Moose, Bears, Dogs & Fall

The continuing run of mostly clear days followed by clear nights has definitely played a major role in dropping the 24 hour average temperatures across the past couple of weeks. This was best illustrated with this morning’s low of 5.2 F under clear skies; this is actually a bit lower than Talkeetna’s average January low temp of 6.0 F. Yesterday’s mean temp was a cool 16.9 F which is a value I’d expect to see in December. Of course the continually shortening days are playing their part as well; today we’ll just eight hours and thirty five minutes of direct sunlight which is a decrease of five minutes and fifty seconds from yesterday. All this is combining to bring a real feel of winter to south central Alaska even though calendar winter doesn’t begin for fifty three days.

With the cooler weather I’ve finished up all my preparations for winter and now eagerly await the snow and real cold. On these cool October mornings I can really feel winter in the air and I’m not the only one. My Alaskan Malamute, Anana, once again has a real spring in her step and is beginning to wander further afield requiring more consistent vigilance on my part when we’re outdoors. I’ve seen her exhibit this trait more strongly with the advent of cold; she is without question true to her breed. I do remain a bit concerned about my German Shepherd Dog, Qanuk, who lives to run and be outdoors; so much so he will forgo coming inside when his paws are beginning to suffer from the cold and snow. Last season he bled from all four paws and I quickly learned I had to limit his outdoor activity based upon the air temp. Poor guy struggled across all of April to beat back the infection and heal the area between his pads. Then, in early July, the condition struck again requiring a vet visit and much more drastic steps to finally kill the infection and heal his paws. I have booties of the kind used by the local dog teams and when the snow begins I will try to get him to wear them. I plan to let him outside, tether him to a corner pole on the front porch, ‘suit him up’ and then take him out for a long run. I’m hoping he’ll build the association between putting on the booties – I already know he will hate wearing them – and getting a good run in the cold and snow. The things we do for our four legged companions..!

Qanuk and Anana getting tough in the back yard; although they can really mix it up they are the best of friends

Qanuk and Anana getting tough in the back yard; although they can really mix it up they are the best of friends

A welcome change across the past couple of weeks has been a sudden resurgence in the local moose; I believe I counted just three sightings across May through September which was extremely low. Last year I saw at least ten moose from just August through October and a pair were in my yard. In addition although we saw moose in the boreal forest at least once a week during our 2013 walks this year I’ve seen a moose just once and that was the one Anana irritated and consequently had to run for dear life. Across the last three weeks in October I’ve sighted five moose including this guy awaiting his chance to cross ‘the Spur’ a few miles south of my street. When he realized I had stopped and was taking pictures he ambled across the road and into the forest.

Young bull moose patiently waiting his turn to cross the Spur around 10 miles south of talkeetna

Young bull moose patiently waiting his turn to cross the Spur around 10 miles south of Talkeetna

Bear sightings have been off as well this year; to this point in 2014 I’ve seen just two grizzlies and a black bear. To this point I’ve read only one ‘bear alert’ for Talkeetna on my Friday evening KTNA newscast and that was in the spring. Even the bear sign has been more dispersed and fewer in number. I suspect weather plays a role and given the locals tell me this year’s crop of tourists was by far the most they’ve ever seen I suspect this might be influencing the wildlife living and foraging patterns as well. I certainly hope this is not the beginning of a trend as while I have great respect for all the local wildlife I also take immense joy from just observing it from a safe distance and seeing signs that it’s around the immediate area. For me Alaska just wouldn’t be Alaska without the large ungulates and bruins.