Ending of a season and Marmots!

Work at the fish evaluation station came to an early close at the beginning of September. The number of suckers being caught at the station made a dramatic decrease, so it was decided to stop our efforts. The peak in their numbers must have happened earlier in the season. Now we’ve begun our final reports on the project, with mine focusing on the recirculation aspect.

Research down at the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge has also continued with water quality measurements, trapping of predator fish, and other predator surveys. So far we’ve mainly caught fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) and Sacramento perch (Archoplites interruptus).  These pose threats to suckers by either being predators to young fish or competitors. These fish end up in the ponds from the water being supplied from other sources, such as Tule Lake. We did get a surprise in our traps, two suckers.  They were placed in the ponds last winter from salvage operations. It was exciting to see that they had survived.  Both still had their PIT tags, making them easy to identify. Some larval suckers that were raised in captivity were placed in net pens down at the ponds as well. These will serve as experimental fish and answer questions such as growth rates and parasite loads. While visiting the ponds we also continued trapping at  Tule Lake for suckers released last year.

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One of the suckers caught at the LKNWR ponds.

At the beginning of September I was able to get some time off to travel up to Olympic National Park for a week. There I got the opportunity to volunteer for the park on their Olympic marmot surveys.

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Moose Lake

The Olympic marmot (Marmota olympus) is endemic to the park. They inhabit isolated sub-alpine and alpine meadows, or on montane scree slopes. They are a burrowing species and live in colonies. Spending most of their lives in hibernation, from about September to May. While hiking, you’re most likely to hear them “whistle,” which is actually more of a scream and is a warning to other marmots about predators. The population has suffered a huge decline, which has since stabilized but is still of concern. The project was started in 2010 and aimed to estimate population numbers. This was the last year of surveying before the data collected will be accessed by the parks wildlife biologist. Hopefully this data will reveal whether management actions might be necessary.

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Marmot laying out and relaxing.

In order to survey we had to backpack into a remote part of the park and setup base camp. Our camp was at Moose Lake (even though there are no moose to be found in the park) in the Grand Valley just below Grand Pass.  From there our day hikes traversed most of the valley and parts on the other side of the ridges. Some of the surveys required off trail hiking on some steep slopes.  Marmots sure don’t make it easy to get to their burrows.  Overall it was a fantastic trip!

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Base camp.

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A view from Grand Pass.

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Marmot!

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