House cats are notorious for their love to rub up on anything, whether it be your legs, the side of the couch, or their cat tree. This bobcat goes to show that wild cats have similar behaviors...but their cat tree is a real one!
These are four photos of this bobcat rubbing its cheek and back against the downed log. What you can't see is that we've placed a smelly scent lure on this log, which this cat loves! We get photos of a variety of animals rolling in the scent lure, but none look as elegant as this bobcat.
You may be familiar with cat scratch fever, but if you've only heard of it from the Ted Nugent song, let's talk a little bit about it. No, cat scratch fever is not what's happening in these photo with our buddy scratching itself on a log. Cat scratch fever, or cat-scratch disease (CDS) is caused by a bacterial infection. It's relatively common in domestic cats, with it mainly being transmitted cat to cat by fleas. It can be transmitted to humans via a scratch or bite from an infected cat.
But it's not just domestic cats that are infected with the bacteria; wild cats, such as bobcats, can also get it. The bacteria can be transferred from your cat to a wild bobcat (or visa versa), which then can spread to more wild animals. Although cases in humans are rare, it is still important for your safety, along with your cat and the wild cats, that we keep our domestic cats inside. CSD just barely 'scratches' the surface of the potential disease your house cat can pick up and bring into your home if you let them wonder outside. Let the bobcats and cougars roam the woods, and let your cat be the king of his/her own domain: your house!
Look closely...how many fisher do you see?
This was one of our first fisher detections of the year, and it happened to be a mother fisher scampering along a rock wall with two of her kits. Fisher love to climb on fallen logs, leaning trees, and you guessed it, rock walls! These kits are about 3 months old at this point and will stick around mom until winter comes. Typically, young males will set out first to find new stomping grounds around December or January, and females follow to live on their own by spring. Similar to their weasel and otter cousins, fisher also have a playful spirit. This photo caught one of the kits mid-leap as it tries to keep up with its sibling and mom!
Welcome to the Rhode Island Fisher Chronicles! This is a new feature I am trying out to share some photos from the field. If you follow my twitter account, @GanoeResearch, you'll see I post some of our camera trap photos there. There may be some cross-posting of photos, however, on this blog I will provide more of a narrative behind the photos, the species in them, and some tales from our live-trapping season.
So what is a camera trap? Is it the same as a trail camera? Yes, and no. Camera traps are typically created using trail cameras and bait and/or scent lures at the site. The scent lures usually serve a long-distance attractant to pull the animal to the site and increase the chance of it walking in front of the camera. The bait increases the chance of an animal returning (food reward) and helps to keep the animal in front of the camera for a longer amount of time which is crucial for successful DNA collection (e.g. from hair snares) or for individual identification (e.g. from coat patterns/unique markings).
Okay, so now I know what a camera trap is, what is going on with them in RI? We are using camera traps with a scented lure. As I write this, we are in the process of wrapping up our summer camera trapping season and have tons of amazing photos to share. For the next three years, we will be conducting two camera trapping seasons - summer and winter - across the state of Rhode Island. The survey consists of 250 sites with two cameras at each site, which means....a lot of photos of critters! We are specifically looking for one fantastic critter in particular: fisher.
Fisher are what we call mesocarnivores, or medium-bodied carnivores. They are in the family Mustelidae (commonly referred to as the mustelids), which includes weasels, otter, badger, skunks, wolverines, etc. If you look at the animal in the header photo on this page, that is a fisher! Okay, but why are we interested in fisher in Rhode Island? Well, we don't know much about their lives in our state. They naturally colonized RI as recently as the 1980's, and they rapidly expanded across much of the state. RI is the second most densely populated state in the U.S., which makes us super curious as to how our fisher are navigating such an urbanized landscape. Using camera trap photos and GPS collars, we will study where fisher are at in RI and how they are getting there.
I hope you are as excited about this project as I am, and I hope you continue to follow this blog. If anything, you'll get to break up your day with some neat wildlife photos and a story to go with them. Remember, fisher are friends, not fiends.
Until next time, dear reader.