The men say these are laboring days which sounds to me like they expect me to do something. Already I’ve climbed some rocks to sit in the sun and ran away from what I thought was a wasp but was really a bumbly-bee and dug some ground out of my burrow (because the cold time is coming and the deeper the burrow, the better) and then I took a nap. So with all that I think I’ve done a lot of laboring but if these are the days to labor maybe I should do more. Even though the men are just sitting around and don’t seem to be doing much of anything. Maybe laboring days means something different to them.
Considering some recent….experiences…we’ve had while hiking, maybe it’s time to re-fresh and re-post a story about something that you, really, don’t want to see when it’s fresh. Yet…
We’ve all been there. Walking along, enjoying a pleasant day, when on the ground right in front of us is a big pile of dog poop. Or you discover a cat has decided your freshly-planted flowerbed is the perfect place to use as his private toilet. So we step over it, or pick it up, or reason that in the long run it’s fertilizer that might even be beneficial to our garden. After all, what harm could come from a few pets pooping in the environment.
Well, a lot of harm. Because the diet of our cats and dogs has changed over the generations they’ve lived with us, they’re not the same animals as the wild wolf or bobcat. As species, dogs and cats have been domesticated – lived with men – for tens of thousands of years, and in all that time their behavior and possibly even physiology – basic physical processes – have changed to they can better live with humans and enjoy the food and shelter we provide. (Some pet cats like to think they’re still wild, but they’re just fooling themselves). So the wild diets these species historically ate have been replaced with canned animal-and-grain-by-products, and crunchy-beef-flavored-kibble-bits. While most many of the ingredients in pet food is good quality (‘rendered-meat-meal-slurry’??), there are lots of other things in there, including chemicals and preservatives and artificial colors and assorted additives and even parasites and diseases carried over from some of the food sources – that cats and dogs have over time become tolerant of, but like all contaminants eventually pass through the body and end up somewhere.
And that somewhere, if it’s on a hiking trail – or edge of the sidewalk (to be washed away! Into our water systems) – or dumped from a litter box onto the ground – can cause a lot of problems for the environment:
> Modern pet food is so extra-rich in nutrients, it can cause algae blooms if it enters a stream, lake, or other water system. Algae plants (generally green or blue-green algae named cyanobacteria), always present in a healthy aquatic ecosystem, thrive on the excess nutrients and grow out of control until they block sun and oxygen from reaching deep into the water. If the thick concentrations of algae continue, all life in the lake could die.
> Dog and cat poop can carry multiple parasites and diseases that might not harm the pet but could be passed on to other animals. Infectious organisms usually need host animals to survive until they are transmitted to their next unsuspecting victim. And most of these diseases and parasites can affect humans, causing anything from flu-like symptoms to temporary changes in the brain to death.
> The Environmental Protection Agency – the US Government Department responsible for tracking and controlling many hazardous materials – has classified dog and cat waste as an dangerous pollutant, joining the list of oil spills, chemical toxins, and other things that require wearing a HAZMAT suit to clean up.
You can imagine what photos would go with this story. So here’s a totally unrelated picture of a Kodiak brown (‘grizzly’) bear exploring his home. Of course he’d probably eat any cat or dog he found pooping in his territory.
So whenever your dog does ‘his duty’ remember to pick up the poop, and at home bury the waste in approved containers that dissolve the material or seal in bags and place in the trash. It doesn’t help to leave poop to ‘naturally’ decompose on the ground – eventually the organic waste will break down, but leave behind any pathogens and chemical contaminants. Plus it will probably kill your lawn. If you have a cat, train him to go in the litter box; then it’s up to you to remove the poop and place in the trash. Despite how smart your cat might be because he learned to use the toilet all by himself (!), approximately 50% of all Sea Otters (Enhydra lutris) – an Endangered Species – have been found infected with Toxoplasma gondi, a parasite which needs to pass through the intestines of cats to survive. (In humans, this is the same parasite that can cause brain defects). And those cats are not pooping into the ocean by themselves. The only way eggs of this infectious protozoan could have reached the sea is by flushed water flowing through our city sewers and into the rivers that eventually go to the ocean. Taxoplasma eggs can live up to a year, and typical water treatment used in our cities won’t kill these microorganisms.
Dog and cat poop on the sidewalk; trail; lawn; or even flushed down the toilet isn’t just an inconvenience, it’s an ecological hazard that could pollute the water, leave toxins on the ground, and pass on parasites and disease. While picking up poop might not be the most satisfying time you spend with your pet, it’s part of being a responsible pet owner, and is a small way to care for the environment and wildlife. It’s only natural.
Michonne Says: Who would have thought there was so much to say about poop. I’d rather think about the flowers and berries and good things that go in, and not think of anything that comes out.
This year is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service (NPS). Hooray! Authorized on August 25, 1916 (of course), when US President Woodrow Wilson signed the ‘Organic Act’ (really), creating the Park Service and officially assigning management of the then-35 parks to the new Department. While this month marks the official start of the NPS, the history of national parks goes back many years earlier, when in 1872 Congress established Yellowstone National Park, the first ‘national park’ of it’s type in the world, natural spaces set aside for public recreation, education, and enjoyment.
During his 1901 – 1909 terms as President, Theodore Roosevelt (‘Teddy’) used his authority under the newly-established ‘Antiquities Act’ to name as National Monuments Devil’s Tower, Wyoming; El Morro, New Mexico; Montezuma Castle and Petrified Forest, Arizona; along with a large area of what is now Grand Canyon National Park. Always an outdoorsman and concerned about America’s national resources, deeply affected by his travels in the American West and camping trips in Yellowstone and Yosemite – another of the earliest-named parks – by the end of his service as President Teddy had set aside 18 significant cultural, environmental; or otherwise unique natural areas which later were incorporated into the NPS. He also personally scouted and marked trails in each of these areas; built cabins from trees he had fallen with his own ax; identified and cataloged every plant and animal within the areas; and greeted each park visitor as they arrived. Along with taking time to run for a third term as President. Well, maybe that’s somewhat exaggerated (except for the third term part, which ‘TR’ took on in 1912), but with his energy and enthusiasm, he would have done all those things, if he could.
“If not for this this ridiculous coat and hat forced upon me by propriety, I’d proceed to climb this tree and upon achieving the top, yell out ‘Bully’! Just because I can!”. Teddy Roosevelt, the first manly-man.
Not to be outdone, Teddy’s cousin, President Franklin Roosevelt, in 1933 transferred to the Park Service 56 monuments and sites administered by the Department of Agriculture and War Department (now known as Department of Defense. Because it sounds better to ‘defend’, rather than to ‘war’). Significant in the creation of the NPS we know today, this Executive Order set the foundation for additional Parks, Monuments and Sites which have been added through the actions of every President over the past 100 years. Formalized in 1970 through an act which recognized and authorized the Park Service to include all “miscellaneous areas administered in connection therewith” (the big words make it official), today’s National Parks have grown to more than 400 individual areas; of over 84 million acres; in all 50 states and outlaying areas under US management. And more areas are added every year. That’s quite a legacy that originated from the simple action of setting aside something unique and special for the future.
So this year – or every year, actually, but particularly during this 100 anniversary – everyone’s encouraged to get out and visit a National Park, Monument, or Site near you. There’s a location within a short driving distance of more than 80% of the American population. And with hundreds of sites and millions of acres to see, we’d better start now.
Michonne Says: With all those men making parks here and there you’d think I would have heard about it. I know there’s a ‘Monument Valley’ or something like that but if the men were really interested in making something special they would have made ‘Marmot Valley’. I’d visit there.
Humans think we’re pretty special. But other than the combination of our hands (which other animals have – from apes to squirrels); and large brain (that might even be larger and more complex in whales and dolphins); humans miss out on a lot of talents and abilities other species take for granted. Many animals are faster than the average human; can run, swim, and fly longer and further (humans, of course; can’t fly at all); have better hearing and sharper eyesight; and have learned to use resources in ways that allow for a thriving life now, without destroying what might be needed in the future. A skill humans are still struggling with. But aside from obvious differences, many animals hold hidden abilities that, by human standards, mirror the powers of any super-hero.
What we would see as a rather bland brown and grey owl becomes bright red under UV light. They just don’t want humans – or mice – to know how magnificent they are.
As far as we know, no animals can use time-travel or freeze rays or control others’ minds only through the power of their thoughts (although sometimes dogs seem to come close to achieving that one. OK, just one more treat). While heat- or x-ray vision isn’t something any animals seem to possess, many species have far greater ability to distinguish the color spectrum than humans could ever dream of: Some types of snakes and other reptiles can see infrared light, colors in the spectrum longer than reds, the highest colors humans can see; many insects depend upon shorter ultraviolet (or UV) light to help direct them to flowers; and it’s been recently discovered that some birds – particularly berry- and fruit-eating birds – not only possess UV abilities, but can adjust the structures in their eyes according to the time of day and surroundings. Special pigments, picked up through foods, are metabolized into the eye in ways that allow birds to adjust to higher or lower light waves, almost as we would use a camera filter or sunglasses. It’s not known if the birds actually choose how to apply these ‘filters’, if the effects can be varied or are constant, or even if the effect is temporary or long-lasting. What has been noted, however, that as the birds vision shifts, it also becomes more cloudy and unfocused. Because you can’t wipe your glasses on your sleeve when the filters are on the inside of your eyes.
Michonne Says: Flowers come in all colors and I’ve never known any marmot who looks through inferior lights or light spectumms or any of those other things in this story. But of all the flowers to eat the purpley ones are usually very tasty, so they must be those ultra-best-violet ones.
Ten-thousand pounds of trout is one big trout. Yet that’s what the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is about to release into Northern California waterways within the next few days. Although not one, really large trout (which would be about the size of an elephant), but thousands of far smaller, hatching trout that weigh about half and pound each. These Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) come from nearby fish hatcheries, both government- and privately-owned ‘fish farms’ that raise millions of baby fish each year, all eventually transferred to lakes, rivers and waterways.
While many of these fish eventually are caught by fishermen and end up as someones breakfast or dinner, others who are lucky or smart enough not to be fooled by plastic worms can live ten or more years; grow up to 50 pounds; and become the parents of hundreds of offspring. Unless, in their best efforts to avoid sportsmen the fish are eaten by bears. Or raccoons. Or birds. All of which are reasons thousands of fish have to be re-stocked each year and for job security, being a fish-farmer might be a good choice.
Fish stocking often includes a brief, but exciting, water-park slide.
Fish-stocking (or planting) is usually scheduled twice per year, in the Spring before summer heat raises water temperatures; and again in the Fall, so the fish have a few winter months to grow. But due to the California drought which is slightly less severe this year, fish are being moved into lakes and rivers to encourage and support the local fishing industry (someone’s got to buy all that bait), and fulfill the Fish and Wildlife Departments responsibilities of not only protecting and preserving wildlife and wild places; but providing recreational opportunities for outdoorsmen and adventurers. Although the fish would probably prefer we all stay home. They’ve got enough to worry about with the bears, raccoons and birds all ready and waiting for fish buffet.
Michonne Says: Phooey. Who would want to live in the water and be wet all the time? And where would you sleep because there’s no place to dig or even if you did make a hole water would fill it up. To me, none of this seems like those fish planned very well.
It’s been so hot I don’t know what to think. Even the windy air that usually helps keep things cool hasn’t been winding and that means it’s really, really hot. So marmots (and some other animals too that live underground like thin-tail squirrels and skunks and mices and even sometimes dangerous animals like ferrets and martens – which are NO relation to marmots) spend all day in our burrows, where it’s cool and dry and if you plan ahead even a snack. I’ve heard the men call this ‘estay-nation’ but to us it’s just taking a nap to stay out of the heat. In the cold times we go underground and nap too, this time to stay warm (and there’s not much outside to eat, anyway), and the men call this ‘hyper-vacation’ or something like that but those are just fancy men-words that they think make them look smarter than marmots. If men were that smart, they’d keep out of the heat.
Note: We think Michonne is talking about ‘estivation‘, which is animals spending more time underground – sometimes days or weeks – to keep out of the summer heat; and ‘hibernation‘, which is similar, but a more deeper and longer sleep which even lowers body temperature and heart rate, occurring during the winter.
Skytop, Triefur, and Henry, who live in this burrow, were scheduled for a photo but unable to attend. Because they are asleep.
Birds, fish, mammals and even insects migrate, at different times of the year, following various patterns and usually in response to changes in the weather or available food. Within every general group of animals (officially called a phylum), there’s at least a few species that regularly exchange a cool climate for warm; forests for grasslands; or north for south. Of all life on earth, plants and trees would probably be the least expected to move to another location. (Although that does help explain the saying ‘picking up your roots’). But in many Sierra Nevada forests, trees are moving – and not just swaying in the breeze, but for them, moving to a better neighborhood where they’re not looking for less traffic or quiet neighbors, but in a struggle of life and death.
Simply because plants were never intended to move from one location to another, they have evolved and adapted to living their lives in one place, for good or bad. While individual trees aren’t traveling across forests and fields (you can tell the forest through the trees by which trees are walking toward you), in some mountainous areas living has become such a challenge that new seedlings are finding more success at higher elevations; and where existing populations of trees have already established themselves at the highest levels, new seeds are moving – or we should say, being moved by birds and squirrels and other animals – to untested areas. Due to climate change, wildfires, logging and other human development, some of the most familiar Sierra trees including mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana); red fir (Abies magnifica); and western white pine (Pinus monticola) are disappearing among the northern Sierra, foreshadowing ecosystem changes that will effect every species that lives in or depends upon a healthy, established forests anchored by food-and shelter-providing trees.
Oakley always wins ‘King of the Hill’. Because he ‘s lived at the top for the past 100 years.
And what of the young trees, on their way to new and exciting adventures in places those old, know-it-all trees don’t understand? (“When I was your age we never had voice-chat!). Now, it’s uncertain. The state of all Sierra vegetation is being studied by government and academic specialists, yet it’s too early to tell if individual trees, and ultimately forests, can succeed at elevations and in micro-climates so unlike their origin. Because plants – evolved and adapted to live in one place for generations – can’t get up and move any time they feel like it.
Michonne Says: This story doesn’t fool me, everyone knows trees can’t move from one place to another. But trees can slap you on the side if the wind is winding and makes the trees dizzy so a low branch hits you while you weren’t even looking and just minding your own business. I wouldn’t know for certain but that’s what I’ve heard.