North Cascades Project

We started camera and trail surveys in the North Cascades Ecosystem in September. Here is a little video of our first bobcat in the area. While hiking in to check the camera, I encountered bobcat tracks as well as moose!! So huge!! There are no moose in Washington's South Cascades where we have conducted most of our research so that was pretty neat. I also encountered coyote tracks on top of my tracks on the way out. First snows of the season make for great track opportunities.
Hiking up into the Sawtooth-Lake Chelan Wilderness.
A far bit of snow up above 6000 ft.
Bobcat tracks on the trail.

Note to self: If I drive all the way from my parent's home in Vancouver, BC over the Cascade Crest and try to accomplish something in the field, I will be hiking out of the wilderness after dark.


Special Recognition Award from the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

Slogging through 3 feet of fresh powder. Just another day at the office.

This past winter, I was part of Washington's field team for the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) wolverine survey. The Western States Wolverine Conservation Project was developed by the WAFWA Wildlife Chiefs' Wolverine Sub-Committee as part of "a statistically defensible multi-state monitoring plan for states where wolverine populations exist (WY, MT, ID, WA)".

At the recent annual meeting of the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's Assistant Director, Eric Gardner accepted a special recognition award for the Wolverine Project’s Washington Team.

In accepting the award, he stated: "In Washington, we did things a little different than they did in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.  We did not hire crews to conduct the project’s wolverine survey because we are fortunate to have a group of highly skilled and very experienced biologists from a number of different organizations that were already heavily invested in wolverine conservation and surveys, and who were interested in helping on the project’s wolverine survey.  Given the skills, dedication, resourcefulness and incredible toughness of these biologists, working together on the project was clearly the best strategy for success.  Accordingly, this award recognizes their hard work, their boundless interest and energy, and their dedication to wolverine conservation.  They are: Scott Fitkin, Jeff Heinlen, Jeff Lewis, Paul Debruyn, Fenner Yarborough, David Volsen, and Hannah Anderson from WDFW;  John Rohrer, Aja Woodrow, Don Youkey, Matt Marsh, Sonny Paz, Phyllis Reed, and Jesse Plumage from the Okanogan-Wenatchee and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forests; Robert Long from Woodland Park Zoo; Jocelyn Akins from the Cascade Carnivore Project; Roger Christophersen from North Cascades National Park, and Drew and Cathy Gaylord from Conservation Northwest.  When you run into these folks, don’t hesitate to ask them about the project; because they have some amazing stories to tell."    

It was a total pleasure albeit a grueling winter battle to be apart of this field work. Myself and field partners, Erin Burke, Scott Shively, and Kayla Dreher deployed and ran 5 camera stations at disparate locations in super remote areas of southern Washington's Cascades. The project ran from late November 2016 through April 2017 through huge winter snows and super cold temperatures. Highlights included getting home at 3am on New Years Day, broke-down snowmobiles, wolverines, mountain foxes, and tons of incredible mountain views.

Getting the snowmobiles endlessly stuck. 


Cascade Mountain School Fox Hunt

On July 25, 2017, we headed up Stagman Ridge Trail to Horseshoe Meadow on Mt Adams to meet with a group of 14-17 year old students from Cascade Mountain School. We had a bug-attacked talk about ecosystems, ecological niches, Cascade red foxes, and the fisher re-introduction. There were ALOT of mosquitoes and black flies but also incredible vistas of the snow-bedecked mountain and lush, expansive subalpine meadow full of bright red and pink Paintbrush wildflowers. The students went into the meadow and surrounding ridges to set remote cameras in the hopes of detecting Cascade red foxes into the late summer and fall. I was joined on my hike by my friend, Victoire from Normandy. The trail meanders through the 2012 Cascade Creek Fire, which converted dense, shady mid-elevation Douglas Fir and Western Hemlock forests into bright, hot tinder and dead trees, now replete with the most vibrant and diverse wildflowers.

Cascade Mountain School students divided into 3 groups.

Group #1: Courtney, Owen, and Luca chose a spot for their remote camera based mostly on the Cascade red fox's attraction to water, and also because the fox will be in full camera range. They set the scent lure on an out-reaching branch across from the camera so the fox would be in full exposure to be caught on camera. It was also a slightly secluded area so there were less animals that may be attracted to the scent, that way other animals would be less likely to trigger the camera.

Group #2: Max, Quinn, and Shiah ventured out with scat collecting bags, a camera trap, and some scent to attract the fox. They found a game trail located on the saddle west of Horseshoe Meadow. The area was lightly treed and also near the edge of the meadow. They placed their remote camera in a tree near where they thought the fox might travel. Then on a tree across from the camera, they placed the scent to lure the foxes in.

Group #3: Clark, Jayvahn, and Oliver placed their camera in a place with many animal tracks near the creek. They believed that the site will have a lot of foot traffic and will eventually draw a fox because of abundant prey and easy access to water.


Large carnivores.

Being a mesocarnivore ecologist (someone who studies mid-sized carnivores), I am constantly stunned by how majestic and beautiful large carnivores are. We collected these photos of a mountain lion in December at the beginning of our winter field season. They are the only shots we received of a mountain lion from our mountain carnivore project. Mountain lions are just so… plain wild! I've also added a couple of my favorite photos of large carnivores from the archives.


Visits from the Cascade red fox color morphs this winter

While red foxes come in a variety of coat colors, or phases, there are three typical colors phases. The coat of a red fox does not change color with the seasons but rather stays the same throughout its year and lifetime. The cross-phase Cascade red fox, is distinguished by a dark band running down its spine and across its shoulders, forming a cross. 

The black-phase Cascade red fox, also known as a silver fox, is grizzly black and white. This individual was photographed in the Crystal Mountain area.

The better known red-phase Cascade Red Fox 

A night comparison of cross-phase and red-phase Cascade red foxes


Deep, deep winter

This has been quite the winter. Endless snow, which seems to always fall most heavily at the beginning of the month when we are trying to get out for our monthly camera checks, have hampered our best intentions. This latest cycle of high avalanche danger has made getting out near impossible as we value our lives. On top of the weather, we have had some interesting set backs including a flat tire, a wheel rolling of the trailer, a blown snowmobile cylinder, my getting the truck stuck in deep snow in the snowpark; erratic, old snowmachines, what else? I can't remember but I know there was more.


Video of a black-phase Cascade red fox

Thanks to Doug Carlton for capturing this black-phase Cascade red fox at Crystal Mountain Resort and telling us about it. This is individual is likely one of the foxes that was photographed this summer near a den we were monitoring in the area.
(c) Doug Carlton

Two young foxes (likely yearlings) photographed last summer in the same area (c) Anthony Carado

Let us know if you have seen a fox in the Cascades.


Winter Cascade red fox and wolverine surveys commence

We began Year 2 of our Winter Rare Carnivore Project collaboration with the USFS Naches Ranger District in November 2016 and results are coming in.

Looking down into drainage.

Classic, subalpine, ridge-line Cascade red fox habitat.

Veronica and Cascade red fox tracks near one of our stations.


Fishers in Washington

December was an exciting month for the Pacific Fisher in Washington! On December 2nd, as part of Washington State's Fisher Recovery Plan, ten fishers from British Columbia were released into Mt. Rainier National Park. Releases continued in Gifford Pinchot National Forest on December 10th, with more releases occurring in both areas throughout the rest of the month 
Having been essentially extirpated in Washington around the 1930's from extensive trapping and habitat loss, the fisher was determined as endangered in the state in 1998. From there, a statewide reintroduction effort was devised, kicking off with the release of 90 fishers throughout the Olympic Peninsula between 2008 and 2011. While these fishers were continuing to be monitored, reintroductions began in Washington's Southern Cascades last year, with the release of 23 total animals, in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Of these 23, fisher M007 has drawn the attention of locals within the Naches Ranger District. This March, M007 was caught on a Conservation Northwest Citizen Monitoring camera, roughly 50 miles Northwest of the release site. You can read more about his detection here: 
In mid-December, M007 was seen by a local cabin resident roughly 20 miles South of his previously photographed location and then spotted on a separate occasion in a nearby drainage less than two weeks later. 

Check out this short video of M007 captured by Christina Eglin!

Throughout this winter, releases will continue in Mount Rainier National Park and Gifford Pinchot National Forest until a total of 80 individuals have set out into the Southern Cascades. In the winters following the Southern releases, a final reintroduction effort will begin in the North Cascades area with another 80 animals. Recovering a healthy fisher population in Washington may be slow as the new fishers adjust to challenges like habitat fragmentation, but the effort and support going into their reintroduction is very exciting! As low to mid elevation carnivores, we don't expect to detect fishers on our camera traps primarily set for high elevation carnivores, yet it is not out of the realm of possibilities and we'll be keeping an eye out for their sign! 

You can stay updated on the reintroduced fishers on WDFW's page: http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisher/updates_cascade.html