. At the start of mating season, the mother will chase away her cubs. It's a tough phase for the cubs, on their own for the first time. In the long run, the black male will need to leave the area to find his own territory. In contrast, the brown female will take a territory close to her mother's territory and will begin raising her own cubs in a few years.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sunshine and Snow!

The sun woke me out of a deep slumber this morning, shining through our east facing bedroom windows.

I opened the door onto the deck, and I saw that hummingbirds were devouring our sugar water. I suspect that feeders helped these tiny birds survive this storm.

Shyla and I headed out for a hike on the trails soon after breakfast. The trail that we've been snowshoeing for the past few days was starting to be easier for walking.

But then we reached the end of the packed trail, entering the last frontier! Shyla led the way.

Soon thereafter, she fell into my tracks and showed just how tired she was as she slumped against the edge of the tracked part of the snow.
We turned around soon thereafter. Both of our legs were feeling fatigue from the past couple of days of slogging through this cement snow.

Thanks to the sun, snow bombs rained down throughout the forest and often on us. In this photo, green aspen leaves have a rain of snow falling behind them. I love the juxtaposition of green spring leaves and falling snow.

Snowshoeing kills my spine, leaving me in agony. So, I headed out to spin on my bike on our dirt roads after snowshoeing. I heard the tapping of a bird on something metallic. I spotted a Williamson's Sapsucker on a utility pole. I love his vibrant colors!
Today felt as if we were returning to springtime. Now we await for the several feet of snow on the ground to melt. The creeks will be raging and the wildlife watering holes will be full soon!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Trials of Deep May Snow for Us and the Wildlife

Our snow barely melted today, and it became even closer to concrete in consistency. It took a Herculean effort to snowshoe through it or to gallop, as you can see from Shyla's look early in our hike this morning.

Her energy was lagging quite early in the hike. I'm not surprised - it was so hard to move through this snow. Early in our hike, her technique was to rise up above the snow like in the photo below.

Then, she'd launch herself forward, trying to stay above the snow.

And that was just one stride. She had to do it again and again, and she began to look less enthusiastic.

The launching was the hard part.
After seeing how very hard she was working, I suggested that she try walking behind me. She could go at my snail's pace for short periods and then she'd launch herself into the snow again. She amazes me!

As I watched her and felt how hard it was for me to walk even in snowshoes, I thought about the wild animals. I remembered our 7 foot blizzard more than a decade ago, and the way I'd seen single file elk tracks through the meadows after that storm. I imagined a rotating echelon of elk, like a group of bike racers.

After I hiked with Shyla, I found some dirt roads in decent shape for some outdoor biking. I felt lucky to get to see elk moving through the concrete snow - single file, as I had guessed.

The smaller ones were having substantially more trouble. They were probably the calves born last summer. You can see the two calves in the very back of this foursome.

This was my favorite of the photos because it shows how hard the elk were working to move through the snow. 

I feel for the animals who have already given birth to their young. One example is black bears. At this time last year, the sow and cubs in the den where I had trail cameras were in their last days at their den. Look how tiny the cubs still were!

Here was Mom (from the same camera), for size comparison. Her face is scarred by mange, a common occurrence during the winter for bears.
With how small the cubs were, they would have had a horrific time trying to move around in this snow. I suspect that, this year, mother bears are either still in their dens or have holed up under a pine tree keeping their cubs snuggled against their chests nursing.

Life in the mountains isn't easy but somehow our wildlife flourish despite the hardships.

Friday, May 19, 2017

From Flowers to a Blizzard

Yesterday, I was reveling in the flowers that had begun to bloom. Some yellows were showing up in our meadows.

A small patch of Irises stood out bright and tall in a south-facing meadow.

A very old apple tree was covered in zillions of blossoms yesterday. It has never had more than a couple of blossoms in the many years that I've observed it.

And, to my utter surprise, my favorite orchids had burst into bloom weeks ahead of time. I didn't even have my favorite camera for photographing them with me. And, alas, I fear that these orchids and the other blossoms were killed overnight.

We awakened to this view out our bedroom window this morning. We have had more that three feet of snow so far and more is falling. On the left, our "La Fuma" deck chair looks like a sculpture. I wrote yesterday's blog post while sitting in it on the deck. On the right, our patio table has snow up to the bottom of its surface and then several feet of snow on top of it.

Shyla and I went out for a very short and slow slog through the cement-like snow. She was immediately in over her head but leaped up and out, starting her porpoising gait that she saves for snow that is deeper than she is tall.

She was fantastically happy the entire time, which makes me smile no matter what! Absolutely nobody else had tried to go in the forest besides us. I wonder if her carefree joy was possible because she felt so safe from other people.

It seems odd to see green aspen leaves in the midst of the snow. That's a big problem with this storm. Our aspens were tricked into leafing out early by warm weather, and now they're weighed down by very dense snow. I hope that we don't lose too many.
Look at the insane happiness in Shyla's eyes!

Even during our short hike, it seemed like the snow got even deeper as it fell incredibly heavily. This photo is from the very end of our hike.

Yes, this all happened in late May. I did get out on my fat bike for a short tour of our roads. Even our "main" dirt road wasn't really plowed. But our driveway was in fine shape thanks to help from one of our wonderful neighbors!
Happy Snowy May! Our world desperately needed this snow so it's a gift, even if it's not my idea of idyllic May weather!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Thankful for Shyla's Progress but still Hoping for More

Today is Thankful Thursday. I have mixed up feelings about the epilepsy journey that we've been on. On the one hand, I am incredibly grateful that Shyla's seizures are under control.
We are expecting 2-3 FEET of snow over the next couple of days

She can live almost her normal life, and we know how lucky we are that she's able to do that. We know how much more dire things could be. We are filled with gratitude that life is almost normal.
Most of the reason why her seizures are under control is that she's been taking phenobarbital for a couple of months. She hasn't had a seizure since she started it but she had a very hard time adapting to it. First, she was uncoordinated and almost drunken. Then, her enthusiasm for activity went into free fall. She was gradually returning toward normal in the weeks before our trip to the Utah desert.

While we were in the desert, I thought that Shyla was completely better. She seemed more energetic, happy, and carefree. She even learned to run happily in her boots!

However, since we've returned home, I've felt as as if a small bit of her has gone missing again. It's mostly during our morning mountain bike rides that I notice it. It's a loss of enthusiasm. Usually, she starts out very happy but then becomes subdued. I had been attributing it to phenobarbital.
Then, my good friend suggested that it might actually be fall-out from the evil woman who hit Shyla during a mountain bike ride. For those of you who missed that story, a woman hit Shyla across the face with no provocation. I'd just given Shyla permission to "go say hi", because I mistakenly thought that the woman was one of our kind neighbors.

That incident hurt both of us very badly. Fortunately, Shyla seemed to be okay physically. However, the emotional toll has been bigger. She's more tentative in the forest, not romping exuberantly like she used to to do. Just recently, she has finally started approaching people again. Because 99.9% of my neighbors are wonderful people, they've been helping Shyla recover by being so kind to her when they see her on the trails.  She's now approached three women since the evil woman hit her.
I'd be lying if I said that the event didn't take a toll on me too. A bit of history will help explain why it upset me so much. Many years ago, we had our first pair of Labs, Rover and Astro. To make a long story short, Rover was shot to death while we were hiking. The shooter was convicted of several charges, including a felony, but that didn't help heal me at all. It took me a long time and counseling to get past my inability to trust strangers and my fear of someone hurting another one of our dogs.

This recent event has shown me that the scar from that murder was not completely healed. Since the woman unexpectedly belted Shyla, I've been hypervigilant in the forest, always scanning for danger in the form of people who might hurt Shyla. I'm sure that she picks up on my anxiety, which is not helpful to her.

So, the question that I keep asking myself if whether that last piece that seems to be missing from Shyla, the exuberance factor, was stolen by the phenobarbital or by the woman who hit her. I'm starting to leaning toward the latter.
In any case, I am so thankful that Shyla's seizures are under control and that our sweet girl is generally okay. She's been through a lot in the past months, and I'm still hopeful that her full exuberance for life will return soon.