Four-Eyed Banana Slug Wields Six-Fold Slime

The Ariolimax genus for the Pacific Banana Slug means “air slug.” It is a shell-less terrestrial gastropod mollusk and is the world’s second largest slug species.  Its lifespan is between one to seven years.

Photo Credit: David Connell, Nevada County Camera Club

Like the Pill Bug, much of a slug’s activities focus on water retention. Banana slugs keep to damp places under logs, inside tree bark, around rocks or planters. They are active at night and after rain when slime most effectively soaks-up surrounding water.

Color:

Color changes with age, health, exposure to light, diet, genetics, and the amount of moisture in the surroundings. While some Banana Slugs have black spots, this is not a way to distinguish between the Ariolimax subclasses; Columbianus and Californicus, both varieties found in California. (To make the distinction, see ‘Subclass Penis Particulars’ below.)

Breathing:

A slug’s mantle, the thick part behind its head, is the location of the slug’s single lung and reproductive organs. (It’s also where a shell would go, if it had one.) A large hole on the right side opens and closes according to oxygen needs. In dry weather or heavy rain, the slug completely closes its pneumostome. When it wants lots of air, it keeps it open wide.

Four Eyes:

With the ability to move eyestalks independently, the slug survey’s the environment. The top eye tentacles sense light changes and scans for threats. The bottom set feels and smells.

Diet:

Slugs, like other forest floor dwellers, break down particles and nutrients that contribute to healthy plants. They are non-picky herbivores. They’ll eat; dead plants, fungi, animal droppings, and leaves.

Photo Credit: Richard Sullivan

Mushrooms are a favorite food.

Radula – sharp-toothed tongue

To eat, slugs have sharp-toothed tongues, radula, that grind particles to a pulp.

Slime:

Slime is the Banana Slug’s superpower. It’s used to travel, rappel, communicate, mate, for personal hygiene and for self-defense.

Slugs generate several different types of mucus; thick and thin. (It’s similar to human mucus in nasal, lung, and intestinal linings.)

Slime contains mucins that inflate to one-hundred times their size when exposed to moisture.

When a slug wants to move, it glides where it wants to go, utilizing external moisture to plump-up slime roads.

Slime trails, sensed by the lower tentacles, tell an encountering slug the direction the other slug is moving. It also contains pheromones that trigger mating behavior.

Anesthetic compounds in slime cause numb feelings humans experience when licking slugs (why?!) and are part of the animal’s self-defense mechanism.

The Banana Slug’s tail contains a mucus plug; it makes ‘cords’ used to rappel down steep surfaces.

Finally, a slug’s got to look good. Mucus produced near the head, washes stuck-on body debris to the tail where the slug can eat it.

 

Reproduction:

Although slugs have both male and female genitalia (hermaphrodite), they prefer to mate with a partner. Forming a circle, Banana Slugs swap sperm. A few days later, eggs are laid in moist secluded places such as in a log or a hole in the ground. Banana Slugs mate and reproduce year-round.

Photo Credit: Christopher,

It takes a month or two for eggs to hatch. When young are small and haven’t fully developed slime abilities, they are most vulnerable to predation.

Apophallation:

Apophallation may be as interesting as slime. It’s when slugs become stuck in the mating position.

One or both animals chew off their penises.

Not to worry! Next time a penis-missing slug meets another, she’ll use her female reproductive parts.

Subclass Penis Particulars:

Distinguishing between Banana Slug subclass species takes a limacologist, a zoologist specializing in slug study.

Ariolimax Columbianus has a penis that sticks out / protrudes, top (apex) is rounded and blunt
Ariolimax Californicus has a penis can turn inside-out (like a vagina), top portion (apex) is equal to and can be greater in length to the basal portion. The muscle that pulls it back is shaped like a fan and is located at the penis tip.

Predators:

Reptiles, birds, amphibians, fish and other mammals will prey on Banana Slugs.

When under siege, a Banana Slug contracts its muscles, making it more compact. It produces a sticky, foul-tasting. mouth numbing mucus making it a less appealing meal.

 

 

 

click image to see more Life on the Creek art

If you liked this post you may also like Pill Bug – Heavy Metal Detector of the Underworld

Resources:

The Ark in Space – The Banana Slug – Nature’s Giant Recycler
Bay Nature – Bizarre Banana Slug Facts
iNaturalist – Banana Slugs
Journal of Experimental Biology – The mechanics of the adhesive locomotion of terrestrial gastropods
Michigan Technological University – Invertebrates: Molluscs
Natural History Museum – How slug slime could help heal a broken heart ( tissue adhesives that perform well in wet environments)
PhysicsWorld – On the role of snail slime (fluid dynamics research)
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds – Non-toxic slug control in the garden
Science News for Students – Slip sliming away, scientists study how slime helps slugs and snails get around on only one foot
Scientific American – He Slimed Me! (mucins & anesthetic)
Terrestrial Mollusc Tool – Ariolimax Columbianus – Pacific Banana Slug
UCSC – Banana Slug Genomics
University of Michigan – Animal Diversity Web – Ariolimax columbianus
University of Puget Sound – Slater Museum of Natural History – Banana Slug
Wiki – Banana Slug Genomics
Wikipedia – Banana slug
Wikipedia – Slug 

Note: The spelling of Mollusc and Mollusk are both correct. The version with a ‘k’ is oldest. Unless a reference source used ‘c’, the ‘k’ version is used.

 

Incense Cedar, the Pencil Tree

A burned, sometimes smoldering,  Incense Cedar tree is one of the few places the Cedar Wood Wasp, lays its eggs. This insect is the only living species of its family, making it a ‘living fossil.’

Incense Cedar Wood Wasp – a living fossil

Cedar is commonly used for building and fencing materials. Because the wood is pliable for gripping and resists splintering, it may be best known for its use in pencils.

Hearty, drought tolerant, and accepting of shade and sun, the tree grows at a wide variety of elevations.

Calocedrus decurrens seed cones and seeds

Incense Cedar growing range

 

 

 

 

Native Americans used Incense Cedar for hunting bows, fire making, baskets, brooms, shelter building, and for ceremonial and healing purposes.

 

 

 

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like, Mugwort – Dream Plant with a Long History

click image to see more Life on the Creek art

 

 

Resources:

Calflora – Calocedrus decurrens

CalPoly – Incense Cedar Tree Detail

Hansen’s Northwest Native Plant Database

Living Wild Project

Pacific Northwest, Pest Management – Cedar, Incense Broom Rust

Native American Cedar Mythology

USDA – Calocedrus decurrens

Plant Guide [PDF]

Wikipedia – Cedar Wood Wasp

Raccoon – Puzzler & Mastermind

Origin & Name

Raccoons evolved around water sources. People observing them gave them names describing their ‘washing’ behavior.

Scientific name – Procyon lotor means “before-dog washer” in Latin
Aztecs – Mapachitli – “one who takes everything in its hands”
Chinese – Orsetto lavatore “little-bear washing”
Garman – Waschbär – “wash-bear”
Italian – Araiguma – “washing-bear”
Algonquian / Powhatan Indian – Arocoun – “he scratches with his hands”
English speaking North American colonists changed Arocoun to raccoon

Hands & Masks

Raccoons explore with touch. It’s long been thought that ‘food washing’ was for cleanliness. Dipping ‘hands’ in water is called dousing; it stimulates nerve endings in the forepaws, giving the animal an improved ability to detect changes in pressure.


Raccoons don’t have thumbs but use both forepaws to manipulate objects, like hands. Their forepaws have concentrations of mechanoreceptor cells similar to primates and humans.

Since the animal is nocturnal and thought to be colorblind, it makes sense that it interprets the world through touch.

The mask, a stripe of dark fur surrounding the eyes, maximizes night vision by blocking glare.

Intelligence

Raccoons are omnivores; they’ll eat anything. Scientists believe that this characteristic, as with humans, contributes to their extraordinary intelligence.

A raccoon is a relentless problem solver, passing learning along to their young. As people attempt to keep them out, raccoons adapt, becoming smarter in the process.

In 1907, H.B. Davis published a raccoon intelligence study in The American Journal of Psychology. Twelve raccoons were given a series of locks to crack. He presented the test subjects with 13 puzzles to solve. Their success rate was nearly 85%.

“The learning curves for the raccoons and Kinnaman’s monkeys… seem to show a nearly equal facility in learning to undo fasten-ings.”

“Test of the raccoon’s powers of retention show that skill in undoing simple fastenings once learned remains practically undiminished…”

Breeding & Raising Young

  • Mating Season – January and June
  • Females mature and can reproduce at about one year
  • Two – five kits are common per litter, born in spring
  • Females separate from others to raise young.
  • Mothers teach kits by example
  • Kits remain with mother between 13-14 months
  • Raccoons in tree cavities & burroughs – keeping up to 20 den sites at one time

Factoids

  • Full grown = up to 23 pounds
  • Adult male = boar
  • Adult female = sow
  • Young = kits
  • Lifespan = wild – 2 – 3 years, captivity 20 years

Predators

In the wild bobcats, coyotes, mountain lions, great horned owls, and red-tailed hawks pose threats.

In urban environments, infection, disease, and cars are the major causes of death

Differing Interactions with Humans

Raccoons in the wild are shy around humans, avoiding them when possible.

Urban raccoons will approach them looking for handouts.

Highly adaptable, raccoons are able to easily navigate living in urban environments. Food sources (pet and bird feeding stations and garbage day) are plentiful and they’ll den in attics and abandoned buildings. Raccoons understand traffic patterns and travel on roofs and fence tops.

 

Becoming Invasive

Germany
In 1934 a forester released a pair of raccoons to “enrich the fauna” for hunting. In 1945, twenty-five raccoons escaped from a fur farm after an air strike. Since then, the raccoon population in Germany has grown tremendously.

 

German raccoon population increase

Raccoons are now considered an invasive species.  A  zero tolerance policy is in place. Over 10,000 raccoons are trapped and killed in Germany per year.

Japan
Rascal the Raccoon anime show appeared in the 1970s. As a result, children wanted pet raccoons. At one time, over 1,500 raccoons were imported per month. When keeping them became difficult, many were released in the forest.

Today, raccoons cause hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage to ancient, irreplaceable buildings and temples. Raccoons have spread to most regions in the country. Japan prohibits raccoon imports.

Problem Prevention

To discourage denning on or near property;

• Securely close trash containers
• Don’t leave pet food outside
• Remove bird feeders
• Eliminate water sources and ornamental fish
• Cover outdoor sandboxes when not in use
• Keep brush cleared
• Eliminate access to attics, basements, and barns

Raccoon Voiding Spots and Latrines

Wilderness raccoons prefer to poo at the base of trees, on horizontal surfaces, on large rocks or in raised tree forks. Undigested seeds are often visible.

In urban areas, they’ll go on rooftops, decks, woodpiles, and in attics, haylofts, and in garages.

A raccoon latrine is a communal defecation area used by multiple raccoons.

1940s advertisement

Feces Spread Disease

  • Fungal Spores
  • Parasitic raccoon roundworm- causes neurologic damage and possible death: eggs are temperature resistant and can become airborne when dry
  • Giardia
  • Leptospirosis – contact with open wounds

Above is a list of some of the infectious diseases carried by raccoon feces. They can also be spread through contact with urine, saliva, bites and scratches.

 

Communal Food

Because food sources attract a variety of animals, disease can spread. Infectious raccoons may appear healthy. When a disease moves from a raccoon to a cat, dog, or human, it can be more challenging to combat.

Feces Clean-Up

Prepare for cleaning by protecting your airways (mucous membranes) and skin.

• Wear disposable gloves and rubber boots (or disposable booties that cover shoes)
• Wear an N95-rated respirator (hardware store)
• Plan to burn or sterilize gear when finished

Outdoor Latrine Cleaning

• Use a shovel (or inverted bag) to collect feces and contaminated material. Bury or burn. If placing in the trash, double bag and secure to protect landfill workers
• Roundworm eggs are chemical resistant. High heat will kill them. Cover feces with boiling water or blast with a propane torch
• Use boiling water to disinfect shovel blades and deck surfaces
• Burn or boil and disinfect protective gear
• Wash hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water. Launder clothing with hot water and detergent

Indoor Latrine Cleaning

  • Lightly mist area with soapy water in a spray bottle to avoid stirring up dust
  • Collect and dispose of feces as listed above
  • Use a bucket of hot, soapy water and a damp sponge to wipe down the area
  • Rinse sponge frequently
  • Flush contaminated water down the toilet
  • Disinfect the bucket with boiling water
  • Burn or boil and disinfect protective gear
  • Wash hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water
  • Launder clothing with hot water and detergent

 

Editor’s Note:

Apart from post titles, I endeavor to present Deer Creek topics objectively from multiple angles, using reliable sources. While the Center for Disease Control says, “human infections are rare,” I think a cautionary note is valuable.

As more people spread into wild areas, animals with the ability to live in urban areas join us. Our structures, pets, feeding stations and trash fulfill their hierarchy of needs. As a result, species whose paths would rarely cross are ‘meeting at the grocery store,’ creating opportunities for infectious organisms.

There are valid reasons behind the statement, “don’t feed wild animals.”

Below are several worst-case scenarios illustrating those reasons.

Danger of Disease

Raccoon Feeding Results

 Attic Horror Story

click on image to view more Life on the Creek art

If you liked this post, you might also like, Bobcat – Susceptible to Rat Poison

 

Resources:

Average Outdoorsman – Raccoon Sounds

Centers for Disease Control – Parasites – Baylisascaris infection

Centers for Disease Control – Racoon Latrines: Identification and Clean-up [PDF]

Centers for Disease Control – Healthy Swimming – Raccoons and Pools

Gold Country Wildlife Control

Harper College – Animal Scat photos

Inside & Outside Latrines

LIVE Science – Facts about Racoons

Mental Floss – Rodent, or NOT a Rodent

Mental Floss – 10 Clever Facts About Raccoons

Northern Woodlands – Raccoons: It’s All In The Hands

Oxford Research Encyclopedia – Animals in Latin American History

PBS – Racoon Fact Sheet

Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management – Infectious Diseases of Racoons [PDF]

Wikipedia – Raccoon

Wildlife Animal Control – How to Get Rid of Raccoons in the Attic, House, Yard

 

North American Beaver – Water Banker

History

In 1805, Lewis and Clark saw beaver dams “extending as far up those streams as [we] could discover them.” Even before the famous explorers, French trappers and traders were drawn to the land teeming with beaver.

The beaver is North America’s largest rodent. Its pelt is waterproof and has a double layer of insulation making it highly desirable for human use. At the height of pelt demand, some estimates claim that between 60-400 million animals were taken.

Fortunately, we have beavers living along Deer Creek!

The beaver method of water retention, stream restoration, and habitat rehabilitation.

Beaver ponds and dams;

  • reduce erosion
  • act as a fire break
  • slow water movement through a watershed, replenishing the water table, reducing the need for irrigation
  • filter nitrogen and other chemicals that cause algae blooms resulting in oxygen-deprived dead zones
  • retain sediments, increasing watershed biodiversity

Ponds volume keeps water temperatures cool, necessary for certain fish species

Discord Between Beavers and People

  • beaver may eat landscape plants and trees within 165 feet of the water’s edge
  • water pooling on the land will expand
  • roads and structures may flood
  • dams plug culverts and drains
  • animals and wildlife are attracted to the habitats beavers create

In 2017, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service killed 81 beavers in California.

Beaver Problem Remediation

  • install a pond flow device, limiting water rise, eliminating flooding
  • choose landscape plants that beaver don’t eat
  • choose plants that resprout after a beaver visit
  • keep landscape plants distant from the water source

Barrier methods;

  • wrap large trees with 3 ft. high galvanized welded wire fencing or multiple layers of chicken wire
  • paint tree trunks with sanded paint ( mix 2/3 cup masonry sand per quart of latex paint)
  • surround groups of trees/ shrubs with 3 ft. high fencing strong enough to withstand a 60 lb animal pushing on it or attempting to  get under it
  • apply and reapply deer and big game repellent

Diet and Behavior

Nocturnal and non-hibernating, beavers eat plants; leaves, bark twigs, trees, willow, cottonwood and other deciduous trees. They’ll also eat garden plants if given the chance.

Pairs may mate for life but are not always monogamous. Kits are born between April and June, remaining with their parents for two years. A beaver colony usually consists of a breeding pair and several generations of their kits.

A full grown beaver can grow up to 60 pounds. (Fossil records show that they once reached 300 lbs!) Their lifespan in the wild is between 5 – 10 years.

Spending most of their time in the water, beavers have few predators. When on land, they are most vulnerable. Predators include; man, wolves, coyote, mountain lion, bears, bobcats, and dogs.

The Beaver Butt Thing – Castoreum

Aside from fur, trappers learned of another beaver special quality; castor glands, located near the anus, smell vanilla sweet. Castoreum is secreted with urine to mark territory. One can’t help imagining the very first gland discovery. A mountain man noticed it while taking the animal apart. To verify, he needed a close-and-personal secondary sensory test. Enthusiastic conversations between trappers spread the news and began a new industry.

Castoreum, a thick, syrup-like ooze was used in the perfume industry, starting in the 1800’s, to enhance other scents and increase their longevity.

“The United States, the Food and Drug Administration lists castoreum extract as a generally recognized safe (GRAS) food additive. … While it is mainly used in foods and beverages as part of a substitute vanilla flavor, it is less commonly used as a part of a raspberry or strawberry flavoring.” Wikipedia

Despite Castoreum’s listing with the FDA, it was never a substance in wide use. Anesthetizing and milking beavers was time-consuming and costly.

[Castoreum should not be confused with Castor, as in Castor Oil, which is a plant.]

Beaver Adaptations

  • continuously growing incisors
  • an insatiable need to build at the sound of water
  • tail functions as extra leg while on land
  • a mouth valve that keeps water out while carrying/floating a tree or branch
  • ear valves with the same function
  • back of throat valve – ditto
  • nostril valves – ditto
  • nictitating membrane covers eyes underwater acting like goggles
  • tail slaps on water warn of danger
  • hind foot has a split toenail used as a comb
  • fur is waterproof, treated with an oily substance
  • intestinal bacteria ferment cellulose to digest plant matter — this is why castoreum smells so good!

California Native & Aquatic Keystone Species

The National Geographic Society describes a keystone species as an organism that helps define an entire ecosystem. Without its keystone species, the ecosystem would be dramatically different or cease to exist altogether.

 

If you liked this post, you may also like, Singing Coyote – the Ultimate Adaptor.

Resources:

Bay Nature – For beaver believers salvation lies in a once-reviled rodent

Beavers: 8 things to know about nature’s most impressive landscape engineers

Dispatch – USDA fights endless battle of wits with ingenious beavers

Bridge Creek (Oregon) Beaver Dam Analog Steelhead Restoration (2004-2020)

Climate Change | Beavers Help Battle Ongoing Drought

Eager Beaver author, Ben Goldfarb Radio Interview.

KCRA Beaver Problem

Martinez Beavers.org

Mental Floss – A Brief History of Castoreum, the Beaver Butt Secretion Used as Flavoring

Nature World News – (Beaver) Dams Help Remove Nitrogen From Estuaries and Restore Streams | 2015

National Geographic – Beaver Butts Emit Goo Used for Vanilla Flavoring

National Geographic – Beavers Have Vanilla-Scented Butts and More Odd Facts

National Geographic – Beavers —Once Nearly Extinct—Could Help Fight Climate Change

National Park Service – Beaver

New York Post – Distillery has new bourbon flavored by beaver secretion

New York Times |2017 – Beavers Emerge as Gents of Arctic Destruction

NOAA Fisheries – Working with Beaver to Restore Salmon Habitat

NOAA – Working with Beaver to Restore Salmon Habitat

Science Magazine | 6/7/18 – Beaver dams without beavers? Artificial logjams are a popular but controversial restoration tool – rebeavering Bear Valley (an hour north of Redding)

Smithsonian’s National Zoo – Beaver

Spokane Lands Council – Beaver Solution

Time Magazine – The True History Behind Idaho’s Parachuting Beavers

USDA – 2017 California Animals Killed Report

USDA – How to Keep Beavers from Plugging Culverts [PDF]

USDA – Mountain Beaver Damage and Management

Washington Dept. Fish and Wildlife  – Beavers

Wikipedia – Beaver in the Sierra Nevada

Wikipedia – California Fur Rush

 

 

 

 

 

 

Warning! Video below shows animal butchering – Beaver Castor Gland Removal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Singing Coyote – the Ultimate Adapter

Coyote is the Most Vocal North American Land Mammal

Canis latrans, the coyote’s scientific name, means ‘barking dog.’

Between 11-13 vocalization have been identified. Wildlife biologists have categorized several sound types;

Combative & alarm – barks, woofs, growls, huffs, bark howls, yelps, and high-pitched whimpers

The lone howl, the most recognized coyote vocalization, is thought to be a proclamation by an individual coyote separated from its pack.

Contact & Greeting – ‘Wow-oo-wow’ appears to be a “greeting song” when two or more pack members reunite. Group yips are thought to be a response to the lone howl.

The coyote is North America’s oldest indigenous species

Originating near Yellowstone three million years ago, this medium-sized canine is extremely adaptable and intelligent. They’ve settled into every wild, rural and urban corner of the North American continent.

Unlike other species that were extinguished by eradication efforts, Coyotes create replacement populations when their numbers are reduced.

Coyote experts suggest that it’s easier to train coyotes and people to coexist rather than launching hunting campaigns. Killing coyotes opens more territory for roaming individuals to claim.

Breeding

Breeding season is February through March. Coyotes are monogamous and mate for life.

In spring, newly mated couples claim territories and set-up dens. Den establishment may be cleaning out a previously used space or taking over an abandoned skunk, badger, or marmot holes.

A pregnancy lasts about two months. Litters range be between 3 – 12 pups. Litter size is determined by the number of other coyotes in the territory and the availability of food.

Once the cubs are born, the male and other pack members help feed, raise and protect them. Pups remain with the parents somewhere between six months to one year.

The Pack & Social Behavior

A family unit contains a reproductive female and her mate. Nonreproductive females, bachelor males, and other young adults may join the pack in the winter for companionship, but this is usually temporary.

Hunting coyotes can be singular or work in groups. At times pairs and small packs will form to take large prey such as deer, cow, sheep, or large domestic dog. (The ever-unpredictable coyote may also initiate play behavior with large pet dogs.)

Occasionally, coyotes will form interspecies relationships. Coyotes have been observed working in tandem with American badgers while rodent hunting. A badger has been seen allowing head snuggles and face licking from a coyote.

Aggressive coyote behavior most closely matches fox behavior.

Hybridization (CoyDog)

While not common, coyotes have been known to breed with dogs when there is no other alternative.

Statistics & Threats

Males = 18 – 44 lbs
Females = 15 – 40 lbs

Life span 6-8 years.

Humans pose the biggest threat to coyotes. In rural farming areas, most coyote deaths are caused by hunting and trapping. In urban environments, the majority of coyote deaths are caused by automobiles.

Versatile Diet

90% of a coyote’s diet consists of meat, but a coyote will eat almost anything, often experimenting with previously unknown items.

Prey species;
  • rabbits
  • sheep
  • rodents
  • squirrels
  • birds
  • frogs
  • lizards
  • snakes (Rattlesnakes! Coyotes tease the snake to uncoil, then bites the head and shakes.)
  • fish
  • crayfish
  • insects
  • grubs
  • worms
  • black bear cubs (unusual)
  • also scavenges large animal carcasses
Wild Areas

In wild areas, coyotes may compete with bobcats and mountain lions for mule deer.

Scavenging in Rural & Urban Areas

If fresh meat is not available, coyotes will scavenge for;

  • berries
  • pears
  • figs
  • strawberries
  • elderberry
  • avocado
  • peaches
  • apples
  • persimmons
  • watermelons
  • cantaloupes
  • carrots
  • corn
  • dropped fruit under fruit trees
  • garden produce

Winter Food Sources

In winter they will also eat;

  • grasses
  • grains
  • other animal droppings

Cities and Populated Areas

In urban areas, a coyote diet can consist of;

  • dog and cat food
  • cats
  • feral cat populations
  • bird seed at feeding stations
  • small dogs
  • large dogs (sometimes), with several coyotes working as a team

Coyote Hazing

Coyotes in cities should be wary of humans.

It’s up to people to reinforce the coyote’s fear

Hazing will help maintain healthy boundaries for all.

Hazing methods;

  • throwing rocks
  • waving arms
  • shouting
  • blowing an air horn
  • spraying it with a water hose
  • or acting aggressively
  • looking at it directly in the eye
  • make yourself look larger
  • motion sensitive outdoor lighting may discourage coyotes

Guard Animals

In areas where livestock is at risk, some ranchers and farmers have found that llamas, donkeys, and dogs bred for guarding aid as coyote deterrents. (See University of California – How to Manage Pests link below for details.)

Identifying Problem Behavior

  • Increased numbers of coyotes on streets and in yards
  • Hunting pets in the daytime
  • Coyotes seen in playgrounds or parks during the day
  • Coyotes approaching people during the daytime and/or behaving with aggression
  • Chasing joggers, bicyclists or other outdoor enthusiasts
  • Attacking pets while the pet is on a leash

When a Coyote Becomes a Safety Hazard

A coyote becomes a public safety hazard when it no longer fears humans and behaves with aggression.

Coyotes that bite humans have usually been fed by humans

In 2017, the USDA Animal and Plant Inspection Service killed 3,199 coyotes in California.

If a coyote has developed bad behavior, a predator removal professional must be called (it is illegal to shoot firearms in populated areas). Coyote relocation is not an option, the animal is killed. Nevada County’s Federal Trapper can be reached at 530-470-2690 during office hours.

Coexisting

With their ability to predict outcomes, make changes, communicate, quickly identify new food sources and understand human behavior, it’s easy to see why the coyote is an evolutionary success story.

In Nevada County, and along Deer Creek, it’s important to realize that coyotes are always watching. Just like discouraging bad bear behavior, residents must be vigilant about keeping food and water sources at a minimum. It’s also wise to mindful about creating situations where small pets and farm animals may become prey.

If humans do their part by keeping coyotes wary, the two species can coexist peacefully. Haunting coyote song will serenade us at night and they’ll keep our rodents, insects and rattlesnakes in check.

click on image to see more Life on the Creek art

If you liked this post, you may also enjoy Bobcat – Susceptible to Rat Poison or Turkey Vulture – Carion Cleaner.

Resources:

Coyote Hazing – Keeping Humans and Coyotes on good terms

Coyote Myths vs. Facts

 

Dens

Resident vs. Transient Coyote

Savvy or Silly

Hero or Pest

Dog vs. Coyote

The Shapeshifter – Documentary

ABC 11 Eyewitness News – Coyote Stuck for 20 Miles in Woman’s Car Grill

HubPages – Difference Between Dog, Wolf, Jackal, Coyote, and Fo

Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust – How to identify Coyote Tracks

LiveScience – Coyote Facts

Nevada County  – Wildlife Services & Information  

University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources – How to Manage Pests of Homes, Structures, and Pets – Coyote

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – Spotted! A Coyote and Badger Hunting Together

USDA – 2017 California Animals Killed Report

USDA – Coyote Wildlife Damage [PDF]

USDA – Living with Wildlife – Coyotes [PDF]

Wikipedia – Coyote

 

Nevada County Federal Trapper –  530-470-2690

 

 

Alonzo Delano – Grass Valley Champion & Gold Rush Correspondent

At age 43, after being sick with consumption, Alonzo Delano left his home and loved ones to join the mass of gold-seeking emigrants making the overland journey to California (1849). In Illinois, he sold bank stocks and commodities and lived with his wife and two children; Fred an invalid son of 16 and Harriet, a six-year-old daughter. 

After surviving the laborious trek and multiple attempts at gold mining, Alonzo settled in Grass Valley where he invested in a quartz mine and returned to banking and selling merchandise.

Drought & Fire 1854 & 1855

In 1855 two events occurred that caused great upset for the people of Grass Valley, allowing Delano to demonstrate compassionate leadership and his ability to focus a dispirited community on a hopeful future.

A drought in 1854 limited water availability. Mines struggled to keep working and miners couldn’t pay their debts. Real estate prices crashed.  The nation’s leading bank (not Wells Fargo) made an investment in a railroad that failed.

Alonzo was the Wells Fargo agent in Grass Valley. When communication from San Francisco reached him about a bank run, he opened the Wells Fargo doors on time. Climbing on top of the service counter, he declared to all, “Come on. I will pay out to the last dollar, and if that’s not enough, my own property will go.”

A month later Delano was elected the first Treasurer of Grass Valley.

Seven months went by before the second disaster struck. A terrible fire leveled at least 300 buildings, leaving thousands homeless.

“Give my love to all my friends. Tell them I was not afraid to die, and that I left the earth without ill feeling toward anybody,” Alonzo made this deathbed appeal to his wife.

“Old Block was a courageous pioneer. He loved and inspired his fellow men,” said Ezra Dane – Gold Rush writer & San Francisco Lawyer (1904-1941)

Delano’s 1849 Journal Entries Published in a Book

Traveling somewhere between 15 – 20 miles per day, the overland journey took five months. At dinnertime, Alonzo journaled about the events of his day. Sickness, starvation, thirst, and death became common experiences. Delano’s keen observations provide a window in time that shows travel conditions, food, finding water, wild animals, Indians, and the open expanse of the Sacramento Valley.

Below are selected excerpts from Life on the Plains and Among the Diggings [1849 – 1854] as well as additional Delano writings that give the reader a 318° view of Gold Rush life and early California and Nevada County.

Sickness and Bad Food

April 5th, 1849

…since the invasion of Rome by the Goths, such a deluge of mortals had not been witnessed, as now pouring from the States to the various points of departure for the golden shores of California.

On the second day [aboard steamer Revolution at St. Joseph, Missouri], amid the gaieties of our motley crowd, a voice was heard, which at once checked the sound of mirth, and struck with alarm the stoutest heart — “the cholera is on board!”

May 5th

We discovered that we had been imposed upon in St. Louis in the purchase of our bacon, for it began to exhibit more signs of life than we had bargained for. It became necessary to scrape and smoke it, in order to get rid of its tendency to walk in insect form.

Aboriginies

May 9th

I did not wonder that the aborigines were attached to their delightful country, and had it been mine, I should have defended my possessions against the encroachment of any lawless intruder.

Animal Abundance

September 14th

I learned that three miles beyond there was a spring. It was nearly sunset when I again entered the deep wood, but my anxiety to get in sight of the abodes of civilized man impelled me forward, choosing to risk a night alone in the woods, among the wild beasts which swarmed in that region, rather than not gain the distance.

First Sight of Sacramento Valley

September 17th

Ascending to the top of an inclined plane, the long-wished-for and welcome valley of the Sacramento, lay before me, five or six miles distant. How my heart bounded at the view! How every nerve thrilled at the sight! It looked like a grateful haven to the tempest-tossed mariner, and with long strides, regardless of the weariness of my limbs, I plodded on, anxious to set foot upon level ground beyond the barren, mountain desert.

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End excerpts from Life on the Plains and in the Diggings

Other Delano Correspondence

Emigrants Starting the Trip Late – Fall of 1849

In addition to other calamities, many suffered from scurvy and fevers – the consequence of using so much salt or impure provisions, and while many others died, others were made cripples for life.

Rescue Efforts

Photo Credit: B.D’s world

By the earliest arrivals, in June and July, of those emigrants who reached the valley, the sufferings and destitution of those behind were made known, and the government and individuals once more extended the hand of relief. San Francisco, Sacramento City, and Marysville made large contributions, and trains loaded with provisions were dispatched to meet them.

In addition to this, traders pushed their way over the snows to Carson’s Creek, and Truckee River and even to the Sink of the Humbolt, with supplies; and although much good was done, and many lives saved, yet aid could not be rendered to all.

Societal Shifts

It was found, too, that talent for business, literary and scientific acquirements, availed little or nothing in a country where strength of muscle was required to raise heavy rocks and dig deep pits.

California proved to be a leveler of pride, and everything like aristocracy of employment; indeed, the tables seemed to be turned, for those who labored hard in a business that compared with digging wells and canals at home, and fared worse than the Irish laborer, were those who made the most money in mining.

Sutter’s Fort

And here I found myself more than two thousand miles from home, in a city which had risen as if by enchantment since I had crossed the Missouri.

Camping Near Bear River

…spreading our blankets, [we] were soon asleep, despite that howling of the cayotes all around us.

Coyotes & Dogs Frolic

These animals are of the dog species, and appear to be connecting link between the fox and wolf. They frequently go in packs, but rarely attack a man, unless pressed by hunger, which is not often, for the number of horses and carcasses of wild cattle in the valley furnish them food, and they are not looked upon as dangerous. I have seen them stop and play with dogs, which had been set upon them, returning their caresses, and showing no disposition to fight.

Oleepa Tribe

I was soon looked upon as a friend, and for aught, I know recognized as of the tribe of Oleepa. … among themselves, and with those whom they confide, a more jolly, laughter-loving, carless and good-natured people, do not exist. The air resounded with their merry shouts as we sat around their fires at night when some practical joke was perpetrated, or a funny allusion made. And they were always ready to dance or sing at the slightest intimations, and nothing seemed to give them more pleasure than to have me join in their reactions. To each other, they were uniformly kind, and during the whole of my residence with them, I never saw a quarrel or serious disagreement.

Dwindling Indian Population

…They are already dwindling, for the fire-water and rifle of the white man are doing their work of death, and five years will not pass ere they will become humbled and powerless – a wretched remnant of a large population.

Photo Credit: Brian C. Stanford

Grizzly Bear in the Sutter Buttes – a Daughter Saves Her Father

About twelve miles nearly west of us, a solitary butte rises from the plain, from fifteen hundred to two thousand feet high, and whose broken, craggy and pointed ridges seem to kiss the clouds. It stands nearly in the center of the plain, equi-distant from the coast range and the Sierra Nevada.

…setting his rife against the rock, he [Peter] climbed over the ledge, when, to his horror he found himself facing a huge grizzly bear. The monster sprang upon him at once…tearing his scalp from his head, and biting him in a fearful manner… they both fell off the rock, and rolled down the hill. Peter, in the meantime, making the best use of his knife possible, inflicting several severe wounds upon his adversary.

…with the impulse of one inspired, [Peter’s second daughter] sprang towards her father…and with unerring aim, discharged it at the bear. The bullet took effect in the monster’s head, and he fell, stunned if not dead. Instantly she ran and seized her sister’s rifle, and returning placed it against the bear’s ear, and what little life remained soon passed away.

Engineering Water Movement

Where water is not found in isolated places, canals are dug, sometimes forty or fifty miles long, by which water is carried from some permanent stream along stupendous hill-sides, over ravines and gulches, and around rocks by sluices and flumes, often at vast expense of labor and money – thus arresting the skill, energy, and enterprise of the people who are delving among the mountains; hoping to acquire a competence to smooth the down-hill of life, and render old age comfortable.

Lumber; the New Riches

In the mountains, water-power is abundant for all mechanical purposes, and the noble pines, made into lumber, will form a source of wealth equaled only by its mineral treasures.

Hard Work & Failure; the Fickleness of Finding Gold

Thus the failure of the miners was felt far and wide. Wherever we turned, we met with disappointed and disheartened men, and the trails and mountains were alive with those whose hopes had been blasted.

Were the personal adventures of a moiety of the emigration of 1850 to be written, they would furnish a volume of absorbing interest, forming a sad commentary on the California gold-seeking mania, which produced more wide-spread misery than any similar occurrence in the annals of mankind.

I do not hesitate to declare that no one should emigrate, unless with the intention of making it [California] his home for life.

Gold Rush Climax

The country is large enough and productive enough to support a dense population, and individual suffering would be less if it was filled up by degrees; but one great difficulty is too many are rushing in at once before the way is sufficiently prepared for them. Now a limited number can cross the plains safely and with comfort if properly provided, but this year there are too many going at once. In addition to the stick actually required to draw the wagons on the road, a large number of cattle are being driven for market. The will generally reach the Rocky Mountains in safety – that is, there will be grass enough to sustain the cattle. But immediately on going through the South Pass the desert country commences, grass will be difficult to obtain and, I believe, impossible for so great a number. The consequences will be that the cattle of emigrant trains will die, and families will have a terra firma shipwreck, hundreds of miles from human aid. If they have money to duplicate their teams from droves, they may be partially relieved; but very many will not be able to pay the California prices which will be asked, and they will be left to get along the best way they can, which will be on foot, or die.  – True Delta – June 23, 1852

Delano – a Prolific, Eloquent Gold Rush Writer

“We have pleasure in publishing … one of the ablest correspondents it was our good fortune to secure in California in the early days of the gold discoveries. His letters to this paper were graphic, truthful, eloquent and patriotic, overflowing with generous sentiment and the spirit of manly independence so characteristic of the sons of the glorious West.” True Delta, August 12, 1852

While living in California, Delano was a correspondent for the San Francisco Daily Courier, the Pacific News, The Union, the California Farmer, the Golden Era, the Telegraph, the Hesperian, and Hutchins’ California Magazine. His work also appeared Edwin F. Beans’s History and Directory of Nevada County and the New York Times.

Life on the Plains and in the Diggings Book Review

In a time when we have plentiful water at the turn of a tap, instant worldwide communication, refrigeration, food safety, health care and emergency services, shelter from weather, planes, trains, and highway systems, it’s good to be reminded of the luxury they represent.  It’s valuable to imagine the hardships endured by the brave (or foolish!) folks who adventured to a remote and distant land in covered wagons and on foot.

The level of detail in Delano’s writing is thrilling and mesmerizing, almost like walking the trail beside him. 

 

 

 

If you liked this post you may also like the Diary of a Forty-Niner,  Fleas & Disease in the California Gold Rush or Plants for Healing the Land After Fire.

 

Resources:

Archive.org – Alonzo Delano

California Correspondence by Alonzo Delano

CSpan – California Gold Rush Fires and Floods, Gary Noy

GaryNoy.com

History of California, VII,  Bancroft – 1852 -100,000 pioneers emigrated to California

Motley Fool – How Wells Fargo Survived the Panic of 1855

Sierra College – Alonzo Delano: Nomad Denzien of the World, by Gary Noy

Sierra College – “The Grass Valley Fire of 1855” by Gary Noy

The Union – ‘The Blue Vault of Heaven’: Alonzo Delano and The Great Grass Valley Fire of 1855

The Union – Hub of history: Downtown Grass Valley tradition passed down through the generations

Wikiwand – Alonzo Delano

Ghost Pine – Produces Nuts in Harsh Growing Conditions

Pinus Sabiniana is native to California and Oregon and has a variety of names.

Habitat

Its habitat forms a ring around California’s ‘bathtub’ (central valley). It grows in poor soils, is adapted to hot, dry summers and usually keeps company with Blue and Live Oaks.

Common Names & Naming History

Common names include;

  • Ghost Pine
  • Gray Pine
  • California Foothill Pine
  • Bull Pine
  • Nut Pine
  • Grayleaf Pine
  • Sabines Pine and
  • Sabine Nut Pine

In published writings before the 1800’s, the tree was known as Digger Pine. According to Erwin Gudde author of California Place Names: The Origin and Etymology of Current Geographical Names. “…the name seems to have been used in a geographical sense mainly in Wintu territory.  With these tribes, roots are, for the great portion of the year, their main subsistence.” (Schoolcraft, Archives of aboriginal knowledge, 1860). The diggers also valued as food the green cones and the seeds of the Pinus sabiniana, whence the common designation Digger Pine.”

Like monuments and other articles of history, once the full story is understood, it often sheds light on derogatory designations and attitudes. Such is the case with the name Digger. For valid reasons, the Pinus Sabiniana has many other common names to choose from.

Cones, Nuts & Resin

Current tree distribution may be a result of human cultivation. Native populations are known to have tended to plants used for food, clearing brush and redistributing seeds.

Gray pine nuts are also important food sources for the California gray squirrel, acorn woodpeckers, rodents, and a variety of birds. The Scrub and Steller’s jay eat the seeds and move them, assisting with tree migration and reproduction.

Highly Flammable Tree

Gray pine is a prolific resin producer. The bark, cones, wood and needle sheaths contain pitch. This makes the tree vulnerable to fire damage.

Adaptations that aid in fire survival are; thick bark on mature trees and low branch self-pruning. Additionally, Gray pine seeds regenerate following fire.

 

“…this tree looks more like a palm than a pine,” writes John Muir in My First Summer in the Sierra. “Sabine pine (Pinus Sabiniana), which here forms small groves or is scattered among the blue oaks. The trunk divides at a height of fifteen or twenty feet into two or more stems, out-leaning or nearly upright, with many straggling branches and long gray needles, casting but little shade.”

 

 

 

Western Dwarf Mistletoe – Arceuthobium occidentale

Dwarf mistletoe observations in Gray Pine trees off Newtown Rd.

Though mistletoes are parasitic and pose a serious threat for forest product trees, it is a valuable part of Life on the Creek. Insects, birds and small mammals consume parts of the mistletoe. In some tree species, the parasite causes the formation of witches brooms, dense outgrowths surrounded by foliage. This provides a safe haven for bird nests and other small creatures.

click on image to see more Life on the Creek art

click on image to see more Life on the Creek art

If you like this post, you may also like California Oak Trees or Invasive Species Choke Natives.

Resources:

Gray Pine

Calscape – Foothill Pine Gray Pine Pinus Sabiniana
Gymnosperm Database – Pinus Sabiniana
Jepson Herbarium – Pinus sabiniana
Trees of Stanford – Pinus sabiniana
USDA & Forest Service – Fire Effects Information Species: Pinus Sabiniana
Wikipedia – Pinus sabiniana 

Western Dwarf Mistletoe

Colorado Extension – Mistletoes in Colorado Conifers
Invasive Species Compendium
Record Searchlight – Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Mistletoe
USDA Forest Service – Gray Pine Dwarf Mistletoe [PDF]

Illustration & Artwork

MistleTroll by Megan Greene Design

MistleTroll – MeganGreeneDesign.com

Gold Rush Stories – Book Review

“History, warts and all,” is the essence of what Gary Noy delivers. Noy’s meticulous research, ferreting through dusty archive boxes for photos and first-person accounts, makes his gritty, sometimes enormously disturbing, and often entertaining Gold Rush story vignettes radiate with life.

In the lawless immigrant melting pot of California dreams, “accidents, disease, murder, natural disasters, [and] mob violence, … took a heavy toll during the era. Some estimates indicate 20 percent of all forty-niners died within six months of reaching California,” Noy writes.

From the extinction of California’s Grizzly Bear, environmental destruction, and racist atrocities to situations engendering multi-cultural cooperation, Noy links California’s haunting past to contemporary issues still playing out today.

click on a book cover to visit Gary’s Amazon page

American River Watershed & Lake Tahoe

Most rivers in California have been changed by mining, water control, and the introduction of new species. Professor Erika Zavaleta of UC Santa Cruz explains the history and biology of California’s watersheds. She also presents current watershed management issues.