Nature Notes

Vol. VIII March, 1930 No. 3

What Do They Eat?

As one hikes about the mountains during the winter months and observes the deep snows and diminished food supply at that season it seems as if the plight of the wild folk approximates that of Mother Hubbard's dog for the region seems as barren of nourishment as her proverbial cupboard. No doubt they do suffer at times -- particularly in times of extreme cold or snow when it seems as if all the artifices with which Mother Nature equips the birds and animals in order that they might survive in times of stress are of no avail.

But a consideration of these artifices reveals much of interest. We all know that many of the birds seek relief from the lean months in the South. Here on "The Mountain" many of our feathered friends merely journey to the lower elevations about Puget Sound, but a few miles distant, where snow rarely falls and where there is an abundance of food. Some birds remain with us - hardy fellows - living on the needles of the evergreens, the seeds that are found in cones or by digging grubs from beneath the bark of trees as in the case of the Woodpeckers, the Creeper and the Nuthatches.

Such animals as the Deer and Elk migrate from the sub-alpine meadows to below the snowline, which too often means beyond the boundaries of the Park. It is then that they find themselves stepping from the "frying pan into the fire" for protection is not theirs at all seasons beyond the Park's borders. Goat, rugged dwellers of the high crags throughout the period when habitation at such places is possible, retreat with the coming of winter to slightly lower elevations and seek out bluffs and cliffs where the winds keep the surface more or less barren of snow - thus exposing whatever scanty vegetation may be found there. Yet never do the Goat become friendly. They remain aloof from human contact yet on Cougar Rock, near Longmire, we may often see them sunning themselves on bright winter days, this being one of their winter retreats.

snowshoe rabbit

Many animals such as the Douglas Squirrel, the Cony and the Beaver have an industrious habit of working during the time of plenty to store up quantities of food in advance of that time when it will not be so readily available. Thus during the late summer the activities of the Douglas Squirrel are very much in evidence as he cuts cones from the trees, spilling them to the forest floor in great quantities.

Other animals like the Bear, Marmot, Ground Squirrel, Chipmunk simply eat themselves fat during the late summer and early fall and "turn in" for several months of sleep, or hibernation, until Spring rolls around again. Chipmunk sometimes awaken now and then during the winter. Bear will soon be with us again -- without doubt the next issue of Nature Notes will herald his appearance, at which time Bruin will begin his regular round of activities which will include everything from digging up the roots of Skunk Cabbage to begging food from visitors along the roads.

And then there are the predatory animals such as the Bobcat, the Cougar etc. which migrate, or rather follow the animals upon which they prey. Those weaker species include the Deer, Snowshoe Rabbit and others. And lastly many of the smaller species burrow beneath the surface of the soil, seeking the nourishment that is contained in the roots of the trees and plants that are found in that manner. Thus in many ways does Nature fit the forest folk for the time when food is scarce and thus they are able to survive, though quite often fatalities occur, to begin their round of summer activities with the coming of the more friendly season. That season is now, just around the corner. We have had an exceedingly mild winter and the interesting days of spring, when the early flowers are beginning to bloom, when the trees leaf out and when the birds and animals take up their usual summer routine is near at hand.

Museum Accessions

It seems as if our Museum has many friends. During the month we received from Mrs. Bates, sister of General Hazard Stevens, through Mr. B. F. Hume of the Olympia Chamber of Commerce a photo of General Hazard Stevens taken shortly before he made his successful ascent of "The Mountain". Mr. Hume also sent us a photo of Olympia in 1876, which gives us some idea of how that city looked when Stevens and Van Trump started on their memorable journey. We also received a photo of Mr. F. E. Matthes whose work with the U. S. G. S. has been closely allied with "The Mountain". From Mr. Asahel Curtis came two flags -- one being that of our own country and the other being the banner of the Alaska-Yukon Exposition. These flags were carried to the summit of Mt. Rainier -- the latter one being left there for one year. Mr. Curtis also included a photo showing the party arriving at the crater rim with those flags. Each month we receive additions from friends of the Nature Guide Service -- needless to say their interest is greatly appreciated!

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