|Nighttime silhouette in the wildlife camera at the cattle pen.|
In the middle of the night before the 4WD class, I woke suddenly. Everything was silent. There were no kids or cats jumping on the bed, so I looked out the window to check on Orion's progress. Under the foggy full moon, the backyard was blurred by swaying tree shadows. Then I saw an especially dark shadow slink in a diagonal path. Was that an animal moving or was I just sleepy?
I sat up to get a better view and the shadow bounded around the corner of the house. It was long with a sharp nose and brushy tail and its springy leaps were low. I went back to sleep.
The next morning as I was getting ready for a day of truck driving, I convinced myself the shadowy creature was just a dream. Upon arrival at the off-road vehicle park, not the kind of place I usually hang out, I introduced my plucky partner to the truck we were borrowing from the rangers for this class: a Ford Super Duty F350. A huge utility truck, bigger than some dorm rooms. A tall woman and a short woman, we had been assigned Big Red's new rig. A truck so new or otherwise well cared for that it had no dents or scratches. At least not yet. Dora and I were a little intimidated.
|A brush rabbit surveys the morning at the cattle pen camera|
|Another daytime visitor at the pen camera is a yearling buck with antlers forming small bumps on its head in November.|
|Stellar jay popping into camera view.|
|A nighttime visitor to the pen cam - striped skunk|
|This gray fox triggered a wildlife camera at the Newt Spring in December 2011. I wonder why it is that the foxes show up more in the winter?|
|Climber of persimmon trees, defiler of bird baths, the bandit raccoon|
So I anchored a scrap piece of chicken wire around the fennel pot and set the birdbath on a tall stand. The next day, the fennel pot was undisturbed but I found a huge pile of turds on top of the earthworm bin. I tossed the turds down a gopher hole.
The next day after that, the worm bin was covered with an even larger pile of persimmon turds. I harassed the gopher colony with more smelly predator sign, and I balanced a tippy contraption on top of the worm bin to discourage the nightly visits of the poop meister.
|Long fingers get raccoons into many adventures and leave distinct tracks.|
By the end of the first day of 4WD training, Dora and I were feeling more confident about driving a big truck on rough roads. We followed the instructors' advice about left foot braking, tracking your clear path, keeping a steady pace, gear ratios, and so on.
My advice is that it helps to talk to your truck. Because of her courage and adventurous pluck, we named our big truck Lucy after Lucy Pevensie in the Narnia series, and we praised her huge tiger paws that gripped the crazy tilting curves of the infamous 4WD racetrack.
|Nighttime tail. Notice the black line all the way down the dorsal side of the tail - a mark of the gray fox.|
|Bushy tail with dark tip and black dot midway down the tail (subcaudal gland)|
|A small canine, the gray fox is common in wooded areas.|
|Even without color, the Undercover Naturalist could tell this was a gray fox rather than a red fox because of the dark mustache and its short legs.|
|A gray fox on the San Mateo coast. Gray foxes often favor brush in addition to wooded areas. Photo courtesy of the Silver Fox.|
|Although our approach to problem solving is often quite different, I greatly admire and appreciate my male co-workers.|
brush rabbit, Sylvilagus bachmani
Columbian black-tailed deer, Odocoileus hemioanus columbianus
Stellar jay, Cyanocitta stelleri
Raccoon, Procyon lotor
striped skunk, Mephitis mephitis
common gray fox, Urocyon cinereoargenteus
red fox, Vulpes vulpes
coyote, Canis latrans