About Me

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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The bear's rubbing tree

The Rubbing Tree from Chris Wemmer on Vimeo.

I set this trail camera on a meandering game trail with a long view.

I expected clips of the usual cast of characters, but soon learned that the trail passed a bears' rubbing tree, a mountain lion scrape, and a pit stop for a bobcat.

I pointed the camera at the rubbing tree.

Though it must surely reek of bear, it smells like tree bark to me.

A lot of critters besides bears check it out, and gray foxes occasionally pee on the stump. 

This film shows last month's action at the bears' rubbing tree.   

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Bears on the puma kill

After filling its stomach with one haunch the puma left and never returned. But 4 bears came to feed nightly and eventually a few other scavengers made their appearance.

Murphy's Law struck on the second night when the camera failed, but this whipped me into overkill mode. On each following night I staked two or three cameras. Each one operated independently and triggered one or two 27 watt LED lights.

I was learning on the run. When all cameras were in operation too much light marred some pretty cool clips. All I could do was adjust the position of cameras and lights every afternoon based on the previous night's results. I just didn't have the moxie to test the lights in darkness.

Then Murphy's Law got me again: the camera that gave by far the best clips in terms of lighting and perspective failed to record sound! 

I kept plugging away, and the game was up at the end of the week when the bears lost interest in the scraps.

I had an overwhelming 7 hours of very interesting video of variable quality.

This 3+ minute movie gives you an idea of what happened at the carcass on just one night and the next day.   

Monday, September 4, 2017

A Cougar on a Kill

Last year, a week before Christmas I stumbled into a black-tailed buck's carcass on a deer trail below the house. It caught me completely off guard. My plan that afternoon was to set a camera at a wood rat's nest. That idea was now null and void. This was a rare opportunity to camera trap a cougar on its kill. 

The carcass was fresh. The kill had probably taken place at dawn, giving the cat enough time to pluck the rib cage, and snack on the haunch and foreleg. The light of day and sounds of the awakening community nearby probably curtailed the meal.  

I prepared a sapling of bay laurel to stake the camera while Fred sniffed around the carcass. I was plagued with all kinds of "what if's". Like what if it drags the carcass away? (You're out of luck) What if it feeds with its back to the camera?  (You're out of luck again) What if it doesn't  come back? (Then you're really out of luck).

With the camera staked next to the deer trail, I lashed the LED to a stout manzanita near by. The camera's walk test showed that the flood light was working. The sun was setting. I didn't want to give kitty a surprise. So we packed and headed up the hill to home.

Here's what the camera recorded.

A Cougar on its Kill from Chris Wemmer on Vimeo.

See a higher definition version  here

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Little Rabbit Climbs Big Sage

Pygmy Rabbit from Chris Wemmer on Vimeo.

I had the good fortune this month to spend a few days in the sage steppe of the eastern Sierra Nevada, where I managed to snag these clips of a pygmy rabbit.

The species has been on my camera trapping bucket list for several years now.

For a lot more about this charming lagomorph, see Nature of a Man Blog, and be sure to search Ken's other posts for a lot more about Pygmy Rabbits.

I am grateful for Ken's help in getting these video clips, and sincerely appreciate the Catani family's efforts to protect  habitat for California's wildlife.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Fred trees mountain lion

Fred trees a mountain lion from Chris Wemmer on Vimeo.

"Fred's barking at something" came the voice from the bedroom.

"Yeah, he's barking at a squirrel -- it's his morning routine", replied the voice in the office.

(5 minutes later)

"Fred's still barking, and it sounds like he's getting farther away."

"Okay, okay, I'll check."

From the kitchen window I saw Fred "arfing" gamely up into a live oak about 60 feet from the house.

And dang me if there wasn't a tawny cat up that tree.

I rushed to the bedroom announcing "Fred's treed a mountain lion", punched my feet into my jeans (somewhat like Charleton Heston in "The Big Country"), grabbed my camera, and headed out the back door.

The svelte cat was eyeing Fred from a safe height of 35 feet, and as I snapped a few pictures it turned its humiliated gaze on me.

Better shoot some video, I thought.

My soothing "Niiiice kitty" failed to improve the cat's disposition, but energized the dog even more.

Then Kitty moved to a new position and plotted her escape down some low-hanging limbs.

I shuffled down slope, grabbed Fred's collar, and filmed with my right hand as she crept out on the bendy limb.

In spirit and style, Kitty's getaway could only be that of Butch Cassidy and the Sun Dance Kid, and in a few moments her getaway was complete, as you saw in the video.

How did this come about?

Well, you might have heard my wife's voice in the video.

She was on the phone with my thoroughly jazzed neighbor "Iron Man", who called as soon as he heard the commotion.

His German Shepherd had also barked at something down in the brush, but wisely didn't give chase.

Then Iron Man saw something big moving down there, and heard Fred's full-throated bark shortly after.

Kitty was probably slinking away on our property when Fred surprised her, and vice versa. 

In retrospect, maybe the hazing taught this cat to stay away from human habitation. 

As for what was going on in Fred's skull, I'm not sure.

He may think the cat was a large variety of squirrel. (Okay, probably not.)

But I do know this wouldn't have happened without him. 


(Thanks for the photoshopping, Carl)