Tuesday, December 14, 2010
I have learned a lot about the outdoors throughout my life. Not hard to imagine considering my career and lifestyle involves the outdoors more than the average person. I often say, the biggest lesson you can learn is there is so much more to learn. In the grand scheme of things, I know very little about the outdoors.
I often tagged along with groups that were tracking game for a meal. I recall once I was with a group, and a man named Mike stopped as we stalked quietly through the forest, he made eye contact with me and pointed at a bare spot on the forest floor, and he whispered "You can see where a turkey has been scratching, looking for food." He paused, took a couple of steps and stopped again "Here you can see some turkey tracks in the mud..." I was amazed at the thought of how many times I had undoubtedly walked past signs of wildlife such as this without ever being aware of their existence. Tracking was something that had interested me from that point on...
Fox tracks, walking. I assume Urocyon cinereoargenteus (Grey Fox) as they are more common and has been spotted on campus, though it could very well be the less common Vulpes vulpes (Red Fox.) Note the Sylvilagus floridanus (Eastern Cottontail Rabbit) Tracks are filled with snow, a sign this track was made in the midst of the falling snow.
So whats the problem? Well this often happens to me, I get excited about something, may even purchase a book or two on the matter, then life has a way of diverting me. So here I am, almost twenty years out of the country, and I still only know how to track three animals! So today I took advantage of the snow and went to see what I could find on my lunch. On campus, in a measly half hour, I found countless tracks. I was inspired again, and found a simple resource for identifying tracks on the Missouri Department of Conservations website here. Another great resource is "The Wild Mammals of Missouri" digitally available here.
A good guess would be a rodent species, the tunneling makes me suspicious of a Microtus (vole) species.
I am no longer a hunter in the traditional sense. I prefer to hunt with my eyes and a camera, and enjoy the beauty of animals from a distance, and leave them alone so I, and others, may enjoy them another day. I hope you get a chance to get outside and enjoy some tracks in the snow while they last.
Posted by Dan Porter at 10:29 AM
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
There is so much to talk about this time of year, but I am going to spare you my rant on my distaste for holiday lights, and move right into ice melter. I fear the time has come where I hear horror stories of people unintentionally skating down their driveways. I have even found myself in positions unnatural to the human body due to a slip on an ice patch.
So lets talk a bit about walking on ice. Ice and concrete are very unforgiving, so I am always careful on what I wear on the days I know I might encounter ice. I always wear shoes or boots that have a very aggressive tread on them, so that means I leave the dress shoes and high-heels in the closet! I have had some success with slip-on treads that are made for ice encounters, but they are often cumbersome and make walking even more dangerous. Also when I am walking on Ice, I walk slowly and with a wide stance, keeping my center of gravity low, and always keep my hands out of my pockets, to use for balance and to brake my fall. (I am too old to tuck and roll anymore.) There are also many situations that sneak up on us, like getting in and out of our vehicles, so those are the times to be the most aware of ice!
I also wanted to take a little time to discuss ice-melters, as I often see multiple kinds available in stores, and sometimes they have misleading packaging. For instance, bags will sometimes say "Magnesium blend ice melter" or a blend of some sort. Avoid these blends unless the label specifies exactly what that blend is, as it may contain chemicals in that blend that are harmful to your concrete, plants, or pets! Here is a personal break-down of ice-melters I have personal experience with and some pros and cons of each.
Sand: Often used by gardeners because it will not harm plants, animals, or concrete. Great for traction but often tracks on your shoes, bringing sand indoors where it will damage wood floors and carpeting. Caution should still be used as the ice still exists. It may be better to use nothing at all as opposed to this messy product.
Salt, (Sodium Chloride, Na Cl): Very cost effective ice melter, but is toxic to pets, animals, and humans if ingested or skin contact. Damages concrete and only works to around 20 degrees.
Calcium Chloride: Often expensive ice melter that works well, even down to temperatures down to minus 20 degrees. Although, it is unsafe for pets and humans, and can damage concrete and plants if not used carefully.
Magnesium Chloride: This ice melter works fast and is a favorite amongst grounds departments for its fast action and cold temperature activation. Works down to 5 degrees. Is toxic to humans and pets and will often track indoors.
Potassium Chloride: Another grounds maintenance favorite because it is very gentle on plants if used correctly, and is the lowest tracking material. Only works down to around 20 degrees. Toxic to pets, humans, and wildlife.
Organic/Pet Safe Ice melters: I have some experience with these ice melters, and none have been very good. These may help speed the process of natural melting, but little more. It is nice to see a product that is safe for pets, but I fear these products do little more than put pet lovers concern at ease. I prefer to not use anything at my home for the safety of my dog, and the surroundings.
Maddie: After a long day of snow shoveling...
Posted by Dan Porter at 6:53 AM