html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Ask me about the big black wolf spiders.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Ask me about the big black wolf spiders.

WOLVERINE! A wolverine in Tahoe! A wolverine! Oh man! I'm so glad.

I'm totally curious about how they got the picture. I told you I spent a summer digging pitfalls for small rodents, herps and amphibians in Tahoe? I did. I was one of a group of about forty people doing a multi-species inventory of Tahoe. There were owlers and bat-ers, whom I never saw. Botanists. A rodent team. Two of the funniest guys I've ever worked with on the herp team. I couldn't believe their grown-up job was to go kick over logs and hope to catch a snake, but it was. They LOVED it. Birders. Did you know you have to take a hearing test to work as a birder? They want to know you're catching the high-frequency songs. The rock stars, though, were the carnivore team. They set cameras like the one that caught the wolverine.

The set-up was that they put a whole bunch (couple dozen?) of monuments at randomly chosen sites throughout Tahoe. Every crew, in rotation, went to the sites and did their thing. The botanists took transects on specific angles from the center. We set out three pitfall arrays, thirty, thirty and seventy feet from the center, on assigned angles. The birders walked in big circles around it. The rodent crews set out tens of traps in a big circle. Christ, the rodent team worked hard.

The carnivore team, though, had to be the hardest working. Their shit was insane. They'd hike in, like, a couple days in, sets of the heat-sensing cameras and bait. They'd nail the bait to a tree, set up cameras and come back for the film. The bait was frozen chicken breasts. We had a freezer full of them, which is also where we put the half-eaten shrews and mice we'd find in our pits. The chicken breasts were dunked in bearbait, which I was told was a mixture of skunk scent and chicken blood. There was a five gallon bucket of it in our supply shed, which I never went near. But the carnivore team would have to dip out a container of it, pack it with the frozen chicken breast and pack it in. The cameras and expensive stuff went in the pack, so the chicken breasts and bearbait was in a bag on the outside, slowly warming up for the two days they hike in. It didn't matter how gross the bait got, and they told stories of getting water in the bait bag and opening it to the slimiest, moldiest, grossest chicken breasts ever, which they then had to nail to a tree. Every one of them swore he would never eat chicken again.

Then they'd check the pictures. Got a lot of crows. A nice family of martens. Our fear, on the rest of the teams, is that we never really knew where the cameras were. It always seemed possible that they catch a picture of us visiting the ladies' room. I have to think that would have gone up in the dining room right away, though, so I guess they didn't.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's great! (No thanks on the spiders.)

That being said, I would find it terrifying if my scientific discovery was published in the newspaper one week after its discovery. What if (as the author suggests) it's someone's pet wolverine out for a stroll? (Unlikely, I know.) What if it was a prank from one of the other graduate students?

I would have squashed the article something fierce if I were the professor, even if I were 100+% sure of its veracity. Too soon, dude. -K.

2:17 PM  
Anonymous Peter said...

Just recently a wolf was shot while attacking sheep in Massachusetts. There hasn't been a wolf sighting in that state for over 150 years. While it could have been an illegally kept pet that escaped, it's also possible that it migrated a couple hundred miles south from Quebec.

8:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what about the big black wolf spiders?

I spent an afternoon helping to collect spider specimens in the presidio. I was moderately surprised at the amount you can find when you know where to look and have the proper collection equipment.

-Bertram

7:46 PM  
Blogger Erik said...

Michigan saw its first wolverine in about that long a few years ago. It was very exciting at the time, but the feds did not let us change our state animal back.

1:01 PM  

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