Category Archives: Small Mammals

Small mammals, such as snowshoe hares, rabbits, ground squirrels, pikas, chipmunks, marmots and more

American Porcupine Photo

American Porcupine, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

An American Porcupine, Erethizon dorsatum, in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

It’s always a treat to photograph a species I’ve never photographed before (or at least made any “keepers” of). Our recent trip up near the Nizina Glacier, in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve seemed to be porcupine central. I think I saw 3 in the first 6 hours of the trip. That’s pretty cool, considering I often go the entire summer season without seeing any porcupines at all.

This one wasn’t too concerned about my camera clicking away, and I managed to snag a few images where he wasn’t buried in the thicker brush (Soapberry – Sherpherdia canadensis) and forest they typically might be found.

I’m guessing the young cottonwood saplings were his dinner. I saw a number porcupines out in the gravel bars of the riverbed, where the main vegetation was pretty much what you see here; the cottonwood saplings, Yellow Dryas (Dryas Drummondii) and the Wild Sweet Pea (Hedysarum Mackenzii). Continue reading

Is Facebook the online version of Walmart?

A beaver (Castor canadensis) hauling willow back to his lodge, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Beaver, (Castor canadensis), hauling willow back to his lodge for the winter, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

You undoubtedly heard the news; today’s bling is Social Networking. You need to be on Facebook and you need to Tweet (loud and often). You need people to Digg your Flickrworld, you need to be Linked In, Hooked Up and Decked Out. You need to do this because you can’t afford not to, because everyone else is doing it, and because if you want to get ahead in life, to succeed, you need to do what everyone else is doing. Right?

It’s true, so I jumped right in. In the last few months I’ve opened the pages of Facebook and Tweeted my first Tweet, and just this week started a Flickr photo account. Additionally, my guiding business, Expeditions Alaska, is now Linked In. Social networking, I’ve been instructed, is the key to my future success and now, after wrapping up a summer of hiking and backpacking in the mountains, I’m giving it a shot.

It’s an interesting and somewhat challenging process. You don’t need me to write about the ways in which successful folks engage this ‘social networking’, as this has been covered elsewhere far more effectively than I might manage. The topic here is the pervasive, engulfing nature of such sites as Twitter and Facebook, etc. According to their stats page Facebook has more than 300 million active users (irony of the term ‘users’ duly noted). Continue reading

Least Weasel photo, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Least Weasel photo, on a rock, Skolai pass, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

Here’s one for you while I’m gone – gone off on a secret “end of season” retreat. I am super excited about this trip, but can’t tell you much about it until I return. It should be awesome. Sooooo …

In the meantime, this photo is of a weasel (or ermine), from Skolai Pass. Member of the mustelid family, the Least Weasel is the coolest little critter . imagine a small, sleek ferret on crack. I’ve never tried to photograph an animal where I go so many images of his behind, as he raced off, or even with the animal completely gone .. this guy was SO fast, I barely managed to catch him at all .. the few moments he’d stop, look around, pose, and be gone, in a dash for cover. This photo is about 60% of the full frame version.

This photo was maybe a few hundred yards into our walk, so it was exciting. To be shooting a cool little guy like this within minutes of starting our trip was simply awesome. On the first day of our trip I managed to take my only images of a weasel from the park, my now favorite caribou image I’ve taken in the park, and my favorite image of Mt. Bona. And earlier in the morning we’d had some alpenglow on Mt Blackburn, as well. What a day.

So that’s it for the weasel. He’s running around Skolai Pass chasing voles, shrews and ptarmigan, and maybe the odd ground squirrel. I hope has a great winter, and is around to see again next year. What a treat it was for our group.

I’ll be back early October.



Beaver, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

An adult beaver browsing on willow leaves in a pond, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.
Hey Folks,

So this last week I spent on the north side of the park, exploring clouds and rain and drizzle. The glory of fall in Alaska. I found this small beaver  pond, replete with beaver, so I spent a few hours photographing them in their little demesne. The pond was host to a couple of adults, male and female, and their offspring, 3 young kits. It was fascinating to watch them go about their business (mainly eating) for hours on end. The ole saying ‘busy as a beaver’ could equally hold as ‘hungry as a beaver’; all these critters do is eat, it seems. I watched this male swim to the pond’s shore, clamber out of the water, saunter down the trail, then reappear maybe 10 minutes later with a large willow sapling clenched between his teeth, dragging the branch behind him, as he re-entered the pond, and swam back towards his lodge. I was super fortunate that he stopped to eat right in front of me, and during the course of his dinner, all of the other beavers came by, at some point, to scrounge a branch or 2 off his sapling. Apparently willow leaves are good eating for a beaver. The ruckus that followed was almost comical, the various assortment of noises being surprisingly diverse.



Hoary Marmot Photo.

Hoary Marmot, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Hey Folks

Last week I spent the week up at Skolai Pass, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park, Alaska. After years of hoping to photograph a marmot in the park, and having seen many of them but never actually managing to photograph one, I found this guy, right by where we camped. I made a number of nice images of him, but this one I like the most. The pink flowers in the foreground are called Pink Plumes.

I’ll be out in the backcountry again this week, hiking from Iceberg Lake to Bremner Mines. I’ll post again when I return.



More Snowshoe hares

snowshoe hare (Lepus Americanus) on snow, winter, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

Here’s a look at a Snowshoe hare (lepus americanus) just as it starts to pelage and change to its summer coat, and below, a look at another hare further along in the process. I like to try to photograph animals in the various stages of their phenology, and also to try some different kinds of compositions – the one below showing a little more of the forest this snowshoe hare lives in, and what they might do this time of year; sit in the morning sun and catch some rays after a long, cold winter. Continue reading

Snowshoe hare and lynx population cycles

Snowshoe hare, winter molt, white fur, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

OK, OK, OK .. no more silliness. I mean, this is a professional website, right? I’ll keep it together, I promise.

Here’s a REAL snowshoe hare photo, taken on my recent sojourn to the northern side of Wrangell – St. Elias National Park. I was very surprised at how little sign of snowshoe hares there was in this area – negligible. Everywhere else, it seems, the woods are crawling with them. This is at, or close to, the peak of the cycle for snowshoe hares; a 10 year population fluctuation that seems to be pretty consistent. Sometimes the cycle might be 9 years, or 11, but it’s not usually far off. The population rises steadily, then faster, peaks, and falls drastically,  almost completely, in a single year. Ecologists aren’t sure as to what causes the drop in numbers, Continue reading

Wild Lynx, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Wild lynx, Wrangell St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

hey Folks,

I promised my buddy Ron I’d post this. Hey Ron! 🙂

This is a wild lynx, from Wrangell St. Elias, photographed this last winter. I was pretty lucky to get this. I couldn’t believe my luck when I spotted this gorgeous cat, and hoped and prayed I’d get a photo. The lynx obliged me. I wish, of course, the image wasn’t quite so cluttered, particularly his little white beard created by the snow-covered branch in the foreground, but it’s the first photo I ever got of a lynx, so I’m happy enough, I reckon. He let me fire a few a frames, and then bounded off into the brush.



Snowshoe Hare, in winter, Wrangell St. Elias, Alaska.

snowshoe hare in white winter coat, on snow eating a willow stem, wrangell st. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

Here’s one I shot yesterday. As winter comes to an end, the hares are hungrier than ever, which means I get to see them a little more. This one is just starting to change his coat back to the brown summer coat. You can see the black tips on the ears, which don’t go white, even in the mid of winter. As winter goes along, the hares get hungrier and hungrier – there is not a lot of fodder for them once the snow covers everything. You can see the willow branch this one was nibbling on when I found him. The hares eat the bark right off the saplings .. Continue reading

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Weasel, ANWR, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

Hey Folks,

Here’s a follow up to my recent post on proposals to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. Whilst that post concentrated on facts and figures and data and so forth, I think greater arguments ought be made. As you can see from a cursory read of that post, it’s too easy for folks to cut up a pie in any way they choose in order that it might yield the slices that best fit their appetite. I suppose part of the reason for this is that the pie itself is, ultimately, generated by our cultural institutions, our way of living, our way of seeing the world. The potential number of barrels of oil the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge may yield is somewhat of an abstraction – what constitutes a “barrel”, for example? How large is the footprint of a drilling rig? How many caribou will that impact? Any measurements we choose to use are simply yardsticks of our own worldview (I guarantee you, for example, that the Porcupine Caribou Herd would, if asked, probably give a very different answer to even our cleverest scientists). What if we don’t look upon the world with that viewpoint, however? How else might we be able to see the world, and in what ways might we possibly benefit from a different angle? Continue reading