Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Whistlepig

Gonna break up the herp-related posts a bit with some mammal stuff.

I've been camera trapping an area along a river bank since early February 2011.  The spot has yielded some interesting shots, including a mystery animal that remains un-identified (The Mystery! posted on 2/23/2011) and a nice Coyote shot (Coyote on the Otter Lure posted on 3/6/2011).

In an effort to get a better picture of the mystery animal, I repositioned the camera at this location.  I was hoping to get a broad-side shot of the critter, which never happened.  One of the reasons why I originally picked this spot was because there was a burrow entrance not far from the banks of the river (see below).

Above: the burrow entrance near the camera and the vacinity to the river.

Still having mink on the brain for the mystery animal, I crossed my fingers......even though the burrow didn't really look like a mink burrow (see below).

After a few weeks, I had to give up on concretely identifying the mystery animal, as it just wasn't showing up anymore.  In other mystery animal.  I did, however, figure out what was using the burrow.

I like the name "Whistlepig".  Something about saying it just  puts a smile on my face.  It's so much more enjoyable to say than the rather vulgar-sounding "Groundhog" or "Woodchuck"....but (-sigh-) the latter two seem to have stuck for this critter (Marmota monax).

But, I'm bringing back the term Whistlepig....dammit!  You wont hear me use those other names ever!  :)

Anyways, whistlepigs are yet another example of a species that is viewed with scorn by many humans.  The scourge of gardeners, golf courses and manicured lawn-keepers across the continent!  The whistlepig cares not for your expensive ornamenal flowers!  It devours your garden vegetables with a cavalier flair!  It laughs at your flimsy chicken wire fences!  It scoffs at your silly wire box traps baited with apples! 

And because of its non-conformist attitude towards your agenda....I can't help but admire the Whistlepig.

Strangely, one of these rather large rodents had been the occupant of this river-side burrow.  As such, I got some pretty nice pictures of it! 

The camera was first depolyed on February 9th.  The Whistlepig, however, didn't start showing up until early March, probably becuase its winter dormacy had officially ended then.

In fact, the first picture I got of one actually occured on March 1st, before I repositioned the camera.  In the picture below, the burrow entrance is to the right of where the whistlepig is standing.  This shot isn't particularly good.

The next picture didn't come until March 7th, then another right away on March 9th.  This was after repositioning the camera.  In these shots, the burrow is behind the tree that the camera is mounted on.  Neither picture is great.  The March 7 picture isn't too bad, but the animal is looking the other way!


From Mid to late-March, activity picks up considerably.

On March 13, the whistler faces the camera...but of course the photo is sort of dark. 

On March 14, he decides to show off his backside again....

Finally, on March 15 I get a good shot!

Running past on March 16th.

Three pictures on March 20th, including my favorite at the bottom.

The batteries gave out on the camera in the next week and I lost a few days.

The next pictures come on March 31st.  There were actually two pictures taken of him that day, but only one is worth posting.

Then the Whistlepig goes AWOL until April 7th, 8th and 11th.

The camera remains at this location and I haven't been able to check it in almost two weeks.  I'm sure I have more pig pics....but I'm also sure the grass and overtaken the field-of-view.  Hope to get out there early next week.

Notes on Whistlepig Ecology.


Whistlepigs are usually considered a forest edge species, frequenting meadows, old fields and agricultural landscapes.  Interestingly, Swihart (1992) found that burrows were preferentially placed in well-drained soils along woodland edges and brushy fence rows up to 2 or 3 times as often as expected.  This makes the choice of the individual(s) picture above to place their burrow near the river an interesting one.  A whistlepig den may have multiple entrances (up to 11 according to Merriam, 1971).

Hibernation and Activity

Hibernation is typically an adaptation to deal with a food shortage that may occur at certain times of year (Davis, 1967, Armitage et al. 2003).  In the winter...for example...when vegetation (the major food of the whistlers) is in lower abundance, the animals hibernate.  So, the onset of winter occurs, food becomes scarce, the animal goes into a sort of torpor and slows its metabolism so there are not the energetic requirements as when completely active.  The length of the hibernation period, however, varies based on geographic location.  According to Armitage (2003), early to late October is reported to be when whistlers in most regions enter hibernation (although I did see one up and active at a different location nearby on November 8 of last year).  Whistlepigs in Canada hibernate for about 5.5 months (de Vos and Gillespie 1960).  For about 4-4.5 months in Penssylvania (Snyder et al. 1961), and for about 3.5-4 months in Maryland (Grizzell 1955). 

Literature Cited

Armitage, K.B. 2003. Marmots (Marmota monax and Allies). In Wild Mammals of North America: biology, mamangement and conservation (second edition). Feldhamer, G.A., B.C. Thompson, and J.A. Chapman (editors). Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore & London).

Armitage, K. B., D.T. Blumstein, and B.C. Woods. 2003. Energetics of hibernating yellow-bellied marmots (Marmota flaviventris). Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology 103A:729-737.

Davis, D.E. 1967. The role of environmental factors in hibernation of woodchucks (Marmota monax). Ecology 48-640-644.

de Vos, A. and D.I. Gillespie. 1960. A study of woodchucks on an Ontario farm. Canadian Field-Naturalist 74:130-145.

Grizzel, R.A. 1955. A study of the southern woodchuck, Marmota monax monax. American Midland Naturalist 53:257-293.

Merriam, H.G. 1971. Woodchuck burrow distribution and related movement patterns. Journal of Mammalogy 47:103-110.

Snyder, R.L., D.E. Davis, and J.J. Christian. 1961. Seasonal changes in weights of woodchucks.  Journal of Mammalogy 42:506-515.

Swihart, R.K. 1992. Home-range attributes and spatial structure of woodchuck populations. Journal of Mammalogy 73:604-618.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Herpin' In The Sandhills Part I: Cottonmouths!

I've been fortunate since moving to this part of the country.  Mostly because I have had the good luck to become acquainted with some incredible herpetologists and naturalists.  Most of these individuals are also nice as hell!  Two stellar examples of what I'm talking about are Jeff Beane (NC Musuem of Natural Sciences) and Ed Corey (NC Division of Parks and Recreation).

I emailed Jeff almost out of the blue when I moved here.  I was told by a good friend of mine from Wisconsin (who is also a herpetologist) that THE guy to talk with about herps down here was Jeff.  Jeff was incredibly nice and immediately agreed to show me around in the Sandhills region.  He has an ongoing telemetry project focused on a few rare snake species down there, and invited me to come out when he tracked snakes.  Although we didn't see any snakes that day, I got to know Jeff as an incredible naturalist.  He not only knows the herps of this region...but also the mammals, fish, birds (by call!) and even many plants.  It was through Jeff that I met Ed, who is also incredible at identifying native flora and fauna.  I'm not sure how they do it!  I can barely stay on top of the species I find in a 20 mile radius of the campus I work on!  It will take years and years to come close to their combined field ID knowledge.

Luckily, however, both of these fine gentlemen were more than willing to take us out to do snake surveys this spring!  So, last weekend...myself a a current undergraduate research student working with me made an excursion down to the Sandhills.  For reference, our wonderful state is divided into three major regions: The Mountains to the west....the Coastal Plain to the far east....and the Piedmont in between.  I live in the Piedmont.  The Sandhills are to the east, associated with the coastal plain region 

The two regions (the Piedmont and the Sandhills) could not be more different.  Whereas the Piedmont is primarily eastern deciduous hardwood forest habitat (where not disturbed), dominated by clay soils.... the sandhills have alot of open pine savannah habitat with sandy soil.  The Sandhills are generally a flat, gently rolling landscape.  In the areas we were visiting (i.e., the state gamelands), the habitats are heavily managed with fire.  In other words, the state purposefully starts fires (that they control) to reduce the amount of shrubby/brushy woody vegetation.  These fires do not burn hot enough to damage healthy adult trees, and removal of the shrubs allows for the proliferation of grasses (for example).  So the undergrowth is not particularly thick or difficult to navigate...there's lot's of open sand and clumps of grasses.  The adult trees that remain are primarily long-leaf pine (Pinus palustris), as you can see in the picture below.

Even based on this very cursory overview of the differences between the sandhills and the Piedmont, you can still probably guess that (like the vegetation) the critters that inhabit these regions differ substantially.  No where this is more evident than when one compares the amphibian and reptile species in each region.  The Sandhills have a very different assemblage of snakes, in particular, than where I live in the Piedmont.  I was really itching to see some of these species!

We were there for two days and boy did we see the critters.  I can't fit them all into one post, so I'll have a series....each highlighting something different.  Ultimately, from reading these posts it will become clear that I was almost a tourist during our trip, but....hey....these were all new and much sought-after species for me :) 

I've got to start with one of my favorite encounters of the trip, which was an encounter with an often maligned critter here in the south: the Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus).

I've seen Cottonmouths twice before: once in Louisianna and once in southern Illinois.  Both of these times, I saw juveniles and I really wanted to see a big adult.  Luckily, Jeff and Ed knew a good spot, which happened to be at a fish hatchery.  The large ponds for rearing fish provided habitat for many snakes, turtles and frogs....all of which may be eaten by Cottonmouths.  The ponds and over-flow streams nearby also created ample habitat for Cottonmouths.  Interestingly, this is about as far north in the state as Cottonmouths exist in high densities.  The hatchery really looks nothing like the Sandhills that I described above.  All of the water and thick vegetation reminded me of a southern swamp....not of sandhills.

Anyways, our trip happened to coincide with the day that a nearby univeristy's Herpetology Class was having their annual spring field trip.  More eyes searching meant more critters found.

When we arrived, the class was already there and had uncovered a beautiful adult Cottonmouth.

And boy was it a prickly individual!

But check out that beautiful color!  In pictures, I've always thought adult Cottonmouths were a tad drab, but this one was stunning!  You can just see the white flesh on the inside of the mouth, which gives the "cottonmouth" its name.  When really threatened, this snake will fling its head back and hold its mouth open wide to show off the white innerds as a threat display.

Above: "He's got tha devil in 'im!"
The flash hit the snake's tapedum lucidium just right and caused that
neat eyeshine in this picture.  Also note the enlarged supraocular scale above the eye.

So...we saw a Cottonmouth.  That's cool.  But, we didn't actually find a Cottonmouth.  Not quite as cool.


The next day, Jeff, Dave and I returned to the fish hatchery.  We hoped to see a Cottonmouth in a more natural setting, as opposed to dumped out of a pillow case onto a mowed lawn.  After arriving, Jeff (who always knows the best spots) had us focus on a stream that runs adjacent to some of the hatchery ponds.  The riparian area, or area of land closest to the stream bank, had alot of dense shrubs and trees.  Not great for seeing snakes, and alittle unnerving to walk along knowing there are Cottonmouths about.  Unfortunately we didn't have hip waders, so we couldn't really get into the water and search the stream that way. 

So, we walked to the stream on a trail and stood at an open spot and visually scoured the banks.  Jeff had binoculars, which helped...and he saw a big adult on the opposite bank.  It was wary though, and slipped into the water soon after we saw it.

No more Cottonmouths to be seen at that spot. 

We decided to walk along the artificial hatchery ponds...hoping to get snakes sitting in the sunny grass or hunting for frogs along the pond edge.  I hugged the pond edge, Jeff watched the brushy woodland edge to my left and Dave walked in between us on the hatchery maintenance road.  The stream we had hit early on also meandered along to Jeff's left, in the woods.  Occassionally it would run its course close to Jeff and he could give the banks a glance with his binoculars.  We were feeling confident.

After a few minutes, I saw a watersnake of some sort, but it pulled into a hole before I could grab it (...and I ain't sticking my hand in a hole at a Cottonmouth site!). 

Not long afterwards, Jeff noticed a pipe discharging water into the woods.  I think it was an overflow pipe from the hatchery ponds...but can't remember.  The water rushed out of the pipe into a scoured-out channel that eventually connected to the stream we had started at (see below).  It wasn't long before he saw some Cottonmouths near the pipe!

Two adults were sitting in the sun among a tree root mass.  Nice ones too.  Then Jeff got a glimpse of a coil in the water below the root mass....a third snake.  Next, he saw another Cottonmouth (a smaller one) resting on the steep bank across from us....a fourth snake.  Finally, he looked down into the channel two foot below where we stood and saw a juvenile Cottonmouth resting near the water's edge....a fifth snake!  If I remember correctly, a few minutes later we actually turned up a sixth Cottonmouth slightly upstream of the root mass.


Unfotunately, the rather dense vegetation meant it would be difficult to get in at the snakes with a hook or tongs and safely maneuver them into an open area for photos.  Plus, I didn't have any experience with Cottonmouths...and after seeing that big ornery adult the day before, wasn't feeling very confident about my chances in such a tight place.

Jeff, however, didn't have any problems kneeling on the bank and hooking the little juvenile at our feet.  He brought it up so we could get some photos. 

And what a handsome little devil he was!

I didn't have the flash on in the top picture and it's not a terribly complimentary shot.  The lower one, I quite like however!

Easy to see how those little juveniles blend into the ground debris so well.  A great hunting advantage!

Notes On Cottonmouth Aggression and Ecology:
As already mentioned, Cottonmouths are often treated with scorn by folks.  This is largely out of fear and due to misinformation/myth.  In fact, David Steen has written some great blog entries dispelling common Cottonmouth myths on his blog.  Check 'em out (Cottonmouths Dropping Into My Boat, Cottonmouth Breeding Balls, Cottonmouths North of Virginia,  and I Got Chased by a Cottonmouth).  Anyways, they get sort of a bad reputation as being unusually aggressive, and scary.  Obviously, they are a venomous snake and must be treated with a hefty dose of respect, but they are not really a "scary" animal.  They look initimidating because of their tendencey to open their mouth and display the white flesh when threatened.....their supraocular scales (scales just above each eye) also jutt out slightly.  This almost gives the snake the appearance of being angry or annoyed, which may seem scary to some. 

As for the notion that they are particularly aggressive snakes.....  an interesting study by Gibbons and Dorcas (2002) sheds some light on the reality of these claims.  They confronted 45 wild Cottonmouths with a variety of artificial "threats".  These included (1) standing beside the snake with snakeproof boots and touching the snake with the boot, (2) stepping on the snake lightly, or (3) picking up the snake with an artificial hand.  Of the 45 snakes approached 23 (51%) tried to simply escape (NOT bite).  28 individuals (78%) used threat displays or defense behaviors.  Others simply sat there.  Only 13 of the 36 cottonmouths grasped with the artificial hand bit.

Cottonmouths are very general in their dietary preferences.  They opportunistically consume many prey items, and even known to eat carrion.  However, fish and amphibians are likely to most commonly consumed prey animals (Ernst and Ernst 2003).  They occupy nearly any type of aquatic habitat, including brackish coastal marshes....but also rivers, streams, wetlands, ponds, lakes, impoundments, ditches and etc..  Usually these habitats have many downed logs, brushy edges, etc. for cover (Ernst and Ernst 2003).

Literature Cited:

Ernst, C.H, and E.M. Ernst. 2003.  Snakes of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Press. Washington, DC.

Gibbons, J.W., and M.E. Dorcas. 2002. Defensive behavior of Cottonmouths (Agkistrodon piscivorus) towards humans. Copeia 2002: 195-198.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Snake Hole

I have alot of herp-related posts to share these days.

I figured I'd sneak this one in quickly before some of the meatier herp posts I'll be sharing in the near future.

Anyways, I was out at one of my study sites on Wednesday, setting the drift fence traps and tracking radio-tagged box turtles.  As I followed the signal from one of my turtle's transmitters through a patch of lowland deciduous forest, I noticed a shiny black rope coiled on a bent tree.  Obviously ropes are rarely shiny, they never sit nicely coiled on a tree, and I can't remember the last time I saw one in the it was clear that I had found a nice adult Black Ratsnake (Elaphe obsoleta; or as they have been recently reclassified: the Eastern Ratsnake, Pantherophis alleghaniensis).

Of course, I had forgotten my camera, so I couldn't get a picture.  Yet, I noticed there was a nice hole at the end of the lateral segment of the tree trunk.  A perfect refugia for a ratsnake!
Above: The Snake Hole (note the stream corridor off to the right)

So, yesterday....after checking my drift fences (which yielded little), I meandered back over to the ratsnake tree.  No snake sitting out this time.  Not to be deterred, I maneuvered around to take a peek into the hole.  Instantly, I saw a snake head retract from the opening and retreat deeper into the cavity.

I had my camera this time, and took advantage of the flash to get a few shots.  Although not oustanding pics, they are still sort of neat.

You'll notice the cloudy eyes.  The animal is in, what may be referred to as, the "blue" or "opaque" phase.  These cloudy eyes occur immediately before a snake sheds it's skin.  The old skin that will be removed covers the entire body.  In fact, because snakes have no eyelids, a protective scale even covers the eye. This scale protecting the eye must also be shed with the rest of the skin.  So, as the outter skin layer separates from the new skin beneath, the eyes cloud over for a short time.

Notes on Eastern Ratsnake Ecology:

In this region, ratsnakes are relatively common.  I've even found them in the garden outside of my office building.  They are most often associated with woodlands (which were traditionally dominant here) and sometimes occur along woodland edges associated with surburban, rural and agriculatural disturbance (Palmer and Braswell, 1995).  This species is also an avid climber (Palmer and Braswell, 1995).  Ratsnakes are constrictors (non-venomous) and, as the name suggests, eat lots of small mammals.  Their climbing tendencies also allow them the opportunity to eat birds, their nestlings and their eggs.  Brown (1979) recorded the stomach contents of 39 adult ratsnakes in this region and found that of 51 food items consumed, 59% were small mammals (mostly rodents), and 37% were birds.

For other recent blog posts about ratsnakes, see David Steen's entry: The Latest Rat Snake Freakout.

Literature Cited:

Brown, E.E. 1979. Some snake food records from the Carolinas. Brimleyana 1:113-124.

Palmer, W.M, and A.L. Braswell. 1995. Reptiles of North Carolina. The University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC).

Thursday, April 21, 2011

All The Myriad Salamanders

The Appalachain Mountains posses a dizzying array of salamander species.  The diversity of these amphibians is so great that it can take one years to learn how to identify them in the field.  Take the genus Desmognathus: this genus alone has 17 species that are spread throughout the mountains in portions of the Carolinas and Virginia.  The Genus Eurycea: 10 species.  The genus Plethodon: 29 species!!!  This isn't even including the "less" speciose genuses (Ambystoma, Pseudotriton, etc.). 

These are all members of the Family Plethodontidae....which are "generically" referred to as the "lungless salamanders".  The name is apt, as almost none of these species have lungs, but instead absorb oxygen through their skin.  The explanation for why having no lungs is a good adaptation for these species varies.  A plausible explanation surrounds the habitats they have evolved to prefer (cool, clear, fast-flowing streams).  Because the water in these flowing streams is moving rapidly, it's is well oxygenated.  Furthermore, cold water typically has a higher oxygen concentration than warm water.  So...oxygen is plentiful in the soggy habitats they plentiful that they can absorb the oxygen through their skin very effectively in these damp environs. 

But what is the advantage of having no lungs?

Because they eat primiarly small invertebrates, being able to squeeze into the tight crevices and burrows, where their prey exists is critical.  Lungs, and the muscles to control them, take up alot of room inside one's chest cavity, making it neccessary for the chest cavity to be more broad.  A broad chest cavity makes it harder to squeeze or burrow into tight places....which makes it harder to find food.


Having grown up in a state where the total number of salamander species is less than 10 (7, to be precise)....the salamaanders of the Appalachain Mountains are daunting, to say the least.

Couple this with the fact that I do not live in the mountainous portion of the state, and encounter a much smaller number of species during field work........I am a complete dunce when it comes to salamander identification in the mountains!

So, earlier this month, I had the opportunity to take part in a salamander workshop in the mountains lead by a salamander expert: Lori Williams (NC Wildlife Resources Commission).  Also, Jeff Beane (NC Musuem of Natural Sciences), who is another salamander ID expert was along.  As expected, I had no clue what species I was finding.  Luckily, I had help with the identification and we found some salamanders that were life-species for me!

First of all, salamander habitats in the mountains are beautiful.  Plus, I was able to do field work with some very knowedgable folks.  Pictured below, among a variety of graduate and undergraduate students, are Lori, Jeff and Bryan Stuart (NC Museum of Natural Sciences).

Mountain streams are a goldmine for salamanders in this region.  Typically one flips rocks, rotten woody debris and moist leaf litter along the stream edge, or in the adjacent riparian zone to find the little beasties.

Unfortunately, a nasty storm blew threw the area the night before our workshop, and the temperature dropped down to what is considered cold by southeastern standards.  As a result (I'm told), we didn't get quite as many species as we would have otherwise.

Regardless, I was thrilled with our findings!

First, we checked out a little over-flow seep along a stream.  The stream flowed past quickly up the hill from where we stood, and at the location pictured immediately below, the water from that stream was slowly seeping through the hillside.  Moss was plentiful, as were rocks and leaves with water-logged soil beneath.

Above: The two Daves searching a seep for salamanders

So, we worked our way long the stream and associated seeps, flipping rocks, leaves and peeling back moss.  Our first captures (which I'll admit were not mine) were a few very nice adult Santeetlah Dusky Salamanders (Desmognathus santeetlah).

Next, a juvenile Seal Salamander (Desmognathus monticola) was found beneath some rocks (note the paired blotches running along the salamander's back).

Someone also uncovered a hefty adult white-spotted slimy salamander (Plethodon cylindraceus), a species I have posted about finding before.  This widespread salamander is found throughout much of the state.

Later, in some woodlands associated with another beautiful stream (below), we found some different species.

I uncovered a juvenile Ocoee Salamander (Desmognathus ocoee).

Next, a southern red-backed salamander (Plethodon serratus).
The two species pictured above look very similar.  The whitish line running from the back of the eye to the corner of the mouth on the Ocoee Salamander can help distinguish these two (or so I'm told :) ).

Next, I moved over to a very picturesque stream-side habitat and started flipping rocks....which lead to another nice Seal Salamander.

My first salamander hunt in the mountains was a success, thanks mostly to the folks I was with.

I also have to thank Jeff Beane, who helped me identify the critters I had taken pictures of.  I was too absent-minded to write down what I had been told they were when in the field (thinking I could ID them from the book later).  HA!  Luckily, I was able to send my pictures to Jeff for some help!

The herps have been out and about alot lately....I have some more great findings that I'll share with you soon!

For more information on Salamanders:

Beane, J.C., A.L. Braswell, J.C. Mitchell, W.M. Palmer, and J.R. Harrison III. 2010. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia (second edition).  University of North Carolina Press.

Petranka, J.W. 1998. Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Books.

Mitchell, J.C. 2010. Salamanders of the Southeast. Wormsloe Foundation Publication.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Back to the Otter Latrine

As some of you may remember, I've been monitoring a River Otter (Lontra canadensis) latrine for a while now (see The Otter Latrine, posted on March 11, 2011 for a discussion of what an otter latrine is; What Makes the Otter Crap Red?, posted on March 16, 2011). 

I haven't posted anything from it in some time, but that doesn't mean nuthing's been shaking down at the stream-side defecation station!

If you're a person that's interested in learning to identify animal scat, I think it's helpful to see many examples because there's so much variation in how scats appear. So, I'm going to post more otter defecant pictures (plus, there's nuthin' better than animal poop pics...who's with me?!  Right?!).  The last of the otter crap pics I posted were taken on 11 March, 2011.

Here are some from a few days later (15 March, 2011).

Above: Two more examples of otter scat as they were found on March 15, 2011.
Note that both of these lack the dominance of fish scales found in earlier examples.
These contain a healthy dose of crunched up crayfish exoskeletons.

So, the last half-way decent otter pic occured on March 1, 2011.  I swapped memory cards on March 2, and wasn't back for about a week to check the camera.  When I came back on March 15, I realized that fresh otter scat had been deposited on mounds of leaves in my absence (see pictures above).  So, I knew there would be something on the camera.  Just wasn't sure if any of the pictures would be good.

So when I arrived at home, I scrolled through the photos the camera had taken.  Of course some of the usual suspects were there in excess (racoons and deer....seriously, it would take me an hour just to count every racoon and deer that passes this camera in a month's time!). 

In addition, on March 4th I was lucky enough to get a series of pictures of an otter actually dragging leaves/debris into a mound to defecate on!

Then, about four days later an otter returned to deposit another little gift.

Not long afterwards (in addition to the same constant string of racoons and deer), a Coyote (Canis latrans) poses for a nice shot.  This was March 12th.

A few hours later on the same date, an otter passes by (and, of course, the camera only catches his back-half).

About 5 days after the picture of the otter's backside, an otter FINALLY sits still for a nice shot.

I'll round this post off with a photo of a Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) captured in the evening on March 17th.  This is the first Gray Fox that I've gotten a photo of at this location.

The camera remains over the otter latrine at the time of this post.  More otter pictures to come!