Nature News Notes is launching into its second season with this issue. It is the intention of the service to enlarge and improve the sheet and to extend its usefulness by printing sufficient numbers so that all who are interested may have a copy.
The past winter has been marked by its mildness and lack of heavy snow. Both Paradise Valley and Longmire Springs have recorded only about half the usual depth. During March the ground was bare most of the time while last season the road was blocked by from three to five feet during the same season. April has been both winter and summer with some two weeks of mixed snow, rain and sun. Present conditions are, bright sunshine, no snow up to 3000 feet, about five feet at Narada Falls and twelve feet in Paradise Valley. Indications are that the road to the Valley will be open in record time this season.
Summary of temperatures and precipitation.
The openness of the winter has been favorable to wild life. Bear that went into hibranation soon after the first of December were out again by the middle of March, two weeks early. They denned up again during storms that lasted for a week during the last of March and first of April, but were out at Longmire on April third and were as far up as Paradise Valley before the middle of the month.
Deer and goats have spent the season at higher levils than usual and have therefore been better protected both from hunters and preditory animals. The region around the mouth of Tahoma creek has as usual been the chief range of the deer of this section. Bands of goats have spent the winter on the edge of Indian Henrys and Van Trump parks. This is there normal winter range. No fawns of kids have been seen yet. By May 1st, deer with last years fawns were commonly seen around Longmire and the Park Entrance and seem much less shy than usual.
The presence of bands of deer and goat always bring cougar, wild cat and coyote to a locality. Cougar have been particularly active this winter. From a study made by the Park Natrualist last October it was estimated that some fifty cougar hunted thru the Park. They are the greatest check upon the deer, elk and goats. Deer suffer particularly and as the cougar increase in numbers the deer will decrease. Three cougar, two males and one female, have been killed by Government hunters during the winter and several wild cat and coyote have been accounted for, all in the region of the Tahoma creek valley. Very little if any poaching has occured in the Park. The last cougar which was killed near Mount Ararat on April first was a large 'tom-cat' measuring 7'4" from tip to tip as it lay on the ground and weighing close to 200 pounds. During the chase which took the dogs and men over some twenty miles of trail two of his 'kills' were found. Examination of his stomach contents showed that he had been living almost exclusively upon deer and goat.
The skin will be mounted and placed in the Park Museum.
The lower slopes of the mountain were formally within the range of the western or Olympic elk, only a few years ago shed antlers were found within the Park. These bands of elk were practically wiped out by presistant hunting except in the Olympic mountains where the ruggedness of the country protected them. Within the past few years the state and county game commissions have succeeded in re-establishing small bands over much of the former range by bringing the animals from the valleys in the Olympics where they were particularly plentiful. (It is estimated that there are some seven or eight thousand elk within the Olympic Forest Reserve). A few of these 'planted' elk have ranged over the park line along the Cowlitz divide and up Huckelberry creek into Grand park but none have made their home within the park. It has been the plan of the Service to bring elk into the park but there have been two chief difficulties in the way, one the lack of funds and means of securing the animals and the other the difficulty of protecting them during the winter. The establishment of the new game refuge along the south boundary of the park makes the protection easier and now the State Game Commission has very kindly agreed to furnish us with two or more animals without cost to the service.
These will be delivered by July first. They will be kept for some time at Longmire Springs to accustom them to what will be their winter range and then taken into the higher valleys and liberated. This we hope will be the beginning of a large herd of these fine animals within the park. They will likely be less shy than the deer and will be a great attraction to our visitors. There is sufficient range for at least a thousand elk in Rainier.
Small animals are usual very abundant this spring, the Cooper chipmunks have been out off and on all winter. There was a heavy crop of cones last fall with the accompanying increase in the squirrel family. The Douglas squirrel vies with the chipmunk in numbers all thru the forest areas. Snow show rabbits seem to be particularly numerous this spring. On the first of April they were still in their white winter coat at Longmire and just beginning to turn, around the Park Entrances. By the middle of April they were all brown in the lower valleys and well spotted at Longmire. May first waw nothing by brown rabbits. Hoary marmots and conys are just beginning to become active on the more exposed rock slopes above three thousand feet elevation. Beaver are well distributed over the lower regions of the park and have been well protected for years. They have few natural enemies aside from the wild cats and should increase in numbers. They are quite active in all the colonies and spreading some, particularly along the tributaries of the Nisqually river, but are not abundant in any section. Aspen, which is their favorite source of food in most regions is not present in the park but they seem to thrive on the native cottonwood and alder and strange as it may seem eat considerable hemlock bark. Colonies with dams are fond on the creek 1.9 miles up the Tahoma trail and on Fish creek 3.1 miles up the same trail, all along horse creek south of the Nisqually and on a small stream which flows into the river a quarter mile above Tahoma creek. The flat at Longmire Springs and Bear Prairie are the results of the silting in of beaver ponds. Traces of old dams may still be found at these points altho there are no beaver working at present.
Martin are still abundant in the high valleys and mink and coon are along all the lower streams. Muskrat in spite of the fact that there are many apparently ideal spots for muskrat colonies are never abundant in the park. The curious and little studied mountain beaver or Sewell are found every where in the lower woods but are seldom seen because of their nocturnal habits. Occasionally in the spring when the elder berry buds are large one who has apparently overlooked the fact that morning has come will be seen nervously climbing the elder berry bushes and cutting off the new shoots for food. The story of the man who deliberately saws off the limb is sitting n would be true if applied to the sewell as he invariably cuts the twig below his perch and falls with it to the ground several feet distant, then hurries away with it to his burrow in the moist soil of the wood.
Our bird population which never has the variety of the more open country is at all times much larger than would at first appear due to the fact that so many of our birds live in the woods where it is difficult to see them and also because many of our residents sing very little. Still our most presistant singer and one of our finest, that can be heard at any season no matter what the weather, the Western winter wren, habitually lives in the densest and darkest of the heavy fir forests. The gray and Steller Jays and Raven and Northwest crow, Juncos, Chickadees, several hawks and owls and the Oregon ruffed grouse are with us winter and summer also with slight local migrations in the case of the Juncos, Chickadees and Steller Jays. April has brought flocks of Pine siskins and Golden crowned kinglets to populate the tree tops and occasional red and green crossbills to feed on the fir cones and Brown creepers and Nuthatches to search the boles of the trees for insect larva and eggs. The clear whistled noted of the varied thrush, perched in the tips of the trees is as usual the dominant bird note and the Chestnut-sided chickadees doing their gymnastic stunts in the tips of the twigs in the characteristic sight of the bird world in April at this level. Ruffed grouse and Shufeldt Juncos have been nesting for two or three weeks already in the lower valleys and Redshafted flickers and Hairy woodpeckers are busy digging their next cavaties in the dead trees. In Paradise Valley the Dusky grouse is hooting from the tops of the trees and the Robins that have spent the winter lower in the park are just beginning to appear. Magpies from the desert east of the Cascades, Ravens, Clarkes nutcrackers, Gray Jays, Juncos and Chickadees have been fairly common all winter up to 6000 feet elevation. Ptarmigan in their pure white winter feathers spend the entire season around timberline. Strangely the Magpie which is a typical bird of the hot dry plains spend their winters in the heavy snows of the high valleys and are never seen in summer.
Red current, trillium, yellow violets and skunk cabbage which have been blooming for more than a month down around the Sound are just beginning to bloom in the Park. At present (April 30) with the last of the snow drifts disappearing, the ferns are just beginning to unroll their fronds, the elder berrys and devils clubs are showing tiny leaves and trillium and wild ginger just showing buds. In the high valleys with some ten feet of snow on the ground there are no signs of spring except the occasional warm winds, sunny days and increasing bird and animal life.
Trout have been biting all month in Tahoma and Kauntz creeks and for the past few weeks in the Nisqually and Paradise rivers. Some fine catches have been taken, particularly in Tahoma creek, above the road. Fish creek should be good within a few days and Berry and Horse creeks are no doubt well stocked altho as yet untried.
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