December/January Rodents

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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.

sunset

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.

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