Tag Archives: rodent

Wildlife driven into urban areas after Gorge wildfire

By Tracie Hornung

As Columbia River Gorge residents are all too aware, a 48,000 acre wildfire consumed vast amounts of wildlife habitat this fall. Because of the fire, wildlife has been driven down from the once-forested hills into urban areas such as Hood River.

Douglas squirrel

Douglas squirrel.
Photo by Kathy Munsel, ODFW.

A Rowena Wildlife Clinic volunteer has noted that some human residents are complaining of the increase in animals, such as the Douglas squirrel, moving into urban and suburban neighborhoods.

However, with their homes destroyed, wildlife have no choice but to move on and find new habitat. RWC personnel ask city residents to have some patience for the situation and allow the animals to do what they must to survive the winter — especially since it’s getting too late in the season for them to find yet another place to call home.

Of course, if humans don’t want wildlife to get too comfortable living in an urban setting for the long term, they should not feed them. But on the other hand, to help the animals in their new, unfamiliar habitat the kind thing is to keep pets from attacking them whenever possible. That means keeping pets inside this winter as much as possible or to make sure they are supervised when outside.

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From the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife:

Douglas squirrel

Tamiasciurus douglasii

The Douglas squirrel is one of the smaller tree squirrels in Oregon. The color and markings of this squirrel differ individually, geographically and seasonally, appearing a dusky olive to brownish gray with an indistinct band of reddish brown with a blackish band along the flanks.

In Oregon, it occurs in coniferous forests from the Pacific coast to as far east as western Baker County.

Douglas squirrels are active during the daylight hours year-round, although they may remain in their nests or tree dens for a day or two during inclement weather.

Beaver on Road to Recovery; Take the Wolf/Coyote Test

beaver

North American beaver (Castor canadensis) recovering at Rowena Wildlife Clinic. Photo by Joni Greenberger, DVM.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This young beaver was found in the Columbia River after having been injured by a motorboat propeller. It was delivered to Rowena Wildlife Clinic where it is still in rehabilitation but doing well.

For more information about beavers, visit the University of Michigan’s Critter Catalog.


In the last weeks of summer, as the Columbia River Gorge struggled with what grew into a 48,000-acre wildfire, the clinic was fortunately never in danger. And, surprisingly, few animals needing treatment were brought to the clinic. However, a barred owl that was hit by a fire rescue truck needed minor treatment. Happily, after recovery the owl was released September 24.

For more information about barred owls, see the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.


Could you tell the difference between a coyote and a wolf in the wild?

Courtesy Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife

Take this fun test from the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.

On Turkey Vultures

turkey vulture

Turkey vulture (Cathartes aura)
Courtesy National Park Service /Brad Sutton

by Tracie Hornung

I watched the turkey vulture swerve and bank above the highway, and thought of my friend who cringed when I recently mentioned the species. I had forgotten, until then, that her reaction is quite common.

I imagine it’s that bald red head, looking as if it had just emerged from the bloodied mass of a carcass. (It may have.) Or the silhouette against the sky of sharp wings that appear torn and scraggly. A living, breathing, soaring symbol of death and decay.

But I was surprised when I got to know a couple of turkey vulture teenagers at Rowena Wildlife Clinic. It’s true -– up close they still aren’t beautiful. But the first time I encountered them, I was touched to realize they were shy and not the slightest bit aggressive. In fact, they scampered away as I brought their meal of dead rodents into their enclosure.

In time, they grew to accept my presence but stayed cautious. That’s their innate personality; raptor experts know them to be gentle, but elusive birds. Their only real defense is to vomit a lump of foul-smelling semi-digested meat, which deters most creatures. Fortunately, the teenage vultures at the rehab clinic were never threatened enough by me to do that, but I’m glad they always remained wary.

Once when my husband and I were driving a narrow road through a forest, I commented how sad it was that all the birds in the area, even those away from the road, immediately flew off. But smart, or course. They were, rightly, just working on surviving.

So whenever I see a turkey vulture soaring in a thermal, I don’t see a symbol of death and decay. I see a bird going about the business of being a bird.

For more about turkey vultures visit Cornell University’s All About Birds website.

Busy beavers help themselves and their ecosystems

By Tracie Hornung

Beaver

American Beaver (Castor canadensis), Oregon’s official state animal. Courtesy ODFW

If you’ve ever seen a beaver in the wild, you’re one of the lucky ones.

These mammals, North America’s largest rodent, are most active in the evening or at night. Beavers may weigh up to 65 pounds and average about four feet long. Their habitat consists of ponds, marshes and streams, and their bodies have evolved to fit perfectly within that environment. Thanks to webbed hind feet, a broad paddle-like tail, and membranes that cover the eyes when the animal is underwater, beavers are supreme swimmers. (But that evolutionary design makes them rather clumsy on land.) They can remain underwater for at least 15 minutes by slowing their heart rate. And their large teeth — their upper incisors can grow up to an inch long — contribute greatly to their well-known logging abilities.

Beaver tree

Results of beaver activity.
Tracie Hornung photo

But it is their thick luxurious fur, ranging from reddish brown to black, that defined their destiny after European settlers invaded North America. In fact, Oregon’s early economy was built on beaver pelts. During the 1800s, when European and U.S. East Coast demand for beaver hats and coats was at its peak, fur trappers nearly eliminated the species through unregulated trapping.

With proper management, however, beavers have become re-established and are now common throughout their range. But habitat destruction has become their most recent threat, and the improvement of wetlands and riparian areas is necessary for beavers, as well as a myriad of other species — which are helped by beavers’ aquatic activities.

Beavers build dams to create deep water that protects them from predators, helps them access their food supply and provides underwater entrances to their dens. And the ponds that beavers create expand wetlands and enhance habitat for many other fish and wildlife species, such as juvenile coho salmon.

Beaver Dam

Beaver dam
Courtesy USFWS

It’s no wonder the phrase “busy as a beaver” exists because beavers are industrious and skilled loggers and carpenters. They can fell a tree up to five-and-a-half feet in diameter. They cut down trees to construct their dens, dams, and for food. They enjoy eating the leaves, inner bark, and twigs of aspen (a favorite food), alder, birch, cottonwood, willow and other deciduous trees.

The dens they build (also known as lodges) are waterproofed with mud, and serve as a place to rest, stay warm, give birth and raise young — an average of four kits per litter. Beavers live in colonies that may contain up to 12 individuals. The colony is usually made up of the adult breeding pair and their offspring. Most kits remain with the adults until they are almost two years old. The kits then go off on their own in search of mates and suitable spots to begin colonies, which may be several miles away.

If you’re interested in learning how to help beavers and create sustainable habitat for them, read “Living with Wildlife: American Beaver” at the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife web site: http://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/docs/beaver.pdf


Sadly, beavers’ logging and dam-building that sometimes results in flooding or in damaging property inspire humans to remove them. In Oregon, landowners are allowed to trap beavers. However, the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife states on its web site, “Removing beavers is often a short-term solution as other beavers will move into the area if suitable habitat is present.”

To learn about recent research at Boston University related to this issue, see “Why Monogamous Beavers Would Be Good News.”