Monday, July 15, 2013

The Hills have Eyes, Ears, Hooves and Paws


This week we set up camp next to a man made pond that harbored the endangered leopard frog. The pond was nestled on three of its sides by sheer hills. From the tops of these mini buttes we could see a beautiful stretch of the muddy river and most of the town of Moapa. I sat a top these hills watching the desert bleed into the riparian habitats we were working in. Not many places in the desert have such a contrast that isnt man made. The Muddy river was no different. It's water had been binded, bunched and banded to fit the demands of farmers and a few ranchers 30-70 years ago. We were working there to build Southwest Willow Flycatcher Habitat for the Walton families grant money. No matter how much human intervention had shaped the present Muddy River it's beauty still shone through like a ray of light passing through broken glass in a dark room. It was quite the hidden gem.

Ducks used the pond all night and each day. Their frolicking and general abundance of life even kept a few of us up well into the wee hours. Towards the end of a second day we received our first social camp visitor, a brown lab with the personality of Jack Nicholson in Easy Rider. No fences, sheer rock walls or eroding hills could stop this dog from its primary objective; Sheepherding its very own flock of two adorable kids (baby goats). Besides shepherding Easy Rider loved to dig with two paws moving simultaneously. Ol'Easy would butterfly stroke the ground in a way that looked as if he was trying to swim through the dirt. His flock couldn't be left alone and both parties diligently watched over each other. If the goats couldn't see the dog they would bleat until he was in plain sight. If Easy felt that they were getting too far from the places he wanted them to roam he would race up the steep slopes and nudge them closer to the cliff were their visibility was much higher.

 The goats would let you pet them but only after having put in a good faith effort to chase them own for twenty minutes. The first night they stayed with us well past our visiting hours and right into dinner. At one point because of the food we were about to cook I tried shooing them. I was unsuccessful as they ran straight up the hill that was over our kitchen and proceeded to shower us with rocks of all sizes for the next hour. There is no way that goats don't understand and utilize this process on a daily basis. They came back the next few days and were friendlier with each visit until both NCC'ers and animals had a fair understanding of each other.

The last day at work we were right next to camp when a bobcat jumped out of the brush and started running in front of the truck that was traveling at 12-18 mph. After about 150 feet the bobcat jumped of the road and disappeared back into the brush. A powerful predator for its size, I made sure to stab my knife into the soft ground while squatting a few hours later.

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