I've been exploring, exploring, and exploring in the forest that sits between me and the mountains in the photo above. It's now obvious to me exactly how lucky my wildlife finds of the past year were. Since the start of 2010, I've stumbled on two mountain lion fresh kills, found an occupied bear den, and then, completely by chance, pointed a wildlife camera at a bear marking tree during the ursine mating season. Moreover, I discovered that the wildlife corridor where my bear camera stood guard actually had dozens of pine saplings mauled by marauding bears ready to mate. Now that I'm trying to make finds like those ones, I'm having little luck. If you want to see some of the footage from my lucky finds of the past year, check out the right side bar where I have a list of links to my "Wildlife photos/videos".
I feel certain that the long line of bear marking trees spread over 5 miles in our forest that I discovered this summer is not the only path that our bears mark during mating season. My goal is to find the other paths that are lined with their marking trees. This goal has led to some very interesting hikes, through land rarely visited by humans, but has not uncovered any "hot spots" like the one that I accidentally found this summer. The Duo don't care - they've been having a blast! They stay on leash in these sensitive areas, and if we find a "hot spot", I never take them to it again for fear of scaring off the wildlife.
Actually, the dogs are some help in identifying "hot spots". Often, they signal that interesting animals have been around, like in this photo of them both staring into the same section of forest.
Both dogs have also had ample raspberry foraging time during our explorations. They are wild about raspberries! R didn't discover raspberries until he watched his sister eating them this summer. He even emulates her very delicate method of removing the berries from the bushes.
Yesterday evening, K and I went exploring. We found an exquisite flower that I've never seen before and cannot find in any of my wildflower books. Do any of you recognize it?
We also found a bear scratching tree, gouged deeply by a large pawed bear reaching just as high as a tall bear can reach. However, no other bear trees stood in the vicinity.
Then, as we relaxed at home yesterday evening, devious K pulled a trick that she's mastered. When her brother R settles into a comfortable spot that she wants, usually a prime snuggling position, K stares out a window and barks ferociously like we're being attacked by aliens. R always streaks to the window while barking wildly to protect us while K makes a beeline to his former position without another glance toward the window. It is absolutely obvious that she never thought that there was a threat lurking outside the window. Rather, she played a trick on her gullible younger brother to steal his prime position. I wonder when R will stop believing her alarm barks?
It seems to me that a behavior like K's shows that dogs can plan ahead and even behave deceptively to get what they want, assertions that animal behavior specialists might question. However, I don't see any other explanation.
This morning, K and I rolled out into a cool late summer morning. From her first steps, I could tell that K felt fabulous and euphorically happy. In contrast, I felt tired and ready to go back to bed. However, I was so happy to see K bursting with energy that it lifted my spirits. She had a long subdued phase while she was taking very strong antibiotics for a recurrent urinary track infection, and I kept worrying that something big was going wrong inside her. After those worries, watching her zoom around is a joy!
We visited our favorite (and only) arch near our house where K zoomed straight to the most dramatic perch.
Then, we sat side-by-side in the sun with me running my fingers through her sun-warmed fur. My time with her each day makes me very happy.
After our relaxed time near the arch, we turned toward home, retracing our path. However, K acted as if a scary animal had used the trail between our two passings. On the way home, she suddenly started snarling and sprinting with her nose on the ground. I called her back but she wouldn't even look at me for long enough to take a treat. Something downhill of us had her spooked. This scarily protective behavior is reserved by K for bears and mountain lions. When we encounter other animals or their scent, she acts interested in chasing but not at all protective. So, I'm pretty sure that one of our largest carnivores had just used the trail.
How I love living in such a wild place! I just saw a sweatshirt that says "Keep the woods bearable" - with a picture of a mother bear and a cub. I second that thought!