Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Day 49 Snowy Owls & Skinning a Caribou with a Spam Lid

Today was Snowy Owl day, Frank and I finally hooked up with Denver to go out and monitor and band some snowy owl chicks. He had mercy on me/us and took us out to two nests that are "close" in--He covers 100 square miles of territory with 30 nests, mostly on foot, some of which is accessable by 4 wheeler, but mostly on foot. These nests are a long ways apart, at least 1 mile usually 2-3 miles to give the pair a decent hunting territory. they feed on lemmings, and they kill the lemmings and leave them whole for the chicks, which either eat them whole or if they are little, the parents, will tear them apart so the chicks can swallow the parts whole and then regurigate the bones and fur as a pellet. They are suprising passive as they are approached, the parents are also very tolerant, the female usually sits about 40 yards off and watches, the males tend to do flyovers and dive bombing runs, sometimes actually clobbering the researchers from behind. If anyone thinks these guys are small;, take a look at the picture of Lauren with a female snowy that is earth bound because she molted too many feathers. We checked two nests and banded 4 out of 6 chicks in one nest and 4 out of 5 in the other. It was something we both wanted to do and I'm glad we did.
Lewis Brower was in the lab today talking about his fater who is 86 and out fishing --getting about 40 whitefish a day, and expecting to get about 150 a day in august. The stuff you learn by keeping your ears open and just listening to the kids talk amoung themselves is wonderful--Every alaskan citizen can kill 5 caribou a day, A DAY!! Kyle was telling David about him and a couple of friends, killing a caribou and then discovering that no one had a knife to gut and skin it--they sat there debating what to do until they got hungry and opened a can of spam for lunch and Shazam!! figured they could gut and skin it with the Spam lid, which they did --You can't make this stuff up even if you tried. Krista was asking Kyle if he had any polar bear claws he was willing to sell and for how much, while bebating the price, he let ship it was a bear he had killed when he was 13--
There are 7 divers and 2 bear guards going down to expore the Point Franklin site where 31 whalers were trapped in the ice, crushed and sank in about 1875--they are being helicoptered in and Anne gave the task of coming up with the shopping list to David and Kyle, Camp food for 7 people for 14 days, ended up being about 300 pounds of food, with debates amoung the kids and adults as to what would work and what wouldn't refigeration is no problem, simply dig a hole and put it in--it'll keep just fine.
We'll be in the field tomorrow, working on Clare's driftwood feature, hopefully it won't rain--we've been in the lab for the last couple of days, so it'll be nice to get back out--check the pictures--


erik said...

I was just wondering how far the meat from 5 caribou would go, say for a family of four? One thing that would be good is that everyone would have a natural freezer so the meat would keep longer.

Kyle selling Krysta a claw from a bear when Kyle was only 13 years old, What is the point here? Is there an age limit here to be able to shoot a bear? I don't get the point here?

You have some great pictures of the snowy owls Dave! The babes look so cute. It is so amazing to know that an owl could swallow a lemming whole. it goes to show you just how big these birds are! Keep the pictures coming.

Are there any huge ice burgs floating by there you could post on your blog? e.

Dave Grant said...

Eric--Assuming the meat is wrapped properly it will keep longer than in a regular freezer, usable meat from one cariou is probably close to 250, maybe 300 pounds so 5 would produce roughly 1200 pounds. Keep in mind, that families tend to be bigger up here and extended families really expand out the usage of the natural freezers, or ice cellars; so that "family" includes uncles, aunts nieces nephews, grandparents etc--the only point to the mention of Kyle selling Krista a polar bear claw was how old he was when he shot it--I don't know about anyone else but I don't know any 13 year olds who have killed a 900 pound polar bear, or for that matter a 900 pound anything. It just speaks to the early maturity of some of these kids in a subsistance culture. Thanks for posting and for your comments, they are appreciated. There are no real icebergs, mostly just the remainder of the pack ice floating by. right now it is walrus time--I'm trying to hook up with one of the Native guys to go out on a Walrus hunt, small open boat, 1000 pound animal, no survival suit--sounds like fun!!


summer widow said...

Boy those birds are beautiful. What a wonderful opportunity for you. The kids sound wonderful too!

erik said...

Dave: Do take care out there on your walrus hunt, if you go! The ones I see on TV. are not only huge, but come with tusks! Not to be taken lightly!

Note: Is the Word Verification necessary. It usually takes a couple of try's. Its a pain in the but!

Dave Grant said...

Eric--the word verification thing seems to be permanent--they make me do it and it's my damn blog--