Okay, so we spent the entirety of the day yesterday doing bridge surveys with Dr. Serfass so he can show us what we need to be looking for and how to conduct the surveys. We found lots and lots of raccoon signs and scat, beaver signs in almost all of the sights we surveyed, but unfortunately, no otter signs. I really was not expecting to find beaver dams on some of our sights. One of them had virtually no trees within a good distance of the dam. It’s amazing how they were still able to find food and material to build their dams. Most of these sights they had bank holes instead of lodges, which make sense.
We had a huge storm flirting with us all day, but it only ever rained on us. Occasionally we could see distant lighting and even saw a beautiful rainbow. Unfortunately the L.L. Bean hiking boots that I have had for the past three years and have had issues with for the last three years decided to destroy my feet yet again. So I am waving the white flag and have decided that I will never be able to break these boots in. So that means I’m currently in the market for new hiking boots. Suggestions??
Now today was pretty dang sweet! USDA Wildlife Services invited us to help out on a dam removal that they were hired to do by the railroad company. There was a beaver dam that had backed up a creek running alongside of the tracks causing potential danger of flooding over the tracks, or the water weakening the tracks stability which could be disastrous. The beaver were removed from the area not to long ago, but the dam remained. John gave us a nice chemistry lesson in the explosives that they use for dam removal. We used five 1 1/2 pound explosives with three main chemical components. They even let me mix two of the explosives!
Each explosive was inserted into the dam at specific locations to ensure the safest, most controlled blast. Then we wired up the fuse to a safe distance, Jeremy hollered “fire in the hole!!” then the button was pressed and BOOM!!!! The dam exploded mud and wood high into the air. Instantly the impoundment water started rushing down stream and the water lever dropped rapidly. It was really impressive.
After all the excitement we went back to the office and did the boring work of typing up the surveys that we will use for the human dimensions aspects of our work. We did learn of another project that we could do if we wanted. I jumped on it! Dr. Serfass offered to let me do a diet analysis of fishers (Martes pennanti) which has not been done in North Dakota before. This would include dissecting a sample of fisher stomachs and analyzing the contents. While that might not sound to glorious to a lot of you, I am very excited about it. I am hoping to find something that I can possibly create a thesis off of instead of doing my thesis of the results of the surveys on different groups’ opinions of beavers.
Oh and I forgot to mention, I saw a jackrabbit last night and again today. I’ve never seen one before. They are HUGE! At first it was dusk and I had absolutely no idea what this odd creature was running in the road in front of the Ford Ranger (who Megan named Rick, get it Ranger Rick?). So pretty neat, another new mammal to my list.