Monday, August 5, 2013

A Fox Dines on the Jepson Manual

A grey fox smiling at a tasty meal or the Flehman response?
While I was away at a workshop in the Sierras, the mice did play. And so did the cats. Somehow, this resulted in a grey fox eating dinner off my Jepson I manual. How did this happen? How did a botanist end up playing with foxes? Learning is a good thing and sometimes it changes your perspective.

The 1993 version of The Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California is a big book of the 8000+ native and naturalized plants in California. Big as in 1424 pages. Big as in wildly diverse California. A new version, The Jepson Manual: Vascular Plants of California, came out in 2012, now 1600 pages. Oh, the moans and groans at all the name changes.

The Jepson II went on my desk and the Jepson I went in my car. I took the Jepson I out of the car for my recent Sierra trip and left it on the living room floor. The day after I returned from the trip, I grabbed the cloth-covered Jepson I to replace it in the car only to find that it had a smashed mouse underneath it. Really smashed, 7.4 pounds smashed. I swear I did not throw the Jepson I at the mouse. The house cats looked nonplussed.

Setting the table - Jepson Manual I with dead mouse and lizard in the corral.  Camera is the Birdcam2.0.
The workshop I attended in the Sierras was on wildlife cameras. In some ways it changed my life. For example, did I shriek "Ewww, gross!" when I found the smashed mouse? No, instead I thought, "Bait!"

I put the Jepson I with its smashed mouse in the corral and mounted a wildlife camera nearby. I also added a lizard that Cat King Cole killed in the garage.

Course One - the smashed mouse is quickly consumed.
That night, a grey fox visited and ate both. This may be the first time a grey fox has eaten a two-course dinner from a cloth-covered table. And we documented it all with a wildlife camera.

The grey fox consumes the lizard faster than the camera can record. Then it licks up the remains of the smashed mouse.


  1. Sometimes, the weight of expectation causes great pressure. I have often experienced this with plant ID but, thankfully, not to a fatal degree. Whilst some ID guides can be a heavy read, this post highlights the dangers that our native wildlife are exposed to if they refuse to move with the times and develop web-based utilities for plant ID.

  2. I & T: the fox wants to know what the web-based utilities taste and smell like. Then he will consider his options.

  3. Touché!

    It's probably best, at this point, if I don't descend into a punfest of animal-specific web browsers and computer peripherals.

    Is there likely to be a future post on wildlife cameras?

  4. REALLY what are the odds that you'd absent mindedly throw down a book, and it would land on a mouse? Gross discovery, but cool for the fox :)

  5. Looks like a quality camera. Smart little fox!

  6. Alyssa: it is possible that I rested the large book on its fore edge on the floor leaning against the basket of car stuff, the mouse ran past the book, and the pursuing cat brushed against the heavy book which caused it to fall over and crush the mouse beneath the book board. The cloth cover and dust jacket protected the book and everything cleaned up nicely including fox slobber. Thank you for the opportunity to look up the words for those parts of books. - a book fanatic

  7. I & T: after spending some time among the giants of camera trapping, I am considering a series of posts on CAM TRAP MISTAKES to share the knowledge I've gained through my bumbling ways and provide a few tips and camera reviews for us hobbyists. What do you think, useful, amusing . . . ?

  8. Cindy, what do I think? Your posts are always useful, often amusing and 100% packed full of ecological gold. OK, so Squashmouse wouldn't agree, but I guess his/her cam trap days are over!

  9. Somehow this comment from Katie got deleted instead of posted, so I am reposting it here:

    Katie (Nature ID) has left a new comment on your post "A Fox Dines on the Jepson Manual":

    "Delightful post. Bait! Love it.

    I had to look up Flehman response. My cats used to do that when smelling my shoes after a day in the field. It made me laugh, and I had no idea it had a name.

    Do you cover all your books in cloth?

    Ken over at Nature of a Man makes that cam trap business look all so easy, doesn't he? It's changing the way we can monitor animals. He mentioned he's re-documenting Santa Cruz kangaroo rats in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. I wonder if he plans to use cam traps for the study?"

  10. And now for a response to Katie:

    No, I only cover a few of my field books with my son's former grade school cloth wrappers. Not like Jepson is really a field book.

    Flehman response - hahaha, you are a very literate set of readers. I knew someone would look it up.

    RandomMan at Nature of a Man is talented, works hard at cam trapping, has an inside track on cam technology from his former tech life, and diligently studies the wildlife species he is trying to track. And he has an uncanny sense of light that comes through on many of his cam-trap and DSLR photos. For anyone who doesn't know what we are talking about, go to his blogsite right now and see the amazing kit fox photos and discussion he just posted at his Nature of a Man blogsite.

    I happened to be having a beer with him and other Edgewood Park sunset weeders when I got your comment and I handed him my phone to read it. I am not going to blow his news so I would say just stayed tuned to his blogsite or comment directly there with your question. PS: we are scheming an event to invite you up to the Santa Cruz Mtns. Thanks for being a nature blog buddy.

  11. Awesome Cindy, Jepson and mice don’t mix.

    Pure genus to put a camera on it, in my mind I am reminded of rodenticides and mesopredators and how they don’t mix as well. DT

  12. I think ears were burning all around. It's wild you were with him at the moment my comment went through. I'm glad you two met up at CNPS. That reminds me... he said that March is a good time to see rarities at Edgewood Park. I'd like to shoot for doing that next year. What's this event you talk about?

  13. Katie (and others): a spring hike to Edgewood County Park (Redwood City, CA) for California nature bloggers would be fun. Maybe we could use the nature center for a nature blog workshop.

  14. Ahem! *cough cough*

    Did you say CALIFORNIA NATURE BLOGGERS?!? Hike?!?

    ARF! (thud thud thud thud)
    (thud = sound of my happy tail wagging and hitting the wall)

    Redwood City is not 10,000 miles away (it's merely 4 ish), so... if y'all do something on a weekend, and other things work out, and you need a very tall, goofy sherpa to tag along...


  15. oh, biobab, you were next in line to notify. Probably others. For now, I need to do some planning with another long-legged biologist and then get back to you probably by email. Think about who else to invite. Guest speaker? And dial up a wet spring please.


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