Wasatch Mountains: Monte Cristo area

Mt. McKinnon, Wasatch Mountains

This past summer I took a little drive on my day off. Since I’m always in the Uinta Mountains (it seems), I decided to head up to the Wasatch Mountains this time. And I took all 4 dogs. Since Miss Moose isn’t up for big adventures, we did some short walks and a lot of poking around. I decided on Monte Cristo because I’m always up for food-named places and I heard it was beautiful. It’s northeast of Ogden and it’s usually a good 10-20 degrees colder than the valley. I headed up UT39 and took the dogs for a short run/walk on an ATV trail to get some energy out because enthusiasm levels were high, as you can see in the images below. Disclaimer: my dogs are leashed any time I intend to encounter another person. This was not that place, plus it was 7 am so you can see Reina is roaming.

The views driving on UT39 are gorgeous. You can overlook the Ogden Valley and get some amazingly beautiful views. Not many pictures, though, as there aren’t a ton of places to stop and I was driving so no “ shoot out the window and hope it turns out” shots. I did find a nice pull off to experience the beautiful summer mountain flowers. I think those blue flowers below are a type of bellflower. Pretty meadows also give way to mountain landscapes. It’s definitely a great place for nature photography, if the valley inversions behave themselves. There was a bit of haze when I went out, but overall the view was pretty clear.

The girls had a lot of fun both poking around the hillsides and exploring. Dogs are welcome as it’s National Forest, just observe basic trail etiquette. Mt. McKinnon is the high point in the area, and again, the views are gorgeous. We ended up sitting on the side of the mountain for a little bit (Miss Moose mandated it) and just relaxing. We went on a weekday and it was fairly empty, though the campground fills up quickly in the summer.

We did a nice short morning excursion and we’re home in time to play with our foster kitten, Janika! (Gratuitous kitten picture below). Monte Cristo is absolutely gorgeous and only about 1-1.5 hours from downtown Salt Lake City, so perfect for a quick trip to get out of the heat or inversions. I haven’t attempted the route in winter yet, however and I believe part of the route on UT39 is actually closed once it snows.

The map below is pinned a little east beyond where I was on UT39. The National Forest is the green sector.

Helping Outside Cats and Dogs in Cold Weather

Baby, it is COLD outside. Bitterly, bitterly cold. With -40F wind chills predicted here (north-east Iowa) my thoughts always turn to animals stuck outside. Miss Moose is extremely happy to spend her second winter with us as an inside dog (I found her on a highway in a blizzard, she smelled like a cow and we found out her owners moved and left her).

Hello? Yes, this is Moose.

Hello? Yes, this is Moose.

My horse even gets to stay inside on very cold days at his barn. But with cats still coming in to our local (no-kill!) Animal Control I feel for those left to fend for themselves.

Cats especially have it rough. I see so many with ears scarred by frostbite. One way to help feral or lost cats in your neighborhood is by putting together a simple box. I made one similar to this one: http://www.petadoptionnetwork.org/?cat=1

Shelter for feral cats

Sorry I don’t know who to credit for this picture! I found it here: http://www.petadoptionnetwork.org/?cat=1

 

I took a rubbermaid  tub, lined it with foam board insulation, and put some straw inside. I cut a small (cat-sized) hole on one side. If you have animals that may trap a cat in the box (Coyotes, etc) an escape hole on the other side is a good idea. I usually put a bit of cat food out on top of the box on very cold days too. I imagine some raccoons or opossums may benefit from that, and I am OK with that. They need help as well.

Water sources can also be helpful. I have a small pond that I keep a bird bath heater in so there is some unfrozen water critters can get to. I didn’t think it mattered, but last winter (record lows here for weeks!) I kept seeing a little Maine Coon drinking from it. I thought she was another neighborhood feral that I would trap and neuter and release, but one day I saw her sitting on our patio shivering. I went out to feed her and she jumped into my arms. After some Facebook networking through my vet it turned out she was a beloved family pet who got out in October (we found her just before Christmas). I was so happy to see her reunited!

Fleury (named for the hockey goalie and because it was snowing when we found her). Her actual name turned out to be Trixie. I like Fleury...

Fleury (named for the hockey goalie and because it was snowing when we found her). Her actual name turned out to be Trixie. I prefer Fleury…

Dogs can also be in trouble in cold weather. I found Moose just before a blizzard hit, she is one lucky girl! This post from Lost Dogs Illinois on Facebook shows one way to help pups in need:

Obviously, if you see a dog tethered outside in extreme weather with no shelter please call your local police department or animal control. No animal needs to live like that.

Also be sure to tap on your car hood before starting it, kitties like to crawl up near engine blocks for warmth. And if you use salt, use pet-friendly kinds.

Your indoor pups may like a coat when going outside in frigid weather. Our husky-mix Kailie is built for cold weather (though we don’t let her stay out in it long).

Kailie in Utah

Kailie in Utah, the Kaprys Photography watermark is from my other blog

However, short-haired dogs like greyhounds and the like need coats in cold weather. The greyhound rescues usually tell new owners “If you need a coat on, your dog does too.” Here Cedric, my Galgo Espanol (or Spanish Greyhound) and Marigold, my ex-racer (RIP sweet girl) model their coats my mom made for them.

Cedric and Marigold in 2012

Cedric and Marigold in 2012

If you don’t have a specially fashioned coat or need a quick one for a lost dog, use a sweatshirt. Put the legs in the arms and clip the sides up on the back with a safety-pin.

I hope this post helps some animals in need. Stay warm, friends!

Yellowstone Coyotes

This is a post about a coyote we saw in Yellowstone last fall. I originally posted part of this on my photography blog (that I don’t update very much) here. Anyway, on to the coyote and some wolf info in Yellowstone.

We were driving into the park and saw some elk. A ways in, near some hot springs we saw a bunch of cars stopped. We pulled over to a turn off where everyone else was watching a grazing buffalo and noticed this little guy in a field near our car:

Coyote in Yellowstone

We had our husky mix, Kailie, with us on the trip (who, incidentally, does look like a white coyote. A large white coyote. Because Kailie could easily be mistaken for a wold OR coyote, she gets a red vest or her red backpack on her while hiking in areas where coyote hunting is allowed) Don’t EVEN get me started on that poor malamute that got shot in Montana while WITH his owner and 2 other dogs. RIP Little Dave.

Anyway,  his is our Kailie in Utah (at Golden Spike National Monument, no hunting there) this past January, looking rather majestic:

Looking more like an Iditarod dog than coyote here...

As soon as Kai caught scent (and sight) of that coyote she started howling. As in we had to ask our friends in the car if it was her or the coyote making the noise. They assured us it was coming from the back hatch of our Element (which is an awesome travel vehicle by the way!)

Despite Kailie’s attempts at friendship or whatever she wanted, the coyote ignored her and proceeded to hunt. While we watched he caught at least 3 mice in quick succession.

Yellowstone Coyote HuntingI never realized before that the coyotes I’m used to, eastern coyotes (at least as far east as Michigan) are much larger than western coyotes. I read that this is because eastern coyotes interbred with Canadian wolves and developed a larger subspecies. In fact most coyotes in Ontario (close to where we lived in Michigan) have been found to be hybrids with wolves genetically. The coyotes I saw in Michigan were roughly the size of our Kailie, about 40-50 lbs. The western ones I saw in Montana were much smaller, probably 30 lbs and looked more fox-like. Coyotes do not interbreed with foxes as they do with wolves and even domestic dogs and will actually kill foxes as they occupy the same ecological niche.

Coyote in Yellowstone

He was really interesting to watch, and looked gorgeous in the afternoon sun. He put on a great show of hunting, so much more interesting than watching a buffalo graze. We did see his bigger, shier cousin later that evening. I apologize for the picture, this guy was SO spooky.

wolf in Yellowstone

We turned a corner near Yellowstone Lake and there he was. He looked at us for less than a minute then disappeared in the woods. I was hoping to see a wolf in Yellowstone, and after 2 disappointing evenings scoping out the Lamar Valley (where there are several active wolf packs) I was beginning to think it wasn’t going to happen. But, then, this wolf appeared when we weren’t looking! I believe he was a juvenile. I wasn’t actually sure he was a wolf, but we showed the picture to a ranger who confirmed. He was quite a bit bigger than the coyote we saw. We did hear several wolf and coyote packs at night in the mountains near our cabin outside West Yellowstone. An amazing sound for certain.

We did also see, later in the week, a wolf hunting elk. We spotted 2 elk herds running in circles and making horrible noises. They circled the juveniles and protected them at the center of the herd. 2 male elk then gathered at a tree line (it was rutting season and they weren’t sparring so we knew something serious was going on) and we saw, briefly, what appeared to be a large black canine circling them. These were large, probably at least 12-point male elk. The wolf (I am assuming here) was in and out of the tree line so he was hard to see. It was dusk and our binoculars didn’t help to see much. After about 20 minutes or so the males rejoined their herds and wandered off so I think the wolf gave up. This did happen in the Lamar Valley which is THE place to see wolves in Yellowstone. It was also near where we saw 3 grizzly bears (more info coming in a later post!)

Here is some info from the NPS on the Yellowstone wolf packs: http://www.nps.gov/yell/naturescience/wolves.htm. Our sighting was near the area of Mollie’s pack. Sadly, this winter I heard an alpha female was killed outside the park, the ’06 Female.  I don’t understand myself why people hunt apex predators to the extent they do. OK, hunt an elk and use its meat so it didn’t die in vain. Kill a wolf, you get a pelt? What’s the point?