Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Bighorn Sheep of Interstate 84

Bighorn sheep went extinct in Oregon in the 1940's but are making a slow steady comeback now with an estimated 3700 in the state. Less than a hundred hunting tags are issued each year, and it's a "once in a lifetime" tag - even if you don't fill it, you never get the chance again.

It's a special treat to see one in the wild. And if you want to see one, I can tell you exactly where to go where you're almost guaranteed to see at least a few. I've personally seen a group as large as twenty. You don't need to hike, you just need to look out your car window while driving between mileposts 128 and 115 on I-84 in Oregon.

(Mile post 122 July 2013)

This is the habitat:

(area circled has about a dozen bighorns in it, you just can't tell in this horrible blurry photo, taken December 2014)

At the top of the cliffs the land flattens out a bit and is private farm land, and beyond that is the John Day River. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has been re-introducing bighorns in several places along the John Day river, but much farther south. This tiny strip of land is shown as "bighorn sheep occupied habitat" on their map, but it looks like the closest reintroduction location is many miles to the south (see below) (plus, I can't imagine ODFW thinking that land that close to a freeway would be prime habitat for reintroduction).

I'm guessing the sheep traveled to this location themselves, following the river north to the Columbia from the Cotton Canyon area. They found this small but nice piece of real-state and decided to stay, and I can see why: the steep cliffs they like to keep them safe from coyotes, plenty of water and browse, and, though they have to deal with the constant sound of traffic, they're almost guaranteed to never be harassed by hikers, hunters, dogs, or domestic livestock.

(area in red is our bighorns, area is green shows next closest population)

FYI: there aren't really any safe places on this stretch of road to pull over for photos. I've seen some people do it, though I haven't worked up the courage to risk death-by-semi to get some shots of the wildlife with my nice lens.

I call this series "dog forced to sit next to trees"

Monday, December 8, 2014

Regarding the errors in your first draft

Saw this PSA-thing on facebook today:

Dear Mom and Dad,
I died today. You got tired of me and took me to the shelter. They were overcrowded and I drew an unlucky number. I am in a black plastic bag in a landfill now. Some other puppy will get the barely used leash you left. My collar was dirty and too small, but the lady took it off before she sent me to the Rainbow Bridge.

Would I still be at home if I hadn't chewed your shoe? I didn't know what it was, but it was leather, and it was on the floor. I was just playing. You forgot to get puppy toys.
Would I still be at home if I had been housebroken? Rubbing my nose in what I did only made me ashamed that I had to go at all. There are books and obedience teachers that would have taught you how to teach me to go to the door.
Would I still be at home if I hadn't brought fleas into the house? Without anti-flea medicine, I couldn't get them off of me after you left me in the yard for days.
Would I still be at home if I hadn't barked? I was only saying, "I'm scared, I'm lonely, I'm here, I'm here! I want to be your best friend."
Would I still be at home if I had made you happy? Hitting me didn't make me learn how.
Would I still be at home if you had taken the time to care for me and to teach manners to me? You didn't pay attention to me after the first week or so, but I spent all my time waiting for you to love me. I died today.

Love, Your Puppy 

It's really terrible, so I fixed it:

Dear Mom and Dad,
I died today. I was your first puppy, and you were ignorant. You got bad advice from friends, neighbors, even your vet and the internet; things weren't working and you didn't know where to turn. You were at your wits end, so you went to an animal shelter for help, but they just treated you like dirt. They took me from you without offering any advice or support, and sent you on your way with a sneer.

The shelter is overcrowded because they don't advertise puppies like me, even though there was the perfect home for me out there, they never got a chance to know I existed. I am in a black plastic bag in a landfill now because the shelter workers were too busy complaining in the break room about "irresponsible owners" to give me a walk or treats or some toys, or take a decent photo of me.

You took me to a place that calls itself a "shelter", but instead of protecting me, they killed me. If you had known there was a better way, that there are better shelters out there, that there are homes waiting for every single shelter pet, maybe you would have chosen differently. But you never had the chance. And neither did I.

Love, Your Puppy