Big Horn Sheep

April 24th, 2016

Big Horn Sheep

One of the cool things about living near the mountains in Colorado Springs is that we frequently see wildlife. The office I work in is right against the foothills north of Garden of the Gods. There’s a herd of big horn sheep living in the area of the old Queens Canyon Quarry.

Occasionally some of the big horn sheep come down on the ridge behind work and along 30th street. Most of the time they are high up on top the ridge but occasionally they come down lower. On April 21st, 2016, 14 of the rams were out on the ridge behind work and I was able to get some photos of them.

Mountain Biker Taken Out by Wild Animal

October 11th, 2011

This is a wild video of mountain biker, Evan van der Spuy of Team Jeep South Africa getting taken out by a Red Hartebees at a mountain bike race at Albert Falls Dam. This footage which was taken by team mate Travis Walker on his GoPro helmet cam.

I don’t know if the buck got spooked and just ran into him but it sure appears that it attack Evan.

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A New Threat?

June 25th, 2010

Two recent reports of attacks on hiking trails are disturbing, but one is even more frightening than the other. On June 17, a man was attacked and killed by a grizzly bear near the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park.  The area is known for its grizzly activity and park rangers say written warnings were posted and the man was warned verbally, but he didn’t carry any pepper spray or other bear defense gear.

On Sunday, a woman hiking on a trail in north Boulder was attacked, but this time, the attacker wasn’t a wild animal. It was a man – a short thin man who was carrying a knife.  This one ended better – the woman punched her attacker and escaped, and he was later arrested near the trailhead.

The Boulder attack and a similar one last September on Signal Mountain Trail near Fort Collins are reminders that animals aren’t the only dangers on the trail.  Literature about trail safety often talks about what to do if you meet a bear, or a mountain lion, but rarely mentions human encounters.  I know many women who hike alone.  Most of them don’t carry a weapon that could be used against animal or human. 

I carry a folding knife in my backpack, but I don’t know if I could or would ever use it to defend myself.  I’ve had a few unusual encounters in the outdoors – once at night, when a man dressed as a Ninja ran through our backcountry campsite and another time when deputies were called in after campers in a Forest Service campground started playing with their pistols at night, shooting into a raging bonfire they had built. 

The latest attack, in Boulder, got me thinking about trail safety again.  What do you think? Should we be more aware of potential human danger on our hiking trails and in our forests?  Or are these isolated events that could have just as easily happened on a city street?  Have you ever had such an encounter?  Have you thought about what you would do if your attacker wasn’t a black bear or a mountain lion but was a person?

- Deb Acord

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Toadwork

May 11th, 2010
Boreal Toad

The Colorado Division of Wildlife is looking for volunteers to help search for the elusive boreal toad in the high country.  Volunteers will be trained over two sessions – Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the DOW office in Salida, and May 22 on a field trip to a location known as toad habitat.

Boreal toads are small amphibians that were once common throughout the southern Rockies, but their population has steadily declined over the past two decades. They are now listed as an endangered species in Colorado and New Mexico, and a protected species in Wyoming.  They live between 7,000 and 12,000 feet. 

Go here for more information on the boreal toad including a sound bite.

For more information about becoming a volunteer, contact: Raquel Stotler, DOW Area Wildlife Conservation Biologist, at 1-719-530-5526, (raquel.stotler@state.co.us); or Jena Sanchez, DOW Volunteer Coordinator, at 1-719-227-5204, (jena.sanchez@state.co.us).

- Deb Acord

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Coyote Alert

May 5th, 2010
Coyote at the Air Force Academy

Signs of spring in the high country of the Pikes Peak region:  The first pasque flowers are blooming, hummingbirds are buzzing, and the animals are hungry.  In the back yards in Woodland Park, deer have been grazing in huge groups.  And throughout the region, coyotes, bears, and mountain lions are more active again.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife has issued its yearly reminders about how to coexist with these predators.  The agency has been inundated with calls about coyote activity, and urges people to be cautious around this wild member of the dog family.  Coyotes can prey on rabbits, mice and birds, but will also take on small cats and dogs.

What should you do?  Keep your pets on a leash while you walk them and don’t let them roam freely, even at home. Even if you have an enclosed yard, your pets could be attacked by hungry coyotes. Keep coyotes out of your trash by washing the cans with strong-smelling products such as ammonia. Remove vegetation and brush from your yard that could provide cover. Use motion-detection lights, and keep the area around your home clean – pick up pet food, compost scraps, fallen fruit and seed spilled from bird feeders.

Treat a coyote like you would treat an aggressive, non-friendly dog. If one approaches you, don’t turn your back or run, and if you are followed, make loud noises and make yourself look big.  If the animal approaches, throw rocks or other objects at it.

The DOW also has issued tips for coexisting with bears, and has a new video about mountain lion encounters.

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Celebrate the Bald Eagle

February 2nd, 2010

Ever since we’ve been exploring the outdoors, my family has kept lists. They include

  • mountains climbed
  • trails walked
  • birds and animals we’ve seen

The bird and animal list is a long one, with sightings of moose, grizzlies, black bears, and bighorn sheep among the most memorable. Also near the top – bald eagles. We watched these massive birds fish for salmon in Alaska, and I’ve spent many sub-zero days photographing them along the Mississippi River near the Quad Cities.

If “bald eagle” isn’t on your list yet, head to the Pueblo Eagle Days Festival.
The fest, Feb 6-7 at the Lake Pueblo State Park and Wildlife Area, includes live bird demonstrations, bird watching classes, wildlife viewing stations and performances.

The eagles gather around the open waters of the Arkansas River Valley in the winter. Most of Colorado’s bald eagles leave in late February or March and fly north to nesting grounds in the northern U.S., Canada and Alaska.

For more information on the festival, go to www.eagleday.org or call John Koshak in Colorado Springs at (719) 227-5221 or the Pueblo DOW office at (719) 561-5300.

- Deb Acord

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Bears in the Woods? There’s an App for That

January 19th, 2010


One of the tips for staying safe while hiking in bear country is to wear bells. Unless they’re startled, protecting young or guarding food, most bears prefer to avoid humans. The bells give the bears time to move out of the way without feeling threatened. Fortunately every time I’ve seen a bear on the trail they’ve been in a hurry to get away from me.

Now there’s a high tech way to alert bears. The ScareBear Trail Companion iPhone app gives the option of bear bells, rocks in a tin can or hands clapping to alert bears that you’re coming. If you do encounter a bear, mountain lion or other wildlife you can tap to use an air horn sound to scare them. The app costs 99 cents.

I was curious about the app so I paid my 99 cents and downloaded it. I don’t know if the app really requires it but it won’t install without the 3.1.2 software update. I hadn’t updated from 3.1 so I had to do the update first.

The volume of the sound is determined by the iPhone’s volume control. With the volume all the way up, it is loud enough to be bothersome for bear bells, rocks in a tin can or hand clapping. The air horn doesn’t really sound much louder than the other sounds. My dog lying in my office didn’t even bother opening his eyes. My kids can certainly scream a lot louder.

The ScareBear Trail Companion iPhone app comes with a very long disclaimer list. It includes agreeing that the app is sold as a novelty item.

I have concerns about carrying my iPhone out where it could be heard in wet or dusty conditions. Although I didn’t test how long the battery lasts with it playing, the sound does keep playing when the screen is off so I would guess it is too big of a battery strain.

My recommendation is to stick to the low tech bear bell fastened to your pack or shoes. It’ll be more reliable and easier on the ears. I guess if you do forget your bear bell, you could use the app as a backup.

- UltraRob

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Lions on the Prowl

January 18th, 2010

Mountain lion tracks (and smells) in the snow in my back yard have gotten my beagle, Hunter Thompson, excited. As for me? I’m a little less excited.

I love living in the mountains, partly because of the wildlife. I’ve photographed countless deer, elk and red foxes in my yard, and seen raccoons and a bobcat along the trails of our neighborhood park. But mountain lions are different. Sure, I’d love to capture one on film, but on my own terms, and that’s not how these animals operate.

Last week, two mountain lions attacked and killed a small dog while its owners watched in Green Mountain Falls, and a mountain lion killed a family’s cat in Durango. Earlier this month, a mountain lion lurking near a Boulder elementary school was tranquilized by wildlife officials and moved to a remote area 50 miles away. Residents of Green Mountain Falls have also seen lions near school bus stops.

It’s been estimated there are between 3,000 and 7,000 mountain lions in Colorado. They usually avoid people, but they are opportunistic hunters that will munch on family pets.

The best approach if you encounter a mountain lion? The Colorado Division of Wildlife suggests you make yourself big and loud by holding your arms or your jacket over your head and yelling. Don’t run. If you have a child with you, pick him up and keep him quiet – a child’s voice might resemble prey to the lion. If you can pick up sticks or rocks without crouching down, do it and throw them at the lion. At home, don’t unwittingly bait the lion by letting your dogs and cats run loose, even in your yard, especially during the lions’ prime hunting time from dusk to dawn.

- Deb Acord

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Tracks 101

December 1st, 2009

If ever there was a reason to get out for an early hike after a snowfall, this is it: animal tracks. Fresh snow means a fresh canvas for the tracks of coyotes and raccoons, wild turkeys and squirrels. And it reminds you how full of life the forest is.

Examining animal tracks in the snow or sand or mud can help hikers identify animals, birds and reptiles living in a certain ecosystem. American Indians used their knowledge of tracks to locate animals during hunting trips. Today, hunters still watch for animal tracks, and wildlife biologists use the tracks to identify habitats and populations.

So how do you become a wildlife tracker? Here are some tips from New Mexico State University and the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management:

  • Before you go out, research the kinds of tracks you might find in a particular ecosystem or area. Get a good wildlife track guide: “Scat and Tracks of the Rocky Mountains,” by James Halfpenny, “Tracks and Trailcraft,” by Ellsworth Jaeger, “Field Guide to Animal Tracks,” by Olaus J. Murie and Roger Tory Peterson, and The Falcon Guide: The Tracker’s Field Guide: A Comprehensive Handbook for Animal Tracking in the United States by James C. Lowery.
  • Go at the right time of day – early in the morning and late in the afternoon when shadows are more prominent – to make the tracks easier to see.
  • Know where to look and the basics of what to look for. Areas near water are common places to see tracks. In Colorado, the most common tracks include:
    • Mule deer, like two thick commas facing each other.
    • Elk, similar, but much larger.
    • Coyote, like a dog, but more compact and oval-shaped.
    • Fox, dog-like with a slender pad.
    • Bear, like a thick human foot, but the outer toe is the “big toe.”
    • Mountain lion, rounder than a dog track; two-lobed pad, without claws.
    • Bobcat, similar to mountain lion but smaller.
  • Follow the number rules: Two toes in front and back indicate deer, elk or moose. Four toes on each of the front and hind feet point to the dog family, cat family or rabbit family. Four on the front and five in back mean it’s a rodent. Five on front and back means it’s a raccoon or member of the weasel family, bear, beaver or opossum.
  • Look for other clues – bent vegetation, animal scat, scratched or peeled trees.
  • If you see an animal track, take time to stop and look carefully. Take note of the size and shape of the track. A track can show an animal’s movement, size and path. The most common tracks are those of domestic dogs. They look similar to wild relatives such as coyotes and fox, but tend to follow their nose, wandering instead of moving in a straight line.
  • Learn the difference between cat and dog prints. Animals in the cat family – bobcats and mountain lions – have retractable claws just like house cats. Their tracks won’t show claws unless they are climbing and need them for traction. And cat tracks are rounder. If you see a round track with four toes and no claw marks, you’re seeing something in the cat family.

- Deb Acord

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Enter the Wolverine

November 30th, 2009

I might not want to meet one on a trail, and I really don’t want my dog to encounter one, but I’m glad to hear that a wolverine has settled down in Colorado. A wolverine equipped with a locating radio chip has been living on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park.

This is good news for the species – fewer than 500 wolverines survive in the lower 48 states, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The federal government is looking at the possibilities of listing them as endangered or threatened; they are already classified as endangered by the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

The wolverine in RMNP traveled to Colorado from Grand Teton National Park. DOW biologists say it’s the first wolverine in Colorado in 90 years.

The fierce mammals, called “skunk bears” and “devil bears” by American Indian tribes, are found in Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Washington, and are thought to still live in the Great Lakes region.

The Defenders of Wildlife, a wildlife advocacy group, say the wolverine is facing threats from habitat loss and global warming

- Deb Acord

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