After a long winter, evidence left by local animals is beginning to show. With a receding snow pack, new animal signs are uncovered everyday.
One of the most common signs is the elk chew. When the snow is high and forage is buried, elk (Cervus elaphus) rely on the living bark of Aspens for sustenance. I can only assume this grove of Aspens off Castle Creek Road was given the attention of a herd for a good amount of time. These scars will remain far longer than the lifespan of an elk and this grove will bear the mark of a hungry herd for decades to come.
About 7:45 Sunday morning before heading to the West Buttermilk beach, I spotted the flash of a brown weaselly animal out of the laundry room window. I yelled for Jamie to quickly look out the bathroom to see what it was. She said it was carrying something and that it was headed back toward the hanging log bird feeder that has had a pine marten in it in past years. I caught up with it as it was going along by the kitchen window and around to the front of the house. Mink!
While some animals hibernate all winter, and some migrate to warmer places, others are active and thriving. We have recently seen pine grosbeaks flying around the mountain ash trees at Hallam Lake! This large and rare member of the finch family is eating the fruit off the ash trees and serviceberries right along the short driveway into ACES. Thankfully Lindsay Fortier captured these birds with her camera before they flew away.
Sometimes it is really easy to forget that we work at a nature preserve. Six elk grazing in the deep snow on the far end of Hallam Lake can remind you that there are plenty of animals passing through. My coworker Lindsay Gurley spotted these Elk from about 250 yards away with her keen vision. After work I went home to grab my camera and headed right back to Hallam Lake in the fading light. I headed along the Roaring Fork River and tried my best to silently walk through three feet of snow.