Utah, Wyoming, Idaho & Montana
I’m back from a 6-day trip to the states listed above, mostly fact-checking for my upcoming book and enjoying the fall colors. There’s not enough new stuff for a trip report, but here are a few notes:
1. Fish Springs NWR, Utah. A wonderfully remote wildlife refuge with lots of desert pocket mice, semi-tame coyotes and white-tailed antelope squirrels. Look for mustangs if approaching it along Pony Express Rd. from the east. I also saw a few obviously feral domestic sheep in the mountains there – a big surprise.
2. Rockport State Park, Utah. Lots of white-tailed jackrabbits there. One was a roadkill, and I spent some time watching a least chipmunk pulling the fluff off its tail and carrying it away, apparently to insulate the nest for the winter.
3. Bear River State Park, Wyoming. Idaho pocket gophers live around the bison enclosure.
4. Grand Teton NP, Wyoming. Pikas are said to be very common in summer around the upper station of the cable car in Teton Village. Elk rut can be watched in the morning just N of the park entrance.
5. Yellowstone NP. We saw three Northern pocket gophers, active in the afternoon and very tame. Check the slope below Lake Hotel. Lamar Valley great as always (5 wolves, 3 grizzlies). Saw a black bear sow with 3 cubs near Mt. Washburn, a huge grizzly feeding on a roadkill elk fawn S of West Thumb, and another grizzly near Daisy Geyser. Yellow-pine chipmunks and deer mice very abundant this year.
6. Red Rock Lakes NWR, Montana. What a great place! You can watch moose rut at close range, plus there’s lots of elk, white-tailed deer and white-tailed jackrabbits. Wyoming ground squirrel is said to be very common in late spring. Briefly saw an Idaho pocket gopher at dawn on the mt. slope above the campground.
7. Cherry Springs Natural Area south of Pocatello, Idaho. Lots of Uinta chipmunks, and southern red-backed voles running around in brilliant daylight. Western spotted skunk is said to be common at night.
8. Antelope Island State Park, Utah. A good place to see bison and pronghorn less than an hour from Salt Lake City. Should be good for smaller mammals, but we had a flight to catch and couldn’t wait until dark.
IPG is smaller than northern pocket gopher (head&body length overlaps a bit, but hindfoot length doesn’t). It is also very pale-colored compared to sympatric NPGs, with shorter fur. Its tunnels are more shallow (you can usually see them on the surface as ridges of elevated earth at any time of year, while NPG burrows only look like that in spring, but this is not 100% reliable) and more narrow. Wyoming p. g. looks almost identical, but their ranges are not known to overlap. Townsend’s p. g. is even larger than NPG and has naked tail.
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Good info, Vladimir. A couple new places to check out. Thanks! One question: how do you distinguish the Idaho pocket gopher from other species?