Category: wildlife


Some years ago I mentioned Pleistocene Park, a project in Siberia attempting to recreate what scientists call the Mammoth Steppe, to reduce combat global climate change. Please join me in making a donation, even two dollars can help. More information about Pleistocene Park and how to donate is available here.

yakut horses at pleistocene park in siberia

Yakutian Horses at Pleistocene Park

There are some people in Alaska who would like for the state to become an independent nation. And there are a few who seem to think Alaska is already independent. So, I have another entry in the series of postage stamps for an independent Alaska. This time a 10-Nugget featuring a bull Caribou superimposed on a Caribou pelt.

10-nugget alaska caribou postage stamp

10-Nuggest Alaska Postage Stamp

While Caribou (Rangifer tarandus), known as the reindeer outside of North America, are widespread and numerous, some subspecies are rare and one has gone extinct. The Inuit word tuktu means – deer that never stops moving. Caribou are always on the move, going north to calve, heading for the winter grounds, and south in the summer. Caribou considerably in colour and size. Uniquely among deer, both genders grow antlers, though these are larger in the males and there are a few populations where females lack them completely.

Caribou hunting and herding of semi-domesticated reindeer (for meat, hides, antlers, milk and transportation) are important to several Arctic and Subarctic peoples. Even far outside its range, the caribou/reindeer is well known due to the myth, probably originating in early 19th century America, in which Santa Claus’s sleigh is pulled by flying reindeer. In Lapland (aka Samiland) reindeer pull a pulks, a type of sled or sleigh.

Caribou are present in both tundra and taiga (boreal forest) areas. It was originally was found in Scandinavia, eastern Europe, Russia, Mongolia, and northern China north of the 50th latitude. In North America, it was found in Canada, Alaska, and the northern conterminous USA from Washington to Maine. In the 19th century, it was apparently still present in southern Idaho. It also occurred naturally on Sakhalin, Greenland, and probably even in historical times in Ireland.

During the late Pleistocene era, reindeer were found as far south as Nevada and Tennessee in North America and Spain in Europe. Domesticated reindeer are mostly found in northern Fennoscandia and Russia, with a herd of approximately 150-170 reindeer living around the Cairngorms region in Scotland. The last remaining wild tundra reindeer in Europe are found in portions of southern Norway. A few reindeer from Norway were introduced to the South Atlantic island of South Georgia in the beginning of the 20th century. Today, there are two distinct herds still thriving there, permanently separated by glaciers. Their total numbers are no more than a few thousand. The flag and the coat of arms of the territory contain an image of a reindeer. Around 4000 reindeer have been introduced into the French sub-Antarctic archipelago of Kerguelen Islands. East Iceland has a small herd of about 2500–3000 animals.

Caribou and reindeer numbers have fluctuated historically, but many herds are in decline across their range. This global decline is linked to climate change for northern, migratory caribou and reindeer herds and industrial disturbance of caribou habitat for sedentary, non-migratory herds.

Fur Fur color varies considerably, both individually, and depending on season and subspecies. Northern populations, which usually are relatively small, are whiter, while southern populations, which typically are relatively large, are darker. This can be seen well in North America, where the northermost subspecies, the Peary Caribou, is the whitest and smallest subspecies of the continent, while the southermost subspecies, the Woodland Caribou, is the darkest and largest.

The coat has two layers of fur, a dense woolly undercoat and longer-haired overcoat consisting of hollow, air-filled hairs.

In most populations both sexes grow antlers, which (in the Scandinavian variety) for old males fall off in December, for young males in the early spring, and for females in the summer. The antlers typically have two separate groups of points, a lower and upper.

Caribou have the largest antlers relative to body size among deer, but the antlers of the domesticated reindeer antlers tend to be rather small and spindly.

Caribou are primarily dependent on lichens for food during the winter, especially reindeer moss. They also consume the leaves of willows and birches, as well as sedges and grasses. There is some evidence to suggest that on occasion, they will also feed on lemmings, arctic char, and bird eggs. Reindeer herded by the Chukchis have been known to eat mushrooms.

Some populations of North American caribou the longest migration route of any terrestrial mammal, traveling up to 3,100 mi (5,000 km) a year, and covering 390,000 sq mi 1,000,000 km2 (1,000,000 km2).

There are a variety of predators that prey heavily on reindeer. Golden Eagles prey on calves and are the most prolific hunter on calving grounds. Wolverine will take newborn calves or birthing cows, as well as (less commonly) infirm adults. Brown Bear and, occasionally, Polar Bear prey on reindeer of all ages but (as with the wolverine) are most likely to attack weaker animals such as calves and sick deer. The Gray Wolf is the most effective natural predator of adult reindeer, especially during the winter.

Blood-sucking insects, such as black flies and mosquitoes, are a plague to reindeer during the summer and can cause enough stress to inhibit feeding and calving behaviors.

Caribou and Reindeer have long been hunted by humans since the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods, and are today the main predator in many areas. Norway and Greenland have unbroken traditions of hunting wild reindeer from the ice age until the present day. In the non-forested mountains of central Norway it is still possible to find remains of stone-built trapping pits, guiding fences, and bow rests, built especially for hunting reindeer.

Caribou are still hunted in North America and Greenland. In the traditional lifestyle of the Inuit people, Northern First Nations people, Alaska Natives, and the Kalaallit of Greenland, the caribou is an important source of food, clothing, shelter, and tools. Many Gwichʼin people, who depend on the Porcupine caribou, still follow traditional caribou management practices that include a prohibition against selling caribou meat and limits on the number of caribou to be taken per hunting trip.

White on white. A new 10-Nugget postage stamp, featuring an Arctic Fox, a digital painting of an Arctic Fox, Vulpes lagopus, on the polar ice, has just been issued by the Alaska Postal Authority. The sun hangs low in the bright blue arctic sky. Do not stare at the sun as it can harm your eyes.

Click on image for full-size view.

arctic fox stamp

Alaska Arctic Fox Postage

As usual this image is available on an ever increasing number of items at one of my Zazzle. stores. Search for “arctic fox.”

The Arctic Fox is comfortable in deep cold; it does not begin to shiver until temperatures drop to about −70 °C (−94 °F) due to its dense, multi-layered fur. Other adaptations to a frigid climate include fur on the soles of its feet, short ears, and a short muzzle. Arctic foxes live in burrows, in a blizzard they may tunnel into the snow to create shelter.

The coat of the Arctic fox, sometimes blue-gray, is very effective winter camouflage. The natural hues allow the animal to blend into the environment. During the short warm season its coat changes to brown or gray, again acting as camouflage in tundra rocks and plants.

During the winter, when prey is scarce, the foxes follow hunting Polar Bears on the ice pack feeding on scraps. During the summer the eat rodents, birds, eggs, and even fish. They will also feed on berries and seaweed.
Arctic Foxes have extremely keen hearing, aided by their wide, front-facing ears, which allow them to locate the precise position of their prey beneath the snow. If it hears something moving under the snow it leaps into the air and pounces, punching through the snow to catch its prey.

The range of the Arctic Foxes is circumpolar; they can be found throughout the far north. The only land mammal native to Iceland, it arrived by walking oversea ice at the end of the last ice age. The species is in generally good shape except for the population on the Scandinavian mainland. However it is losing out to the larger Red Fox where their ranges overlap.

I have been trying to find out what else I can do with my graphics software and, as I like wood carvings and engravings, I am playing around a bit with that.  I thought I would start with a simple  “wood burning” or engraving of a grizzly bear cub in a tree on a piece of wood. Not too bad for a first attempt; even a bit of shadows and highlights around the edges.

ursa minor carving

Ursa Minor

I am currently in northern Israel and have been too busy to post any new work for some time. However, I was able to work on one project:

Click on image to see full-size view.

singing jackal amber ale beer label

Singing Jackal Amber Ale

This is a label from Singing Jackal Amber Ale brewed by mythical Nimrod Brewery in Israel. The label features a the Golden Jackal (Canis aureus).  Hebrew text above the jackal reads “Amber Ale.”  Additional Hebrew text below the jackal reads “Tan Shirah” (Singing Jackal), “Bira Tsafonit” (Northern Beer) to indicate it was brewed in the Galilee or the Golan Heights, and “Mivshelet Nimrod” (Nimrod Brewery).

The jackal, closely resembling and filling much the same ecological niche as the North American Coyote, is the most common predator in Israel. It is often found near inhabited areas, where it feeds on fruit, vegetables, offal, and carrion. It also preys on small animals. The eerie howling, or singing, of jackals often fills the night air.   Occasionally, I will see one or two lurking at the edge of heavy vegetation.

Jackal numbers in Israel have increased greatly in recent years. This is due in part to careless disposal of food waste and animal carcasses. Jackals will sometimes work together as do wolves to attack farm animals and wildlife such as gazelle in the Golan Heights and the Galilee. And rabies is an ongoing concern.

 

As is often the case the image is available on many items at one of my Zazzle stores. Search for “jackal”.

Of course, the bush pilots at Flying Moose Aviation have their own, specially-designed, pilot’s wings featuring Milton, the Flying Moose, wearing a leather aviator’s helmet and goggles.

Click on image for full-size view.

flying moose aviation pilot's wings

Flying Moose Aviation Pilot’s Wings

 

Reindeer (Caribou), Rangifer tarandus, may suffice for once-yearly, late-December deliveries, but when you need a heavy lift capability nothing beats the Flying Moose, Alces volanti.  Not only is the Flying Moose able to lift a much heavier payload than is the Reindeer, but its wings allow for greater precision when landing as well as hovering capability.  A wild Flying Moose, sighted somewhere over British Columbia, is pictured below.

Click on image for full-size view.

flying moose - alces volanti

Alces volanti – the Flying Moose

The Flying Moose has been adopted by at least one mythical, all-purpose flying service in Talkeetna Alaska – Flying Moose Aviation (FMA). FMA’s motto is “Flightseeing, glacier landings, cargo, hunting and fishing charters.  We fly; tell us where you want to go.”  A leather patch, as worn by FMA bush pilots on their jackets, is below.

Click on image for full-size view.

flying moose aviation logo patch

Flying Moose Aviation Jacket Patch

Northern Idaho and surrounding areas of Washington and Montana are blessed with a great variety of both flora and fauna.  The southern edge of the boreal forest, the Rocky Mountains and inter-montane habitat types blend into one another into.  Many species of migratory birds pass through the Idaho panhandle following Pacific flyway routes. Canada Geese, often called Honkers, are one of the most common.  Large flocks settle on the lakes and rivers.

Some Canada Geese are also year-round residents in the Sandpoint-Lake Pend Oreille area.  The image below depicts some of them on Sand Creek just a short distance upriver from Sandpoint.

While we do not seem to have suffered from a loss of birds that has plagued many part of North America I have noticed an increasing number of dead geese, and fish, in recent years while in my kayak. Whether that somehow results from the appearance of Eurasian Milfoil in out waterways, chemicals used to combat the infestation, construction and habitat degradation near the water, or some other factor, I do not know, but I worry about environmental degradation in this are as the population grows.

Click on image for full-size view.

honkers and cattails

Canada Geese And Cattails

The reference to “combat fishing” in the Cyanotic Salmon Bar & Grill posting from August got me to thinking that there should be an award for those who have survived the experience. So, using the U.S. Army Combat Infantryman Badge, awarded to soldiers who have been in active ground combat, as a guide I have devised the Alaska Combat Fisherman Badge.

us army combat infantryman badge

U.S. Army Combat Infantryman Badge

Click on image for full-size view.

an alaska combat fisherman badge based on the us army combat infantryman badge

The Alaska Combat Fisherman Badge

You can see the similarity between the two. The dark blue color of Alaska’s flag replaces the light blue of the military award and I have substituted conifer branches for the elliptical oak wreath.  A Sockeye Salmon, in spawning red coloration, on a dark blue background, over a conifer branch wreath. The fish is a male Sockeye Salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) in the red color it assumes for spawning.

I also worked up a green and black, embroidered “subdued” version as you would see on combat clothing.

a black and green, "subdued" embroidered varsion of the alaska combat fisherman badge

Subdued Alaska Combat Fisherman Badge

Honor the soldiers who have fought for our freedom.

Always remember that salmon runs are threatened in many places by mining, pollution, dams and other problems. Managed properly, salmon can feed humans for millions of years; long after dams have collapsed, long after mines have been depleted. Do what you can to help preserve them and never, never, never buy farmed salmon.

As usual, these images, and a couple of variations, are available on many items at my Zazzle store.

Breakup

In the north the term “breakup” refers to melting of the ice in lakes and , especially, rivers. When breakup occurs masses of ice begin melting and moving; spring soon follows,

I recently picked up a few tips that will allow me to become better at the mechanics of using 3D software to make art. Those tips are incorporated into this image; a mountain lake in spring. Sunlight reflects off trees in the distance in a more natural way that I was able to achieve previously. And I think I was able to render a fairly good approximation of ice as it appears on a lake in spring when it melts most days and then refreezes at night. And the partially-melted snow on the hills also looks natural.

I added a Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) in the foreground as they are one of the most beautiful and interesting birds in the upper left hand corner of North America. We call them screeches as that is what they do.

Click on image for full-size view.

a mountain lake in spring

A Mountain Lake In Spring