Patches' Pieces, Wildlife

Game Camera: They are Back!

The Not So Perfect Game Camera: They’re Back!

Returning to the game camera line up for your viewing pleasure are striped kitties, otherwise know as skunks. Skunks have been absent for several months but have returned. Along with skunks featured this with week are feral cats and deer. -Patches

Community, Plants, Wildlife

Thinning in Winter

When I start the chainsaw, I attract deer.  The inflow starts with a doe who learned, as a fawn, that my chainsaw meant there would be winter food near the house,  She shows up, with her yearling daughter and two fawns.  She often chooses to browse the mosses and lichens on the trees, as do the rest of her family.  The newer dependents usually just browse the needles – and they seem to come to dinner in their own family groups to minimize conflict.

The place needs thinning.  The large stumps bear witness to the first logging – done around 1910, with smaller stumps showing a second, smaller harvest a little after the second world war.  Yet another scattered group of stumps shows where a man with a horse, a saw and a broadaxe could be in the crosstie business – opportunity, if hard work.  The other stump evidence shows the Christmas tree industry . . . and I wonder if we could have yarded Christmas trees along the old road in the sixties and seventies without the deer browsing destroying them. 

I had a visitor comment, “You’re parking it out.”  I don’t see it that way – nearly 50 years ago, a forester taught me a simple principle – each acre will produce about the same amount of wood.  Spaced properly, the wood grows into harvestable logs.  Additionally, with the open canopy, it will produce about 80% of the grass that would grow on an open meadow.  Forest management pays, but takes a long-term perspective and consistent maintenance.  Others may think I’m parking it out close to the house – I think I’m still that same conservationist . . . though I left that career path almost 40 years ago.

And I learn – doing my thinning mostly in the winter provides food for my semi-domestic dependents.  There is something pleasant about trimming branches on one end of a log while deer browse 15 feet further up.

Apologies to our subscribers if you were notified about this article twice. An unfortunate result of working in the wee morning hours on little caffeine. We’re still only coming out on Tuesdays.

Community, Patches' Pieces, Wildlife

The Not So Perfect Game Camera, a Surprise

An opportunity to capture pictures of scavengers on a carcass  presented itself. I placed two cameras overlooking the carcass.  I had hoped the bears would find this substantial food source. If not, maybe I would have pictures of coyotes or foxes. I had 65 videos, some as long as 4 minutes of ravens, a lot of ravens. It is gruesome and repetitive to watch ravens feast on a carcass. Finally, the eagles show up.

It is still gruesome to watch eagles on a carcass.  But on the video, there was a surprise.  A brave and reckless raven would tug on the tail feathers of the bald eagle.  The raven was more persistent in harassing the juvenile bald eagle than an adult eagle.  The only reaction from the eagles appeared to be flapping their wings resulting in a temporary scattering of the ravens.

 I also had 7500 photos of ravens and eagles to review. Not one picture clearly shows a raven tugging on the tail feathers of an eagle. Game cam videos do provide glimpses of animal behavior hard to capture on a still camera.  The down side, video uses your batteries and SD cards quickly. Both accessories need to be replaced often.



Chronic Wasting Disease

As the start of the hunting season for deer and elk approaches (general, not archery), Chronic Wasting Disease becomes increasingly relevant again.

Chronic Wasting Disease is a prion disease, fatal, with no known treatments. While there are no known transmissions to humans, the CDC recommends having elk, deer or moose tested if there’s known to be Chronic Wasting Disease in the area. If the animal tests positive, they recommend against consumption.

For a deer, sampling requires removing the lymph nodes, packaging them, and mailing them to the wildlife health lab in Bozeman. More detailed information about having an animal tested can be found here. Expect results to take about three weeks. A map of where Chronic Wasting Disease has been found in the state is here.

Prion diseases are in something of a unique category. A bacterial or fungal infection can usually be treated with an antibiotic or an antifungal medication. Both a bacteria and fungi are living things, made of cells the same way we are. Kill the cell, kill the organism, stop the infection. While antibiotic resistances can complicate the matter, the end objective is still fairly straightforward.

Viruses, such as the one that causes the flu, are more complicated. By the basic definition of “living thing” we teach to gradeschoolers, viruses are not living. We teach students that all livings things have cells. A virus doesn’t. A virus is not a cell, rather, it is a rogue piece of DNA, of the code of instructions that is at the heart of each cell. It inserts itself into the cell, and, not unlike a computer virus, takes it over and uses the cell to make and distribute copies of itself. How do you kill something that is not alive?

Antivirals are the classic treatment for viral infections, such as the flu, HIV, cold and cold sores. They don’t kill the virus, but they do decrease its ability to spread, which reduces the severity of the infection. Because the only way to eliminate a virus is to eliminate all of the cells its infecting, viral infections in long-lived cells are pretty much permanent (cold sores are an excellent example of this).

Prions are like viruses. They are larger, made up of proteins instead of DNA. Functionally, though, they are very similar. They warp other, similar proteins, until they take the same shape as the prion. Prions build up in neural tissue, that is in the brain and spinal column. While an animal with Chronic Wasting Disease will have prions throughout its body, the reason the disease is fatal is the build up in the brain.

There is no prion equivalent to antiviral medications. While there’s some promising research, prions and prion diseases are still a relatively recent discovery. Treatment is focused on alleviated symptoms, as prion diseases are currently incurable. Prion diseases are, fortunately, rare.

Patches' Pieces, Wildlife

The not so perfect game camera, part 3

Although I am still looking for the perfect game camera, I do have some favorites.  I like my Cabela’s brand cameras.  Cabela’s brand cameras are not inexpensive.    Be sure to look at the reviews online before contemplating a purchase of a new model. I have early versions of the camera. Cabela’s cameras are easy to program. The cameras are easy to operate. Batteries last and are easy to change.  In my opinion, most important Cabela’s brand cameras have a good depth of field.  Close and far objects are in sharp focus.  The cameras do not hold up well when the deer play soccer with the cameras.  My last purchased Cabela’s camera lost part of its programming only a couple months after purchase.  For the premium price, it should have been reliable and included the metal camera mount. The deer did not play soccer with this particular camera so that was not the reason for the malfunction.

Deer in velvet. The camera was on a tripod, just a lucky placement of the camera
This is just how a camera is broken. Note how much of the photo is actually in sharp focus.

My other favorite brand of camera is by Moultrie. This camera was not easy to program. Setting or turning on the camera is not intuitive. The programming in this camera allowed timed photos every 5 minutes or as far apart as 60 minutes.  I used the timer function to scan the background surrounding a trail.  I wanted to know what was in the woods that was not triggering the motion sensor.  I found a bear with 2 cubs in the background. I also found a deer surprised by a mountain lion a few minutes after I’d set the camera.  I got a series of blurry photos with only a startled deer and a long tail in focus. I also used the timer function to take pictures of the house looking for the picture with the best background clouds. The Moultrie camera has a good depth of field. The deer did play soccer with this camera and caused the programming to malfunction.

Bald Eagle. we placed the camera where we sure something would step in front of the camera. This was one of about 3000 pictures.

The best wildlife pictures depend on location of the camera.  I looked at one blogger who had his camera set on a log crossing a stream where wildlife crossed the log year round.  The blogger compiled videos of the wildlife crossing the log.  The variety was impressive.  A water supply with signs of wildlife use is a good place for a camera.

For certain types of wildlife, a camera placed on a found carcass will yield interesting pictures.

Mountain Lion over his deer kill.
We happened upon the deer cached in the woods and placed a camera pointed at the carcass.

Frequently, game cameras include a strap for a mount. The strap has a limited outdoor life. The length of the strap limits the size/circumference of tree to where the camera can be mounted. I have found bungee cords to be helpful in mounting cameras to trees and overcoming the limitations of straps. Metal camera mounts that attach to trees are good for semi permanent locations. The metal mounts are screwed into the tree.   But trees aren’t always conveniently located to where you’d like to place the camera.  

This is where a tripod comes in.  The main disadvantage of a tripod is that deer run over the camera and the camera may break. But cameras on tripods place strategically can yield some interesting wildlife pictures.       

Sandhill Cranes hunting in the field, taken with a camera on a tripod. The camera was placed where we’d seen cranes earlier in the week.
Sandhill Cranes in flight, taken with a camera on a tripod, a lucky placement of the camera


Patches' Pieces, Wildlife

The not so perfect game camera, part 2

Marketers would have you believe the more money you spend on a game camera, the better the game camera.  If only this were true.  Over the years, I have tried several brands of camera. I am still searching for the perfect camera. I have my least favorite camera or the brands I won’t purchase again.

Game cameras can be used to monitor traffic. UPS truck on the driveway.

By far, my least favorite camera is a Stealth game camera.  The Stealth game camera is programmable and the cost won’t break the bank. I use this camera to monitor the traffic on my driveway. The camera is an older model.  It is reliable.  I change the batteries every couple of months and change the SD card about once of month.  The camera is consistent. It takes good pictures of vehicles and stills of the driveway during the winter.  It has never taken a picture of a coyote, mountain lion, or bear. 

Deer walking down the driveway

My least expensive camera is a Herters game camera.  This is another driveway camera in the perfect location. The camera has a narrow depth of field where the pictures are in perfect focus. This camera is great for monitoring vehicles as well as wildlife. I have all sorts of fuzzy pictures of feral cats, skunks, etc as well as larger animals. Occasionally the pictures are in focus. But I have good idea of the animals walking down the driveway.  The Herters camera eats batteries.  When the batteries are low, the camera stops taking pictures at night. The camera is non-programmable but easy to set up and operate.

A winter still

All game cameras miss the perfect shots.  I have had a game camera take 1000 pictures of grass blowing in the wind.   I have seen many blurs at night. But the occasional photos make all the disappointments worthwhile. Game cameras are not perfect but even blurry picture can be priceless.

Deer on the driveway. Not all the deer are in focus, but the picture still provides lots information.