Sunday, April 27, 2014

Aging a Black-tailed Deer with a Jawbone

About two weeks ago, I was out hiking and stumbled upon a black-tailed deer carcass. I decided to let it stay out in the hills for a week, and then I came and took the jawbone home. After hours of cleaning and multiple bottles of hydrogen peroxide, here is the (half) jawbone, finally cleaned:

Jaw from Black-tailed Deer
(Odocoileus hemionus columbianus)

Listed below the individual teeth are the numbers for the molars (M) and premolars (P). Unfortunately, premolar 1 was broken off when I found the bone.
Using this guide, I was able to judge that the deer was, sadly, just under 2.5 years old when it died. Premolar 3, which had two cusps instead of three, determined that the deer was over 1.5 years old.

I then saw that the dentin on the premolar 3 was narrower at the enamel at the crests but about the same to a little bit wider on molar 1. This let me know that the deer was older than 19 months but a little younger than 2.5 years. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Spring Break 2014, Santa Cruz Mountains

I went up into the Santa Cruz mountains on Monday to look for some critters for a couple of hours. No snakes were found, but many other little guys were kind enough to stay still long enough for pictures.

These little dudes were under every rotten log we found. They would often curl up into a little spiral when threatened by my giant hand.

California Slender Salamander
(Batrachoseps attenuatus)

Of course, who could forget the slugs? They were everywhere, totaling up to at least 50 on our walk.

Banana Slug
(Ariolimax columbianus (or Ariolimax californicus?))

This one wanted to run, and it was a challenge getting him to stay still, but after countless times of picking him up and putting him on the little piece of rotting wood I arranged for him, he got the idea.

Yellow-Eyed Ensatina
(Ensatina eschscholtzii xanthoptica)

This is the first guy I found. I couldn't identify him for quite a while because of the darker skin and the warts, but I finally stumbled upon a picture that looked like him some website somewhere. I read up on the warts, and it seems to be some sort of disease. Hope he's okay.

California Giant Salamander
(Dicamptodon ensatus)

This guy was pretty big. Although they are very common, every time I pick one up I am surprised by how much they weigh compared to other little animals I find.

Common Millipede
(Tylobolus uncigerus?)

This one didn't bite at all, which is unusual for this type of lizard, since they are normally aggressive when handled. It's probably because he was still a juvenile (didn't seem full grown). Nonetheless, his tail was very beautiful, and I needed a picture even though he wouldn't stand still long enough for me to take one that was in focus.

San Francisco Alligator Lizard
(Elgaria coerulea coerulea)

There are two types of alligator lizards here in the bay area, the northern and southern varieties. This guy is a subspecies of the northern variety as you can tell by his eye color, which is dark, unlike the pale yellow or white eyes (not the pupil of course) of the southern variety.

I conclude this post with a video instead of a picture, because the light was too low to be able to focus with the camera I was using. Here is the yellow-spotted millipede, which (interesting fact coming up) also happens to secrete hydrogen cyanide as a counter-attack against predators. It is therefore rightfully nicknamed the "almond-scented millipede."

Yellow-spotted Millipede
(Harpaphe haydeniana)

Friday, April 18, 2014

DIY Snake Hook

A friend got me interested in herping, specifically for snakes, so I decided to make a snake hook. I found this idea online here, and it worked very well.

The golf club was bought from goodwill for a little over $2.

The paint roller was bought from Lowes for about $3 to $4. I cut off the plastic grip with a dremel tool.

The dremel tool was also used to cut the head off of the club. This led the club to be 39.5 inches in length.

The end of the paint roller fit nicely into the golf club, and some JB Weld ($5?) was used to stick it all together.

After a little under 24 hours of drying, the stick (now just under 46.5 inches) was ready to use. It's study, and can flip rocks with ease.

 At the end of the day, I even was able to pick up a rattlesnake, which happened to be the only snake I found. It's still quite cool in California, so it was not aggressive at all, and responded by quietly slithering away.