Last week I headed out to Bodie Historic State Park near Bridgeport, CA to help Scott trap pygmy rabbits for an upcoming paper that is being published. The hope was to catch as many individuals as possible for more robust genetic analyses. Unfortunately, we only caught 7 total pygmies at Bodie. Excitingly (is that even a word?), this is the 6th state I've trapped pygmy rabbits in! We had such a blast reliving the beginning of last season and touring the old historic town and stamp mill!
Additionally, Scott and a tech trapped Crowley Lake, CA at the beginning of August and caught a whopping 24 rabbits from the site Jen and I had visited last year! I am hoping we have enough funding to keep trapping these CA sites for the next few years!
I have been slacking hardcore on updating this blog-and for that, I apologize! It has been a hectic month and a half finishing up trapping in Elko, and moving to Sheldon to begin trapping there.
The beginning of May we finished trapping our permanent site, Jiggs, and caught a total of 66 new individuals with a mere 3 recaptures from last year. It was rather disappointing that we didn't get more recaptures, but I'm hoping when we do the genetics we will find that more of our rabbits from last year are still alive and reproducing! In addition, we saw the gorgeous badger, who we named Basher, twice and got a video on the GoPro of another! We also trapped a new site that we nicknamed RZ, which is about 9 km (~30 min drive) from our permanent site. We only caught 8 rabbits there, but the density of rabbits estimated for RZ seemed pretty good!
Moving on to Hart-Sheldon on May 17, we got settled into the bunkhouse at Sheldon and immediately started setting and trapping the site on the Nevada-Oregon border. We were hoping to turn this into another permanent site, but we only caught 5 rabbits so we left it at just one session and moved on. We then trapped Big Spring and Andy's Place hoping the latter would give us great success, but unfortunately, we struck out big at both. We caught zero pygmy rabbits. At Big Spring though, we did catch 2 species of woodrats (desert and bushy-tailed) which was a first for me! We finally decided to start West Gulch, since we were tired of catching nothing, and we were rewarded with 5 rabbits our first visit, 2 of which were recaps. One of those we chased into a trap while we were checking too! It was the most incredible thing. She was a juvenile last year, and when we caught her, she was so incredibly pregnant!
Over the upcoming week, we will be finishing session 1 and session 2 at West Gulch and then I am off to ASM in Moscow, ID- my old stomping grounds!
Our last visit to our permanent South Fork site occurred on April 21. We totaled 45 new rabbits tagged and 6 recaps from 2016. My friend, Danielle, from the Applied Population Ecology lab at UNR joined me on the night of the 21st to start trapping Jiggs. My new technician, Hannah, got to Elko on April 25th when we could finally do the second visit to Jiggs and we did pretty well! Plus, Hannah, who is from Ohio, got to hold her first pygmy rabbit! After that, we had to stop trapping for 5 days while it snowed, hailed, rained buckets and was windy and cold beyond what we could handle. But it finally passed and we were able to trap again on the morning of the 30th! It did rain again last night/this morning (May 1st), so we had to pass on trapping again, but we're hoping with how good the weather was today, that it will stay this way long enough for us to finish trapping at Jiggs, a one-year Jiggs adjacent site, and hopefully a site up north a ways.
As I write this, I am running the final model for density estimates for South Fork in 2016 and 2017, which will be revealed at the American Society of Mammalogists meeting this year in Moscow, ID! Also, today (May 1st), Hannah and I did a complete burrow survey of South Fork to finish out this 2017 year at that permanent site. Eventually, we want to compare burrow densities to densities of trapped rabbits at all trapped sites, but especially we want to compare burrow densities over time to trapping densities over time.
Stay tuned for how trapping the rest of Jiggs goes!
This is quite a delayed post- but I guess late is better than never! On January 16th (Happy New Year!), my friend Katie and I took a day trip down to Austin to collect genetic samples at a couple of previously surveyed sites. There was a couple inches of snow which had fallen 3 to 4 days before which was perfect for what we were trying to accomplish! We managed to collect 25 fecal samples and 1 hair sample (in about 4 hrs....) at KPS which is about 49 km from our established Indian Valley site (OIV). We also managed to make it to another two sites, KSC and RSC, almost 2 km apart from each other, 5 km away from KPS and 52 km away from OIV, where we were able to find burrows and pygmy rabbit sign between the two sites! Making them one large site! We also collected 35 fecal samples from KSC/RSC. We saw at least 10 pygmy rabbits today as well! Most at KSC although one came out of a burrow right next to us while we were collecting a fecal sample at KPS. Although it took much longer than I expected to collect fecal samples, it was a pretty great day overall! Can't wait to get back out there already!
On Thanksgiving, my good friend Jessie and I headed over to Austin, NV to revisit a couple surveyed pygmy sites and check out a new one in hopes of finding another permanent site to trap at for the next 4 years. It turned out to be a phenomenal survey day. There was a little bit of snow on the ground that allowed us to observe tracks and collect a few genetic fecal samples at each site. We expanded one site by almost double, if not more, and added over 60 burrow systems to the already existing 25. The first new site we went to was a total bust, but we stopped at another site nearby that turned out to be so amazing! We found over 100 burrow systems and saw 3 pygmy rabbits! Instead of finding 1 additional potential permanent site, we found 2! It was great to spend the day with Jessie and I'm so glad she wanted to hang out in the field for the day! Stay tuned for a potential trapping trip at the beginning of December!
My first blog post! How exciting! Yesterday, Jen and I took a trip to Mammoth Lakes area to visit some hot springs and see some pygmy rabbits! Although Mono County, California is not one of our current regions for my PhD project, it was very exciting to see another couple sites where these cryptic lagomorphs occur- especially near Crowley Lake where we got to see at least 5 of them! This little cutie posed for us for a few minutes and I got close enough to see that someone had taken a genetic sample from it. We couldn't think of anyone doing pygmy rabbit work in this part of California (Bodie, Mono Lake, Crowley Lake), so if anyone knows anything please let me know because I would love to get in touch with them!
Field work updates
A place to update on happenings in the field throughout the year. Sites visited. Status of the sagebrush-steppe. Samples collected. Milestones in lab work. Rabbits trapped. Pictures!