Ranger Kathryn's Arches

September 13, 2012

Packrats? Not my favorite.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:36 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

 

Gloved up and ready to remove packrat nesting material from my car’s engine.

Scritch scritch scritch.

The unmistakable rodent sound came from within my car’s engine, audible as I sat watching my umpteenth sunset from the front porch. I heard it again, sighed, wandered over to pop the hood open, and found what I least wanted to see: nesting material, freshly-harvested greenery, piled behind one headlight. Poop pellets confirmed that it was indeed Neotoma albigula, our local packrat.

Last season, a co-worker spent $1200 repairing her rodent-gnawed vehicle. Twelve hundred dollars! I had no mothballs or peppermint oil (two alleged deterrents), so I did something rash: set a mousetrap under the car. Baited it with the only thing I had, which was Biscoff spread. Caught me a 13″ (nose to tail) half-pounder. I apologize if that sounds un-rangerish, I really do. Normally I live and let live. But not when my car is at stake, and this critter had already staked its claim.

Ants, feasting. Bypass this photo if you are squeamish about dead things. I made it small on purpose.

Hantavirus is the other concern. Several deaths have happened recently from this rodent-transmitted disease at Yosemite National Park, and in the NPS we don’t take safety issues lightly. All rodent clean-up involves latex gloves, bleach water, and (if necessary) mask to prevent inhaling the virus.

I’ve returned the carcass of the packrat to the back yard, ensuring that the circle of life continues. It’ll make good food for some raven.

Have you been the victim of any rodent damage? Leave a comment.

 

Advertisements

March 23, 2011

Horseshoe Canyon: Sheep Camp

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 10:50 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Sheep Camp at Horseshoe Canyon trailhead -- my home for nine days

The adorable 15×7 foot trailer (nicknamed ‘Sheep Camp’) beckoned me: “Come, stay awhile.” In 1994 the Park Service parked it behind some sand dunes and attached a solar panel, and rangers and volunteers have been living in it ever since when they patrol the canyon for a stretch of time. Somehow I had envisioned a dusty old hantavirus-laden box which I’d share with small critters, but this was a camper’s delight.

I unlocked the door and found sweet quarters for my solar- and LP-powered wilderness habitation. A tiny kitchen, bench seats, and lofted bed welcomed me. Ruffled blue curtains covered the three windows. A couple of propane lanterns (mantles intact) graced the walls, and a battery-powered radio pulled in a few Salt Lake City stations. Water containers and an ice chest were brought from the station an hour away by a ranger. The outhouse at the trailhead was nearly a half mile off; I’m not shy about peeing behind a blackbrush.

Kathryn surveying her kingdom from Sheep Camp

After reading a bit about the rich local history, I fell asleep my first night wondering how many Basque sheepherders slept on this knoll. Up to the mid-20th century, thousands of head of sheep were grazed in this canyon. This spot made a good camp for the shepherds since it was near the livestock trail that leads down 750 feet to Barrier Creek, the only water supply. Today this rough trail provides the access for most hikers wanting to see the rock art; I would become quite familiar with all 6.5 miles of it over the next nine days.

Comments: Have you any clear memories of a particularly delightful cabin or campsite you’ve occupied?

March 21, 2010

Of deer mice, car keys, and carry-outs

Some days you don’t want to do over.

I opened the Visitor Center and was busy putting money in the till, raising the flag, writing the weather report on the whiteboard… and, out of the corner of my eye, saw a mouse run for cover behind a cardboard box.

We have plenty of mice. They can carry hantavirus (serious) and are not welcome. I walked over to said cardboard box, up against a wall, and kicked it VERY HARD.

Deer mouse bleeds from nose and twitches, but is still alive. Not having latex gloves and bleach solution (necessary to kill hantavirus), I leave it there and continue opening the Visitor Center. It is disposed of (i.e., killed and put out into the food chain) by Joel, just arriving for duty.

My day, and Joel’s day, go downhill from there. I could not find my car keys when I finished my field shift at a viewpoint, and had to radio to the Vis Center to bring me the spare set of car keys for the government vehicle. The entire county can hear my plea. After re-searching every nook and cranny, I find the keys in my SHIRT POCKET (I never put them there) and radio the VC to cancel the previous call. I am embarrassed.

Meanwhile, housemate Joel’s remote ‘Fiery Furnace’ tour is 80% finished when a participant seriously injures her ankle. Unknown whether broken or sprained, a SAR (Search And Rescue) happens and a dozen people help with a litter carry-out. Housemate Lauren is one of the rescuers.

We wind down our day with Lebanese food for dinner — Chef Joel makes falafel and tabouli and all the good stuff.

I hope we do not start out with a mouse tomorrow.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.