Sunday, June 19, 2011

I really need to vent right now

So... it's Blanding's Turtle nesting season again.

I was out tonight on a mission to do some turtle nest protecting. I trained in a volunteer on what to do. It started out pretty cool.
Around 8 o'clock we find the first turtle of the evening. Sweet! This turtle has been out the last two nights digging around the side of the road looking for a place to lay her eggs, so I thought, "Tonight's gonna be the night!" And I put a bobber light on her so we could find her easily after it got dark.
Then I told the volunteer that since she was watching the road that I would like to check out another location where we haven't had a chance to search yet. I didn't make it 800 ft before I found another turtle on the side of the road. This turtle had been out on Thursday and Friday looking for a place to nest, but hadn't succeeded as far as we know. So I parked my car on the side of the road, far enough away that I didn't think I would disrupt her, but close enough that I could still see what she was doing.
So I watch this turtle cross the road, then go back across the road, then again. She probably went back and forth across the road at least 5 times. Why couldn't she just pick a side? I think I might never understand what goes on in a turtle's mind.
I'm parked on the side of the road watching this turtle. Then a jeep drives past with 3 teenagers (a girl driver, and a boy and girl passenger). They drive past the turtle. Stop the car. Back up to the turtle. Then the boy gets out of the jeep, goes over to the turtle, and kicks it.

WHAT THE FREAKING #@!$#%*@#!!!!!

I get out of my car and yell, "Hey! Please don't kick the turtle!"
So what does the kid do? He kicks the turtle again!
I run over there and yell, "Hey! Please don't kick the turtle!"
He says, "I didn't kick the turtle."
I respond, "Really? Because I saw you kick the turtle."
He replies, "I was just rolling it."

You have no idea how much control it took for me not to smack that kid up the side of the head.

Then I tried to explain that this is a Blanding's turtle. A species that is threatened in Minnesota and that she just wants to lay her eggs. And that he really shouldn't bother it. Which I'm sure sounded high pitched and shrill because I was so irate.

And then the kids laugh and drive away.

AND!!!! The jeep has vanity plates. Frickin' figures. And yes, I took note. And yes, I filed a report on the DNR tip line. Not sure if it only works for poachers, but I think that deliberately harassing a threatened species is a bad enough offense that, at the very least, the biggest bad-ass conservation officer should go knock on their door and scare the poop out of those kids.

Seriously! When did it become okay for kids to grow up without respect for what's around them? Remember when people didn't raise their children to be jerkwads? It wasn't that long ago.


I really hope something bad happens to those kids. Not like disfigurement or anything like that, but definitely something to teach them a lesson. Bunch of jerks.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Beatrice Chronicles - Part 4: The Search Resumes

So I'm not so up-to-date on postings right now. Here's a brief update.
  1. It has rained more in the first two months of this field season than it did probably the whole first 3 seasons all together
  2. The burn season was pretty short and smoky (due to the rain mentioned previously)
  3. Despite the short/slow burn season and the abundance of rain we managed to have a fire get loose from us (and nobody noticed until it was WAY past stopping)
  4. Geese remember people (more to come on this later)
So in the past two months I have boss-man repeatedly to let me check on Beatrice. The answer usually had something to do with not being convenient that day, plans to go north instead of south, other excuses I can't even remember... but basically "no."
I was able to check her twice so far, once in early April when it was still cold. She had still been in her wintering spot, but it was no surprise due to the weather at the time.
The first week of May I was able to check on her again. She was basically in the same location, but had moved within the wetland complex. Then there was no checking for 3 weeks.

Finally this past Friday boss-man told me to take the equipment to go check on her location. I had secretly been thinking, "Aww crumb. She's not going to be there and she'll be lost again forever. I don't want to go."

So I headed out there with P90X and some volunteer kids. Everyone was pre-warned that the likelihood of getting a signal was minimal due to the transient nature of this particular turtle. When we got to the location there was no signal to be heard. She indeed has eluded me again.

Today I was sent to find her, pretty much in the same way as last year. Take the tracking equipment and some maps and try to find her signal. Six and a half hours of turtle searching and all I got was a sore tushy from driving around in the truck all day.

So basically, I'll go out as often as I'm allowed, but I'm mostly hoping that someone happens to find her and they give us a call.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

First Season Nostalgia - Part 3

So I was looking at my facebook page and decided I should delete some of the old "notes" I wrote. I trashed a bunch of them without even thinking twice before I considered actually reading them. It turns out I'm kind of funny sometimes.

This one is about a dream I had that I wrote about (slightly edited).

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

So I wake up at 7 this morning, and curse at myself for not still being asleep... and after a few minutes of arguing with myself, I laid back down and slept some more...
and this is what happened in Dreamland:

I was at work and Larry (the boss) was gone and so was Brian (the field supervisor... or whatever his title is), and it was basically just the new seasonals working... by ourselves... I'm not really sure what the assignment was, but we decided that the best way to do whatever job we were supposed to be doing would be by using dynamite.
The area where we were working... it looked like two lakes near each other... maybe a little bit like that spot at Murphy-Hanrahan where we burned the other day.
So, you know, we set the dynamite and stepped back and KA-POW, a job well done. But then I noticed that the lakes were filling very quickly and starting to over flow onto the trails, so we started setting sand bags down... and luckily for me that they were self rising sand bags... that way I could grab a large stack of them, and lay them down so that when the water hit them they would expand and block the water (what a great idea! I should invent that!). And apparently I was doing it wrong (because I'm totally paranoid that I do everything wrong, even in my dreams) and Larry and Brian showed up and showed me the right way to do it... apparently there are better ways to lay down sand bags than to... you know, lay them next to and on top of each other to higher than the water level. And I looked, and about 30 seconds after they arrived, they both had giant sand bag walls.. gee, I'm an inefficient worker.
Then Larry told us that we had to have a meeting the next morning, "This is serious."
So we showed up the next day and Larry sat us down, asked us about our decision to use dynamite, then gave us all points... more like demerits... complete with charts telling us the effective punishments for the number of demerits received. Mike went first and had the most demerits (because he had so many from that time he lost the van). Nate had less than Mike, but I think they had added up because of that whole almost dying in a gasoline fire in the back of the truck. And surprisingly I had the fewest. I think I got less because it was expected that I would do things wrong since Larry thinks I'm so dumb. Then Larry looks at me and says to me very slowly, "Do you understand what I'm saying?" To which I nodded, but really I was so upset and worried by the whole situation that my hearing seemed muffled and I had a hard time listening.
Oh, and Mike add so many demerits that he had a forced week suspension. Nate and I were pretty close to being laid off, but surprisingly, we weren't fired immediately.

That's about all I remember of that dream, but at least I have been fully warned by my sub-conscience... No matter how good an idea it seems, I will resist the urge to use dynamite.

First Season Nostalgia - Part 2

So I was looking at my facebook page and decided I should delete some of the old "notes" I wrote. I trashed a bunch of them without even thinking twice before I considered actually reading them. It turns out I'm kind of funny sometimes.

Thursday, April 17th 2008

So, I've finally found something bad about my job.

Now that I've been working outdoors all the time... my feet are kind of smelly.
I never had this problem previously. But now, as I have just come home and taken off my shoes, there is this stench around me... following me throughout the house... and it's my feet.
I sicken myself. But I suppose a little shower and all will be fine again. I'm just not used to having stinky feet.

In other work related news... I had to deal with two dead animals. Actually, the first one was optional... actually, so was the second one.
OK... make that I dealt with two dead animals today.
We were working in a woodlot, preparing for the upcoming burn season (again)... Seriously... raking and kicking around the base of small oaks and large snags... it's getting a little old.

But then... Steven found a dead owl. A Great Horned Owl, to be precise.
So we had a little break from raking and stood around it... tried to figure out what killed it... wondered aloud why it hadn't been scavenged yet. I voted that we bring it in so that the skin might be salvaged. Brian said it was already decomposing... sure it was missing it's eyeballs already and was a little maggot-y.. but it was still intact, and was hardly missing any of its feathers... but you know... I have no say in what goes on, so we left it... but not before taking more pictures...

Why I look so happy to be holding a dead bird, I'm not sure. Because I assure you, it did NOT make me happy.

Then we did more woodlot raking... blah blah blah.. get back to the FOC, and Brian suddenly remembers that we forgot to pick up the dead beaver... so Nate (another seasonal worker) and I went to pick up the beaver... the 50 pound beaver.. This thing was HUGE!!! But I forgot to take a picture, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

Did I ever tell you I love my job?

First Season Nostalgia - Part 1

So I was looking at my facebook page and decided I should delete some of the old "notes" I wrote. I trashed a bunch of them without even thinking twice before I considered actually reading them. It turns out I'm kind of funny sometimes.

Monday, April 14th 2008

Have I ever told you that I love my job? I do. My job is awesome.
And today, I had a small victory.

I successfully started a cold chainsaw. That's right. I didn't need anyone else to start it for me and run for a while so it could warm up. This time, I started myself.
Maybe it doesn't sound like a big deal to you, but believe me, it is. OK. Well, to me it is. I STILL can't start the lawn mower.

I love this dirty, outdoorsy stuff. But being the only female in the crew, I am totally paranoid that everyone will think I suck. I feel like I have to push myself twice as hard, not just because I'm "the girl," but because I am also the smallest person.

And I feel like a big, dumb goober-head having to have one of the guys start the chainsaw for me. So yes. I did it! I'm so bad-ass.

In other chainsaw related news... my first day of using the chainsaw, I get home from work and tell my mom, "Guess what I did today.... I have officially added chainsaw operation to my resume!"
"You went to college for that?!?!"

Well, thanks mom. That makes me feel great... but at least right now, those crabby comments really don't bother me... because this job is awesome.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Beatrice Chronicles - Part 4: Hibernation

Madeleine and I have been trying to figure out a good time to get together to check on Beatrice. September was the last time I was able to check on her, and Madeleine checked on her in late October. Since it's fairly cool in October, we were reasonable sure that Beatrice would be in the same location. And since it's freezing now, we thought it would be a good opportunity to pinpoint her exact wintering location.

(I suppose this is the point where I should mention that in the winter Blanding's Turtles find a nice mucky wetland, dig themselves in the mud, and hibernate. )

So Caleb and I met up with Madeleine and with the radio telemetry gear in tow we trudged across the ice. I was a little concerned at first as I mostly hear static and radio interference, but we starting walking toward the spot where Madeleine thought she was in October. As we neared her supposed location Beatrice's radio signal got louder... kind of. She was in the same general direction, but she had still moved quite a bit. At least this time her movement was limited to the wetland (thank goodness because I don't know there's any way we'd find her if she went too far).

We followed the signal until the beeps were loud even with the tracking gear on the lowest setting. This means she was pretty close. I even unplugged the antennae and we could still hear the beeps with the transmitter. Definitely close.
I'm a little sad that we didn't actually see her, but at least we know pretty much where she is. Caleb even poked a stick in a bit of water that wasn't frozen... until Madeleine worried about waking her up. But we feel pretty good about this.

Here's her approximate location (hope this link works), which looks like this up close.

The field season is starting up soon. Here's to hoping my boss will let me stay on top of tracking her before she disappears again. That tricksy turtle.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Beatrice Chronicles Part 3

After the re-disappearance of Beatrice the Blanding's Turtle I searched about a 4 mile radius around her last known location. The searching did not happen all in one day and was completely dependent on other work tasks that needed to be done and/or however my boss was feeling that day. So it was about five separate attempts to relocate Beatrice. One day I searched south, then west, then thought maybe she'd be the kind of jerky turtle who would go back to where we first found her and check east. And of course, last but not least, I checked north. I also checked west again... just to be sure.

Jokes by co-workers and my boss were made at my expense. I made jokes that she probably made it out to Prior Lake, which if you're not familiar is a pretty stinkin' big lake. It would be pretty impossible to try to track her there, based on the size of the lake and the amount of private property along its shore. It's also 5 miles away from Cleary Lake, which many turtle experts would readily say is an exceptionally long distance for a turtle to travel. Nobody thought she would really go as far as Prior lake.

And then I got a call. It was Madeleine calling to let me know that someone had found Beatrice... in Jordan. A mere 15 miles from her last known location! No wonder I couldn't track her signal, she had already gotten the heck out of dodge.
Someone had found her in a neighbor's yard, saw the radio on her shell, and brought her in to the Minnesota River Valley Nature Center (or something like that). The person at the nature center noticed the phone number on the radio and BAM! We're back on Beatrice's track... no thanks to me, I guess.

Beatrice was released again in a nice looking pond close to where she was found. I will be sent out on a sporadic basis to check on her location, which currently happens to be about a one block's distance from the Minnesota River. This basically means that if she stays put for once I'll have a good idea of where is.... and if she makes her way to the river... there will be absolutely no way to figure out where she might be going... and then the jokes will probably start all over again.

I google searched Blanding's Turtles. One website said that female Blanding's turtles have been known to travel up to one mile away from their wintering location! One mile! One mile?!?! Beatrice was found 15 miles away from her last known location! Actually, about 18 miles from where she was first released! This brings up serious questions about how turtles (OK. how this one turtle) may travel in an increasingly urbanized environment.
Of course turtle-car collisions never turn out in the turtle's favor. The increase in impermeable surfaces with expanding roadways and pavement may increase the amount of water in the ditch system; could this increase a turtle's ability to travel long distances? Maybe. But maybe that would be dependent upon precipitation levels. This year has been very wet so far. What happens if it doesn't rain as much next year? Would turtles like Beatrice be forced to cross over roads instead of through culverts? What if there are more turtles out there like Beatrice? Wandering turtles with a love of adventure and a sly sense of humor that sends humans in circles trying to stay on their trails. Will these turtles thrive or just survive? And for how long? McMansions are being put up all over the Prior Lake area, covering up where Beatrice or some other turtle may have wanted to lay her eggs. Can a species like this last long term in a place where people's dreams get bigger and more developed everyday? I don't know.... but I'd like to find out.