Sunday, June 29, 2008

Skunked! (and not playing cribbage...)

29 June 2008

Well, we had quite a morning today! After setting up our first trap line and trapping a bunch of Peromyscus mice (a cute, trap-happy, nuisance species), we were excited to see one of our larger traps closed and occupied this morning. Unfortunately, there was not one, but two skunks in the trap!! It was a small female, plus a baby skunk that was outside the trap, but had stayed next to mom. Well, I was a bit flummoxed about how to get the skunks out of the traps without getting sprayed, but I remembered a conversation with another grad student about getting skunks out of traps. Fortunately, it was a cooler morning, so I had a fleece jacket with me, which I threw over the trap to block any spray. The minute I did that the skunk started to release her odor, so I waited until she had calmed down again, then very carefully approached the trap and propped it open. I removed the fleece and Ariel and I left the skunk to find it's way out of the trap while we checked the other traps. Close call, but not a disaster, though that trap needs to be cleaned and I threw out my fleece jacket!

The excitement didn't end there (at least for us, though some of you reading this might not find the rest so exciting!) We added to our species list today! Besides the usual complement of Peromyscus, we also caught a vole (probably Microtus californicus), a shrew (Sorex trowbridgii) and a woodrat (Neotoma fuscipes). Here are a couple of photos of my field assistant, Ariel, in action: setting traps and weighing specimens!

So, we're pooped from all the early mornings, heat, and hiking, and are back in Redding for the afternoon resupplying our groceries and making contact with the world (via blogging, skype, and other means...aren't we technologically savvy!?). The fires in northern California aren't affecting us too much, though there has been a lot of haze in the sky for the past two days. Air quality in Redding is much worse than out at the cabin, which is lucky for us.

1 comment:

twmarcy said...

Jessica and Ariel
Enjoyed the story of the skunk, the pictures, and the concise description of this year's research aim. How will you measure the differences and similarities of the small mammal population then (pleistocene) and now?

Keep cool and well hydrated. Have fun with the work.