Nature Notes

Mount Rainier National Park

Vol. III July 28th, 1925 No. 5

Issued weekly during the summer season, monthly during the winter by the Nature Guide Service.
F. W. Schmoe,
Park Naturalist.
O. A. Tomlinson,

By F. W. Schmoe, Park Naturalist.

Mother Elk Puts Bear To Flight

Last week the mother elk so often seen about Longmire Springs was on a little begging expedition in the public automobile camp, as is her wont, when a large black bear was seen ambling leisurely toward his favorite garbage can near one of the houses.

Suddenly the elk saw the bear and as suddenly charged him. Bruin took in the situation at a glance and lost no time in determining upon a retreat. When the edge of the forest was reached the elk was only a few jumps in the rear and gaining fast. The bear hesitated an instant at the first big tree for in its branches lay safety but another glance out of the corner of his eye told him that there was no time to climb trees, so he went on.

In the dense forest Bruin had a slight advantage and the last we saw of the pair he was laboriously maintaining his meager margin of safety.

Some people witnessing this sortee would have been surprised that a doe elk would so unhesitatingly attack a fullgrown bear but we knew why the bear's presence was not desired. This particular mother elk has a small wobbly-legged youngster and at the time it was sleeping somewhere in those particular woods. It is unlikely that the bear did not know that the fawn existed, for it was well hidden, but the mother was taking no chances with her baby.

Nature Guide Party Enjoys Demonstration By Grouse

During the week the Park Naturalist was leading a party of more than eighty people on a short field trip. Just below Paradise Camp a mother grouse was seen standing on a rock watching our approach. Closer observation revealed the fact that she had with her a covy of tiny chicks only a few days old.

As we stood still and watched this little family group the cock appeared on the dusty trail below us, spread his tail like a turkey gobbler, inflated his air pouches and began slowly to bear down upon us as tho he fully intended to put the whole party to flight. When within a few feet of the leaders he turned into the flower fields and began hooting at us.

It was one of the finest sights I have ever seen. He was a magnificent bird as he stood there with tail wide spread, the two orange patches showing plainly on his head and the yellow neck pouched inflated while he gave out his hollow muffled hoot. Altho he was only a few feet away the sound seemed to come from a distance.

While we watched, the hen went on feeding upon huckleberry blossoms and looking after her chicks. We watched them for fully ten minutes, then approached closer. Not until we were almost within arms reach did the cock grouse retreat to the flat branches of a nearby balsam where he spread his tail again and continued hooting. The hen moved away but the chick were so fearless that a member of the party had no difficulty in taking one of them in her hand. They were the Sooty Grouse common to the high alpine meadows of the Park.

Do Beaver Build Houses?

If you had asked me that question last week I would have answered that it is a well known and undisputed fact that they do, but now I am not so certain.

During the recent dry weather many of the beaver ponds in the lower Nisqually have practically dried up and we have had opportunity to study the lodges at close range.

During a recent visit to these colonies i noted or recalled the following facts; Beaver houses are always constructed of sticks from which the bark has been gnawed. All that I have ever seen took advantage of the spreading roots of trees or of mud banks to start the house, and a close examination of several houses proved to me that the nest cavities, even in the larger houses, were all underground or earth covered.

Personally I am bout convinced that beaver never build houses but that they always dig lodgings in dirt banks or beneath the roots of trees and that the refuse sticks from which they have removed the bark as food are merely piled upon the hoose top to protect it perhaps, but, largely as a matter of convenience.

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