Despite the uncertainties of weather and the persistence of lingering snow banks, Hells Canyon Preservation Council’s Wildlife Watchers Program is up and running for the 2013 field season.
In a partnership with the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, we’ve started the third season of documenting wildlife using motion-triggered wildlife cameras. We are particularly interested in finding the American marten (“pine marten”) which is considered a management indicator species by the Forest Service. After scouting out a variety of forested areas, we installed cameras in locations showing the best characteristics for marten habitat. To attract martens to the cameras, we apply a smelly, gooey substance known as marten lure. This year, we are also hoping to entice martens to the cameras by placing chicken meat inside metal tubes cabled to a tree. The tubes are large enough for a marten to crawl in but too small for bears and ravens to be able to access the bait.
Even though summer is officially here, the snow banks live on in the high country. Moss Springs is above Cove, Oregon and sits at about 6,000 feet above sea level. When we drove there this year in mid-June, the snow was gone. But as we drove north from Moss Springs toward Point Prominence and gained a bit of elevation, we soon hit snow. It was deep enough to warrant turning around the four-wheel drive pickup while we still had the chance. A week later, about three inches of new snow fell near the 7,000 foot level in the local mountains, just a couple of days before the Summer Solstice. Still, the weather forecasts predict 90 degree days before the end of June.
After turning back to avoid the snow, we circled back and approached the area from lower elevation in the Indian Creek drainage. We located suitable spots for the cameras and got them set up to start another season of sampling.
In 2011, the Wildlife Watchers photographed martens in the Elkhorn Mountains and also in the Mount Emily area. In 2012, we sampled the Castle Ridge area between the Grande Ronde Valley and the Eagle Cap Wilderness boundary. Surprisingly, we did not capture any photos of American martens there. Interestingly, however, another old growth associated species, the northern flying squirrel was detected at almost 50% of the camera stations.
This year, we returned to the Castle Ridge area, and are now sampling in new and different places. We are also targeting areas where marten tracks were recorded in the past. We hiked deeper into the Castle Ridge Roadless Area and installed cameras in some forested areas showing habitat characteristics that martens typically utilize. We are also interested in the possibility that we may catch a photograph of wolverines or wolves moving from the Wilderness into the Castle Ridge Roadless Area.
HCPC appreciates the efforts of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and the HCPC volunteers who make this program possible. We would also like to thank our funding partners - Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative and Mazamas and Patagonia. Stay tuned for more reports!
- Brian Kelly
HCPC Restoration Director