Monday, May 26, 2008

Dog Sleds

Yesterday, I witnessed this wolf relaxing in the sun. We were posting signs so that others would stay away from his den. Below is a video of some of his cousins. My dog, Tonzona, is the "wheel" dog pulling the sled.

The first position on dog sled teams are called the lead dogs. Usually we run two instead of one lead dog here at Denali. The second position is called the swing dog. They will swing wide so that the sleds turn is more gradual. The third position (not in the video) are team dogs who help pull. Last comes the wheel dog. These dogs start the sled, break out the runners if they are iced up, and pull most of the weight. Usually during the runs around the track they have two dogs in wheel and one in the swing position. In the video you might notice that there are two swing dogs and Tonzona is the wheel dog all by himself.
These are Alaskan Huskies. They are not a true breed b/c they are bred as work dogs (function) not for looks. The are larger than racing dogs that you see in the Iditarod. Most racing dogs are around 50 lbs, while Tonzona (largest in the kennel) is closer to 100 lbs. They also have long legs for breaking trail, large compact feet so they don't get iced up, two coats of fur (one small for warmth, one long to keep dry), busy tail to breathe through at night, and hair in their ears to keep out snow. Our dogs are generally most comfortable at -10 degrees F. They start pulling a sled when they are 2 and retire to loving northern climate families around age 9.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Tough Life!

This week we added a new area closure and inspected some recently posted. This picture is of Teklanika's wolf den.

Also we have had to keep an eye on a Moose cow and 1 year old calf. This picture was taken after we intervened b/t the cow and a small dog. Neither were hurt, but the dog was visibly shaking. Also note this is one of a few moose that we have collared for a study.

Lastly a few pics of my "adopted" dog. I am walking a husky named Tonzona for the kennels over the summer.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Ghost of Driving Past

I just wanted to add a little to the story and imagery of my drive up to Alaska. Mostly a few images :).

The drive up was beautiful. At Dawson Creek, British Columbia is historical mile zero which continues 1,390 miles through beautiful country, passing many animals living and splattered, ice, frost heaves, behind slow motor homes, terminating in Delta Junction, Alaska.

Along my trip I saw many sights including a strange and weird forest of unknown origin. Maybe it is just nature trying to blend in with human society. The natives I met called it a "Sign Forest", but I was unable to get a translation of this saying...maybe it means metal trees. :) This bizarre sight can be witnessed in Watson Lake, Yukon Territory.

I also say the usual Dall Sheep and Stone Sheep, which are the same except the latter has a brownish coat. Also a few...hundred buffalo. Try to find the Ptarmigan (pronounced Tarmigan) in the snow picture. Funny story: A city in Alaska argued so much over how to spell Ptarmigan as the city name that they gave up and called it Chicken. :)

I also captured a picture of the hideous fiend, monster of monster, most unholy creature from Monty Python and the Holy Grail...THE SNOWSHOE HARE! Alas Brian, standing "conveniently" two feet closer, was ravaged by the BEAST shortly after this picture and is presumed dead. Fortunately for those of you with a weak stomach the end came quick to Brian, the name I had given to the bush outside my house ;).

Monday, May 05, 2008

Bear Update

Well technically I am still in training, but I am now giving orientations to park and concession employees. This last week I went on a road patrol with my compatriots to place some area closure signs. These were to prevent people from hiking into areas where wolves are denning. Soon the some females should be having pups. I am really excited to monitor the dens and hopefully see the little guys walking around. Also the wolf that had a snare on its neck was darted and treated on Friday. This wolf looks like it is going to make it. Check out Fairbanks local newspaper from the previous week to see details on the story.

On our return trip I saw my first bear of the season. A male, who was looking quite healthy, but not the size of a Katmai bear. These bears get less food so they do not grow as large or congregate in mass numbers.

One day this weekend I shocked my eyes and ears with the hustle and bustle of city life that can only be described as Fairbanks, Alaska. With approximately 83,000 people you can just imagine this is like going to NYC especially when you have only seen 25 people in the last month. I could only brave this hectic conditions for a few hours which gave me enough time to shop for myself and two others (yes, it is required to buy for others if you go to town ;) ) and see Iron Man. Movies are a personal vice, but hey it could be worse and I don't get to town often. The rest of my weekend is was pretty relaxed except for Sunday.

Sunday started just like any other day, except this Sunday morning was rudely interrupted by lots of loud banging. Fortunately it was not a hangover (I quickly remembered I don't drink), but was just my roommate getting snow and mud off his boots before entering the house. Anyways it was time to get up b/c I was meeting several people for a hike up Mt. Healy. The journey was treacherous. Crossing vast ice sheets, raging rivers of snow melt, and daunting heights of snow and mud. Actually it was a great hike and let me get to know several people while enjoying a wonderful day. Sadly most of these people are heading out to the west side of the park next week. Curiously it strikes me as funny (odd) that you can get such a good tan when there is so much snow...who needs a beach.