Archive for January, 2010

December/January Rodents

January 20, 2010

Conditions at Portal seem to be getting worse for the rodents. Since it is cold, the smaller species are no longer showing up in trapping censuses. Furthermore, Merriam’s kangaroo rat, seems to have nearly taken over the site, comprising more that 50% of the community (at least, of the 20 rodents caught in January). We continue to catch one or two Banner-tailed kangaroo rats each month and of course, many grasshopper mice. Ord’s kangaroo rat no longer seems to be around and Bailey’s pocketmouse is also nearly absent–only one individual made an appearance in January. It will be interesting to see what shows up as things get warmer this spring! A third seed box has disappeared, this one stolen, so off we are to find another seed box that is tough enough to withstand hungry rats, but not attractive enough to be taken…

dipodomys tracks

As conditions seem to be getting worse for the rodents, the loose dust provides a good way to track use of the plots!  Although we haven’t caught an individual on plot 12 for several months, it seems there is a hungry kangaroo rat trying to get in! By January, every animal traversing was leaving tracks, making it interesting to determine who/what was around.

The dust seems to be winning the battle in this photo taken on plot 12 in December. It was even worse in January, with every step leaving tracks in the dust inches deep.

Banner-tailed kangaroo rat mound on plot 23. We catch this individual nearly every month.

Ryan O’Donnell, a grad student at USU, made a 3rd appearance at Portal in December to help with trapping and to practice his wildlife photography skills.


Fantastic sunsets in January did not disappoint myself or my helper for the month,  Ken Locey, a grad student in Ethan White’s lab at USU.

January saw signs of spring germination with many small plants breaking through the crust.

Fall Rodent update

January 20, 2010

This fall the dramatic decline in the number of rodents caught on the Portal plots. By November, we dropped from 94 individuals in August to only 31. We remain busy keeping things running, however, especially since some very hungry rodents ate through 2 seed boxes in less than 2 months! Kate Thibault and Travis Perry, along with their field class from Furman University, joined me at the site in September and October to help with data collection. Michelle Lute, a grad student studying macaques at University of Notre  Dame, joined me in November to learn something about small mammals and the desert.

"bring more blue boxes amigo"

The resident ramada packrat chewed our seed box in no time.

western box turtle

western box turtle

The field class found this box turtle crossing the road near the site in September.


The saga of the weather station continues as we attempted to fix it this fall. After replacing it with a spare on for a month, we were able to get the data, but are still working out the bugs post re-installment.


It rained a bit almost every trip down this fall. Here are some pictures of a strange misty rain in Cave Creek Canyon during trap setting in November.


Michelle gets to know a Dipodomys spectabilis.