by Charly Kearns | July 2016
Many people are surprised to hear that summer is a bit slower for land stewardship activities. Once the weather turns hot and dry, our task list dries up a bit as well. Tree planting takes place in the wet fall and winter months and the bulk of our weed control activities occur in the spring and early summer. Of course, our volunteers’ bloody arms and legs tell you we are in the middle of blackberry control, but overall we have a little more time for fun projects. This involves some wandering in the woods, and some time at my favorite swimming holes. Another one of the projects I am really enjoying this summer is documenting wildlife presence and use of our Mount Rainier Gateway Protected Area.
Over the years that I have been exploring this protected area, I have been astounded at the amount of animal signs visible along the roads and trails. I have had my share of close encounters on the property as well. I was snowshoeing a few years ago, and surprised a sleeping herd of elk, bedding in the deep snow. I have seen a half dozen black bear and cubs, usually foraging on distant slopes or high tailing it down the road as I approach in my truck. I even got to see two bobcat kittens playing in the ditch. When they noticed me, they leapt nearly 6 vertical feet into a tree and scrambled away. Nearly every time I visit the property, I flush a ruffed or sooty grouse. It is apparent that animals use these roads much more than people and now we have an opportunity to get some images of these forest residents. The Nisqually Indian Tribe has graciously allowed us to borrow several motion sensor wildlife cameras. So now the hunt begins.
I installed the cameras in places where I have observed wildlife signs in the past, mostly on decommissioned forest roads. The Land Trust has been abandoning unnecessary roads on this property in order to reduce habitat fragmentation and the need for maintenance. These roads are quickly becoming forested, but they are still used by the animals. The cameras have been up for close to two months, and I recently collected them and downloaded the photos.While there are no big surprises, we did get a few good photos of some of our common residents. One camera location in particular seems to be a regular hang out spot for deer and elk. We also captured some pictures of two different black bears.
I’ve moved the cameras into some new spots to see if we can document any other species, so stay tuned for more pictures in the coming months!