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Monday, August 30, 2010

Explorations and K's deceptive behavior

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!


  1. Cool! What great pictures! Doesn't the bear marks scare you?

  2. So cool you guys get to pick your own rasberries. Aren't you scared of Smokey the Bear?
    Benny & Lily

  3. Bet my TD and Ciara would love those raspberries - they are big blueberry lovers. It would be so wonderful if you could find another new bear route - good luck

    I can so relate to the joy your time with K brings to you. Right now I am taking great comfort from all my pups - they can really help when you need it the most.

  4. Wonderful story! I too have witnessed this behavior in my dogs, not quite so perfectly planned, but with the same result....Tahoe will often play bow and groan in front of old Nelli when she is lying in the prime dog bed...she'll eventually get up and Tahoe will settle in....what a little stinker!
    Living each day and taking in nature is a wonerfully healthy and serene way to live.....I do that through your blog! Thank you! So glad K is feeling strong, and the picture of her posing....fantastic....

  5. Could your mystery plant be some variation of Jacob's Ladder? The leaves look similar, but it's hard to say. Whatever it is, it's beautiful!

    I had to laugh at the K story. When we had Treat and Hawk, Hawk used to pull the exact same trick on Treat. He'd bark like a squirrel was about to come in the screen door, and she'd run up there every time! Well, finally, she got wise to him, so he altered his plan. He'd run to the back door like he heard someone coming up. This required going through the kitchen, with the scary linoleum of death. Treat had to walk all the way across to the back hallway to be able to turn around and go back. Before she was halfway across the kitchen, he'd be laying on that dog bed, eyes closed, tongue lolled out of his goofy face. He also used to lure Blueberry away from what he wanted by getting out toys and getting her excited about playing, then taking her bed as soon as she was up. I saw it happen too many times to not believe that he planned it out!

    I love that picture of K on the arch! Wow!

  6. I've seen that T-shirt quote on bumper stickers, too. Great thought!

    This was a really fun read. Especially K's little trick. I hope you're able to discover some new hot spots so you can keep this project going. You keep us all so entertained and educated!

  7. First, how cute that they eat berries. Our Dal used to do that.

    Second, Ginko suckers Lilly the same way, and she never seems to catch on.

  8. I have seen and appreciated your videos, KB. The last photo is a wonderful shot of K.

  9. Hi KB, That flower is shaped like something in the vetch or pea families, and at first I even thought it could be Skullcap. However, that pronounced white x throws me off. (Sorry for these musings - obviously, I don't know!) That smart and wily K! How funny that she knows exactly what to do to get what she wants. I did a hike near Buena Vista on Cottonwood Pass today - it rained, and I wore 4 layers plus my fleece gloves! (I thought that was supposed to be the Banana Belt of CO!)

  10. That last photo is just great. Funny that the labraduo love raspberries. We used to grow raspberries commercially at the farm in Scotland and the two boyz would work their way along the dreels stripping clean the bottom layers. White and black dogs with crimson muzzles.

  11. The tone of your posts suggests newfound vitality!...that's great! Loved K's antic...I think there is going to be some of that in our household when the new little one arrives!
    Sending lotsaluv

  12. Our dogs are always playing tricks on one another in order to get a better toy or a better spot on the couch. They are quite amusing!

  13. You know we totally believe that dogs can plan ahead and devious schemes to get what they want. Love K's "creativity."

    P.S. - R, our experience is that the younger dogs repeatedly fall for the same tricks.

  14. Who would think sweet K would pull such a move on her little brother? She obviously has more wisdom...

    I admire your enthusiasm for exploring! I always have to convince myself to check out a new trail. I'm always glad when I do, but something about heading into the unknown gets me.

    I like how K and R let you know when animals are around. I know I rely on Kona to be my "eyes" when I'm staring at my feet during a run. It's usually comforting to know she'll alert me to animals in the area, but other times, being blissfully unaware is nice.

  15. Hi Sallie,

    Thanks for visiting! The bear marks don't scare me for I've had many encounters with these mostly timid creatures over the years. Every single time, they turned tail and ran. So, I actually look forward to catching a glimpse of one.

    Last winter, I found a bear den, and my wildlife cams captured amazing play among the mother and two yearling cubs. You can link to the videos from the right sidebar. They played the most on 3/29 (so you can choose the best videos).

    If you watch the mother bear with those cubs, it's hard not to empathize with these amazing animals.


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