It’s Wolverine Friday Again!

Posted on Friday, February 1st, 2013

Hey Wolverine Volunteers!

Last week was one of the most interesting, jam-packed weeks of my career as a biologist. I hung five beaver halves in trees around the West Cabinets. I rode two different snowmobiles. Snowshoed up multiple hills with numerous excited children following me. Skied in circles with John Monks. Fought a turf war with an old moose. Postholed for two miles. Walked across multiple log ‘bridges.’ Had two different vehicle mishaps. And reestablished the old saying among field biologists: “No matter how prepared you are, there’s always something you aren’t prepared for.”

The thing that struck me the most as I went on these adventures, though, was the amazingly positive attitude of ALL of the volunteers I went out with.

My first adventure was with the Hagadone family. The entire gang came out, including the youngest member of the family — Baby John! We got off to a slow start, with all of us forgetting something. But the sun was shining and excitement was in the air. We reached the site and the first beaver was hung: success! Everyone was smiling as we returned to the vehicles. On the drive out, though, I noticed that the other members of the party were no longer present in my rear view mirror. I turned around and found them trying to push out of the deep shoulder snow. A little shoveling and a little sand got everybody on the way again.

And the week continued…

One of Jan's students modeling the beaver.

One of Jan's students modeling the beaver.

On Monday, I went out in the field with Jan Wasserburger and six students from the Lake Pend Oreille High School. Some students had participated in last year’s study, but we had a few new volunteers. Once again, the sun was shining and we were reminded of what a beautiful place North Idaho is. We identified numerous tracks – mostly hare – as we snowshoed up to our point. We found two suitable trees and got to work. Everyone participated in the station set-up. I even managed to get a group to go hang the gusto! After a group photo and halfway down the hill, Jan and I realized that we’d left the key in the lock. I hoofed it back to retrieve the key and met them back at the vehicles, where they explained we had run into my second vehicle hiccup of the week:  Jan’s vehicle wouldn’t start. When my truck failed to jump hers, we ended up calling those amazing folks at AAA. They soon showed up and got our fleet back to full strength. Throughout it all, the students never complained and we had a great time playing in the snow and discussing the strangest topics. The things you learn from high-schoolers . . .

And the week continued . . .

Eric on one of the many "bridges" we crossed.

Eric on one of the many "bridges" we crossed.

Tuesday morning I met my newest victim, I mean volunteer. Eric is retired from the Forest Service and now spends his free time snowmobiling into the backcountry to go skiing. Somehow, he got roped into taking this crazy wolverine lady out into the woods to hang a beaver in a tree. The first eleven miles went fairly smoothly. We only had to cut one tree out of the road and Eric made quick work of it with his Husqvarna and we were on our way. We zoomed up the road, until a fuzzy brown shape with two very large ears appeared in the road in front of us. A moose! I was very excited. I love seeing these amazing creatures.

The moose was not as excited to see us and was certainly not going to let us go by on the road. We were still two miles from the point, and after a series of ridiculous events we abandoned the snowmobile and the moose and snowshoed to the point. OK. One of us snowshoed, the other postholed. The wolverine lady had forgotten to bring an extra pair of snowshoes.

Eric never complained, and we soon reached the station. Multiple creek crossings later we found two suitable trees and hung up my third beaver of the week. We showshoed/postholed back and renewed our argument with Mr. Moose. I really wish someone had been filming us. Let’s just say that I’m nominating Eric for the BA award. He kept his cool the whole time — until the moose began licking his snowmobile. We eventually escaped and even made it back to town before it got dark. Thankfully there were no vehicle problems awaiting us.

Chris Bachman and one of his students prepare the site.

Chris Bachman and one of his students prepare the site.

And the week continued . . .

Wednesday, I met with Chris Bachman and a van full of students from City School in Spokane. I had an absolutely grand time with some of the brightest and enthusiastic students in the region. They took turns navigating and hauling the beaver up the hill. One hearty young lady carried the beaver the majority of the way, even though it weighed almost half what she did. After we reached the site, the expert skills of Chris Bachman helped set up a very organized bait station. Everyone helped and asked very intelligent questions! We armed the camera and began our descent. What a great day to be out with some of the future’s greatest scientists! 2nd Ave Pizza hosted us for our successful bait station set-up party. After everyone had their fill, the gang headed back to Spokane and I went home to prepare for my last field day.

And the week continued…

Thursday, I met John Monks for the first time face-to-face in the Safeway parking lot to begin my last adventure of the week. The station that John and I were putting up was high-elevation, so I was expecting to see some great views. During the ride up, the sun threatened to poke through the clouds but never quite made it. When we reached the site, the trees were too small. We had to move the point. We skied around for a bit and found some suitable trees. Oh, the realities of field work. We headed the snowmobile back down, disappointed that the sun had never really made an appearance. On the way back the clouds did raise slightly and I could see down into the valley that previously hid behind a hydraulic curtain. What a beautiful view and a great way to end my week. My job rocks.

John Monks skiing through the trees.

John Monks skiing through the trees.

The End.

Everyone: it’s time to celebrate! That’s right folks, Jim Mellen and John Monks set out our last station yesterday!

Now it’s time to enjoy other stories and pictures from the amazing teams who participated in our endeavor to find the elusive wolverine! If you haven’t sent me pictures of you and your fellow citizen scientists please do! Also, any short stories would be greatly appreciated!

Check out our facebook album to see how much fun it is to be a member of the wolverine watch!

Send me you own field stories! Nominate your friends for the BA award!

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