Thirty-three years ago on June 4, 1982 a husband and wife - the Peralas - decided to take a walk one evening along one of the roads within the Swanson River Oilfield on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
Two of the three species of North American weasels live on the Kenai Peninsula: the common short-tailed weasel (Mustela erminea), also known as the ermine when white in the winter, and the more secretive, less abundant and smallest weasel, the least weasel (Mustela nivalis). In Europe and Asia the short-tailed weasel is called the stoat. The third and largest North American weasel, the long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata) lives north only as far as southern Canada but its range extends into South America.
Before we moved to Alaska, my family and I lived two years in South Africa's Kruger National Park (KNP), where I conducted research on African leopards.
A recent article in the Journal of Wildlife Management documented the expansion of cougars - also called mountain lions, pumas or panthers - into midwestern North America where they have been absent since being exterminated in the early 1900s.
New Year's Day for me is not only a day for reflecting on the events of the past year and anticipating those of a new one, it is also the date of my late father's birthday. Born on January 1, 1910 -- the year Halley's Comet made a spectacular reappearance -- he wondered if he would live to see the comet when it returned 75 years later. He saw it return in 1985 but chuckled at its then rather lackluster return appearance. I also thought of my father earlier in December when I read a newspaper article about the overall declining number of hunters in the United States.
Snowshoe hares, especially during years of high populations, like those that have occurred here over the last couple of years, can have significant effects on vegetation that both hares and moose feed upon during winter.
We on the Kenai Peninsula are fortunate to still hear the calls and witness the majestic elegance of North America's largest waterfowl, the trumpeter swan. Adult males can weigh close to thirty pounds and reach over five feet in length.
As this year's Common Loon chicks appear on local lakes in late June and early July, you might still assume that loons mate for life. However, a recent summary of 18 years of research on individually marked loons on lakes in Wisconsin revealed new information on loon mating systems, territory acquisition by young adults, territorial defense by established residents and the function of vocalizations.
While watching ABC News Thursday evening (from my cushy recliner) I was intrigued by the story titled "Stand Up." After the news program I quickly forgot about the story until sitting behind my desk at work entering caribou telemetry data. I began having some back pain the past two months and sitting all day was aggravating the strain. I remembered the news story about how sitting for more than 6 hours a day can affect how long you live. Sitting could be deadly. I immediately got up from my desk, grabbed my sweatshirt and decided to take a walk on the trails here at the refuge headquarters. Even the short (1.9-mile) Centennial Trail was enough to get my heart rate and breathing elevated and made my senses more aware of my surroundings. Getting back to my desk I was more focused and more productive at finishing the data entry.
Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part series. The first part appeared in the Nov. 12 Clarion.
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