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October through December, 2010

He's Dead, Jim

Gary's computer suffered a quick and painful death. But we do good backups, so little was lost – aside from the several days taken to restore files, reinstall software and debug the differences between Windows NT and 64-bit Windows 7. New agenda item: make it easier to recover from the next failure.

Wildlife Camera Picture – August

We left the motion sensitive cameras up August through October and collected the chips from the cameras on November 1. Reviewing the photos, we saw that on a warm August day one of our bears decided to take a bath (2MB movie) in Place Creek. Be sure to check out the gallery.

The architect who designed our home hired a professional photographer to take pictures of our home for the portfolio he shows prospective clients. One potential client has already seen the pictures and decided to come for a closer look. The pictures do not appear on his web site as of this report, but may be added later.

Our neighbor to the east started boarding horses. Pumpkin has resigned herself to the fact that these animals refuse to be herded.

In contrast to last year, the weather was quite mild well into October. By October 19, there had been so much rain that mowed areas sprouted green and there were no forest fires to speak of. During fine weather we painted the tops of fence posts flourescent orange to warn away hunters. This task requires over 2½ miles of cross-country walking. It could be more but we don't bother with about 1 mile of fence that is unlikely to be approached by hunters.

The mild weather allowed us to continue landscaping efforts. Rather than “shoot” top soil onto the slope north of the house like we did two years ago, we drove a Bobcat up the slope to the right and dumped a total of 30 cubic yards down. Then we waited for the weather to cool off to hydroseed; we hope the seed will remain dormant until next Spring. The hydroseed mix includes some grasses that will sprout quickly and help hold the soil while the other grasses take root. We laid down branches horizontally to help slow down erosion in case there is a big rain.

October 26 brought our first significant snowfall. The dedicated raptor census takers (see lower left of this Oct 29 photo from the Bridger Ridge Cam) packed their skis up the 2,200 vertical feet from the end of the road to the ridge crest, where they spend 8 hours every day of September and October collecting data on raptor migration. At least getting down will be easier now! Meanwhile, recreational skiers (on the trail along the ridge) hiked out to take some runs down Bradley Meadows. (Note: Arthur says at this time of year they are probably going to Hidden Gully.)

We're continuing to host MSU students studying wildlife. On a November 1 hike with them we discovered a dead tree a bear had ripped into in search of insects. Here, one of the students compares his hand and fingernails to the marks the bear left with his claws. We found plenty of fresh bear scat. Several scats contained bird seed, meaning that a neighbor is not being careful with their bird feeders. Unfortunately, a fed bear is a dead bear whether the feeding is intentional or not. Other scat contained unidentifiable debris and small fruit pits; we showed pictures to Fish and Wildlife bear expert Kevin Frey, who said it may be shoots of red hawthorne and rosehips from wild roses.

Snow started in earnest the second week of November. Hunter friend Ken started coming up before sunrise to look for elk. The night of November 14, we went to sleep to the sound of elk bugling; at 8am the next morning Jennie called to say Ken had an elk. It was close to the place he bagged one last year, so it was an easy task to get it down to the drive in his game sled and load it up – with some help from Dan and Jennie. This bull was a 4x5. Check out the antlers here.

Pauline spent most of November in Southern California taking care of our new grand-daughter. Gary took the RoadTrek down to spend a few days and bring her back. During the trip home the storm gods unleashed a string of snow falls that enabled Bridger Bowl to announce they would open two weeks early. Good news, except it made for a harrowing drive back. On arrival to single digit temperatures, we drove the ice-covered RT directly to a heated hangar it will share with a local hobbyist's F-86 jet fighter.

On December 20 we took down the motion-sensitive cameras and reviewed the photos. We got some interesting photos of what happened during Ken's hunt (mentioned above). This Winter the wildlife students from MSU will be here to set up cameras at the locations they choose. Our pictures and “movies” may be used in the lecture sessions to show how much activity there is around the property: bears (estimated between 6 and 10), moose (at least 5), deer (mule and white-tail), elk (hundreds) and coyotes (too many). We know there are mountain lions but have yet to get a picture.

People chuckle at our “Bear Crossing” sign, but soon come to realize that bears are often sighted there. We recently added a “Moose Crossing” sign just beyond the Carriage House because that is where we often spot moose. In fact, we recently had to hit the brakes close to this spot when a moose ran across the driveway.


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