[Comments in brackets are by Jeannine and Duane]
From the Northern Crew:
This week our time was mostly dedicated to FLIR surveys, preparing for the surveys by clearing downed trees from the survey trails during the afternoons and doing the surveys themselves in the evenings. Despite making sure every trail was clear when we started, on Friday night we ran into a large downed maple near the end of one of our surveys, and it took a while to get all the branches sawed and towed off the trail for us to pass!
The weather is still pretty cold here; so we have to bundle up in the truck while driving after dark with the windows down. And we’ve been getting plenty of snow, rain, and sleet. Though the frogs don’t seem to mind the cold based on how loud they’ve been lately.
We’ve been seeing lots of animals with the thermal including porcupines, owls, grouse, and even a bobcat. We were able to complete one round of surveys with our full crew, but now we’re just down to two of us as the techs start to head off to their next field jobs. With only one person operating a camera, we have to do each survey twice – one side one night, and the other side the next night – so we’re moving at a slower pace for this second set.
In the hours not spent working on FLIR surveys, we have been slowly moving our trapping equipment back into our storage shed. All three of our field trucks were in quite a state by the end of the field season, both inside and out. So we spent a few afternoons cleaning them out and giving them a good power-wash to remove the thick layer of mud caked underneath them. It’s pretty satisfying to see them get so clean again!
Northern Field Crew Leader
Game Commission Deer and Elk Section
From the Southern Crew:
Last week was definitely a change of pace for all of us now that we aren’t doing any deer trapping. We still have all of our Clover traps and rocket nets to pull out of the woods, but that really only adds a few hours to each day as we slowly pick them up. Although, it is a strange feeling to drive our old trap lines and not be on the edge of our seats with a hockey mask in hand, or on your head already, getting ready to sprint through the woods and restrain a deer. Even though they have no deer in them now, we still remember all the captures, or lack of, as we pull each trap that we so carefully picked a spot for.
The Clover traps will return to Penn Nursery where they will be sorted and fixed in any free time that the crew or I have. Some of them are really starting to show their age and use as some of the welds are beginning to crack and will need to be fixed this summer before they go back into action in 2023. All of our other trapping equipment will be cleaned, dried out, and sorted before being put back in storage at Rothrock State Forest.
In the evenings/nights we have been conducting our spring FLIR surveys throughout the forests. Every year there seems to be some troubleshooting and IT problems, but this year started out a little rougher compared to others. Typically, we have a FLIR camera out the driver and passenger side of the vehicle so that both sides of the road can be surveyed at once.
This year our equipment has been extra uncooperative so our first few surveys had to be done with only 1 camera…Meaning that we have to drive up and down each route so that we can survey both sides of the road. Which has put us a little behind since each route now takes twice as long as it should. But, with a little help from IT and Kevin from PSU, we finally have both cameras up and running so now the crew and I can really begin to get our designated routes completed! Fingers crossed that everything continues to cooperate.
On our routes, we have been seeing a handful of deer each night. Each route can vary a lot from road conditions and the vegetation type but typically we are trying to spot animals through the dense mountain laurel, rhododendron, and hemlock stands that we are all very familiar with in the southern study area.
We have been seeing a TON of porcupines each night though! They are usually in the ditches on the side of the roads or very close to the roads edge so they are very easy to spot. The woodcock have also been making their presence known the last couple of evenings.We can hear multiple woodcock either peenting or flying around while we drive our surveys. Many of them are actually using the middle of the road but since we are only driving 5-10 mph, they are pretty easy to avoid. Although a few of them have posed nicely for a quick picture in the FLIR or with our cameras. Next week we will continue to reorganize the trapping equipment and continue surveys.
Have a good week!
Southern Field Crew Leader
Game Commission Deer and Elk Section