Wednesday, May 26, 2010

It's a sign...

As I was walking at the project site with my co-workers last week, clomping around in our huge boots, we were discussing wildlife poop.

Wildlife biologists do this.

After all, scat is one type of "sign" that some species or other occupies habitat where you are, regardless of whether or not you are clever/lucky/persistent enough to see said species. Other sign: footprints (tracks), a conspicuous LACK of cobwebs or stray seeds or piled-up leaves around a burrow, or evidence of a recent meal (feathers, fur, bones, seed shells, etc.).

Someone was here, at some point.

For example, sign that indicates biobabbler occupies particular habitat might be empty coffee mugs, Lindt chocolate wrappers, Sriracha hot sauce stains, and a couple pens and pencils. Maybe if biobabbler's very near, you'll find a cookbook and a Nikon. A field guide to beetles.

Anyhow, back to the conversation. It is so very unusual to chat with other people who are equally enthused about this topic, that I became aware of that moment, and how much fun I was having. And appreciated it, right then. Frankly, it's just shop talk and therefore work, but still fun. For me.

As you may recall, I bought the above bandanna and exhumed it from the bottom of my closet in time for the field work I've been doing lately. In fact, we've used it several times. We've confirmed the id of sheep, coyote, squirrel and other scats.

And last week one of my co-workers and I were taking pictures of scat. For work. Getting paid for poop pics.

And not just ANY old scat. Mountain lion (Felis concolor) scat.

Didn't look too old, and was miles long (pardon), and all fur, so was unlikely to be anything else.

What was exciting to us was not the poop itself, but knowing that quite recently, RIGHT where we were standing, a lion stood. A tawny, muscular, secretive, lethal creature. Right at out boots.

Now THAT is COOL. =)

Which is the real reason why scat is good. Because frequently it's as close as we'll get to an e-mail or facebook update from wildlife, lion or otherwise. Kilroy was here.


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