Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Life with Wildlife in Wild Places

Mexican Spotted Owl.
There is no such thing as a typical day for a wildlife biologist especially for one whose “office” is Grand Canyon National Park. A day’s agenda might find one discouraging a bobcat kitten from “entertaining” hikers along Bright Angel Trail OR studying Mexican Spotted Owls deep in the Canyon OR helping native fish species reach recovery in the waters of the Colorado River OR leading volunteers in conducting a count of the elk population on the South Rim.

In Episode 32, I chat with Grand Canyon wildlife biologist Janice Stroud-Settles about how she entered the field, the challenges she faces each day, and the joys that have been hers through a career that’s kept her in the wild.

Janice with Edwina, a rescued Turkey Vulture
that visited Grand Canyon for the park's
annual Celebrate Wildlife Day.
I met Janice when, while resident for a year in Grand Canyon, I volunteered to monitor the park’s California Condors. Regarded as one of the rarest birds in the world, the California Condor is also the largest land bird in North America with a wingspan of up to 9 ½ feet and a weight of up to 23 pounds. At one point, only 22 of these magnificent creatures remained in the world. Now, through herculean efforts in reintroduction, there are more than 400 and more than 70 of these are flying over southern Utah and northern Arizona.  When they are seen soaring over Grand Canyon, folks delight in their presence and crane to photograph them.

California Condor. Photo by Chris Parish.
Condors that have been captured and released are fitted with numbered patagial (wing-mounted) tags and folks who monitor them do so using hand-held antennae and telemetry receivers that can track the movement of each individual. Through the use of high-powered scopes, the behaviors of the birds can also be observed.

Janice looking up at a Mexican Spotted Owl down
in the Canyon. 
Janice and I so enjoyed our first chat for On the Road, that we decided to record a second show (Episode 33) to center on the California Condor and the Mexican Spotted Owl, another endangered bird that makes it home at Grand Canyon. There are little more than 2,000 of this 16-19 inch tall, under two-pound creature left in the world and it is also the subject of study and recovery efforts.

I hope you'll enjoy listening to these programs and I hope you may be moved through them to advocate for the preservation of wild places and wildlife.

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