Friday, July 10, 2009

Foxes and Other Critters, June 11, 2009

Well before light this morning, as I stood in my yard listening to the dawn chorus of thrushes and purple martins, I saw a little fox flash past me in a blur carrying something quite large in its mouth. Are they hunting on their own now? Then dad appeared and gave his usual warning growls. I can stand staring at him, and even though I tell myself I know this fox is not dangerous to me, his growl, and especially the bark, make me jump and the hair rise on the back of my neck. His bark always hits its mark as I react from my ancient animal roots: a moment of the raw wild inside me.

Here are the little owlets and a comment from their careful handler: "The baby owls turned out to be Screech Owls, which will be about 6 inches tall when fully grown. They're eyes have opened, and I sent this photo along to all their fans because you can see the milky color of the pupil clearly. They can see a little shadow at this point, but are essentially blind. When the milky look starts to clear in a few days, they will imprint, and hopefully I'll have them established in a cage with my permanently disabled Screech Owl, Click, by then. He's missing a wing (had an accident with a car antenna one night). Click will raise them and they'll imprint on him and know they are Screech Owls so when they go out into the world to seek a mate, they'll find the right one. They can sit up on their ankles now, and they squabble, bite each other, sleep in a big fluffy pile, and eat their weight in minced mice daily. Sooooo cute.

And here is another treat! About six years ago I created interpretive panels for Manchester Beach State Park. My task was to illustrate the Point Arena Mountain Beaver, an endangered subspecies threatened with extinction by cattle grazing, dogs off leash, and human activity crushing their burrow. This small rodent is only very distantly related to a true beaver, and burrows in the ground in dampish areas. I spent hours sitting beside a burrow hole, bundled against the cold night wind, waiting to see one so I could draw it. Alas, I saw none, and had to rely on blurry photos and a very short, fuzzy video. I actually did not do too badly. My drawings on the panels look much like this little animal. Take a look at the drawings on my website:

The mountain beaver is thought to be one of the oldest mammals on earth, relatively unchanged for 40 million years. It does not have a fully formed kidney, as mammals do today.

Currently, a researcher is trapping mountain beavers at Manchester to study, so he sent me this photo. This mountain beaver is being handled gently, but firmly, so it does not get hurt. Once studied it is carefully released where it was found.


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