Saturday, February 18, 2012

habitat ~ 02/18/12 ~ Fort Ord - BLM InterGarrison

Fort Ord Public Lands - InterGarrison entrance
February 18, 2012

Lately, I've been trying to focus on the positive on Nature ID and was hoping if I waited a few days to post about this excursion, my grumpy attitude would mellow out. Unfortunately, I still have pet peeves to report from this hike, and those pet peeves are more hot to me than describing my other photos.

Right as we pulled into the very limited sandy parking at InterGarrison, we met a couple of dogs off leash. As soon as I got out of the car, one promptly stuck its slobbery nose up where it didn't belong, and the other pooped not more than a few feet away in the sand (I was very careful not to step in the steaming pile of poo). I don't blame the dogs. I blame the dogs' owner. The regulation of having a dog under voice command does not mean a verbal remonstration after the fact of "Bad Barkie, leave the nice lady alone!" Plus, the owner made no movements to pick up after his other pet. (Oh, did I mention he was a mountain biker? I'll get to that in a mo'.) At the very least, I'm glad none of the dogs jumped into my car, which Andy experienced a little more than a year ago. When Andy tried to get Lola out of his car, he ended up with his 3rd worst poison-oak rash ever. His arms oozed for weeks thanks to a careless dog owner who couldn't find her way on the trails, let alone find her own dog. Given my last several encounters with dogs on trails (muddy footprints all over me, scaring me during my first ever bobcat encounter, pooping not 3 feet away in the ocean waves from my friend's toddler, and other incidents), really, I do like dogs... just not run amok where common courtesy seems to be forgotten.

There was a ton of poop on the trails. With minimal rain this season, poop seems to be holding its shape pretty well with fuzzy mold. Some were obviously from wild animals with bits of red berries in them, but I'm guessing most were from dogs. Does anyone know how to tell dog and coyote poop apart? Several bikers had dogs with them, and I can't imagine that they would stop their bike to pick up after their pet. As the biker in the parking area demonstrated, he wasn't the least bit concerned about cleaning up after his dog. All that dog poop has got to have a negative impact on the wildlife and the environment.

So, speaking of bicyclists, check out the bright red trail marker above. Can you also see the clear bike tire treads? These trail markers are new within the past couple of months. It's supposed to say "Area Closed," but it's already been defaced. These trails were closed 2 1/2 years ago, and even then the markers were promptly defaced or ripped out of the ground completely. Oh, did I mention? I witnessed the same dog/bike loving fellow promptly go down a brightly marked red trail to enjoy the beauty that is Fort Ord. If he and his cohorts continue, the place may not be so beautiful in the coming years. Considering there are still UXOs being found on previously opened trails, this could be really dangerous. Andy and I don't understand this behavior. We consider it a privilege, not a right, to have access to these lands.

edited 02/25/12 - Now that my rant is done, I've added descriptions for the rest of the photos:

vernal pool

There's a new definition of dry this year. I passed 3 vernal pools during my hike, and they were all this brown without a lick of water. Even on August 4, 2010 there was more green here. To see how filled with water the vernal pools can be, check out my March 20, 2011 post. Let's do a rain dance to get a flood of rain in March and April. Interestingly, I heard several frogs during this hike. I don't know where they'll lay eggs if there isn't some rain soon.

green grass under coast live oak

For how dry it was, I was impressed there were areas of new green under the tree canopies. The tree provides shade and extra moisture collection from fog and rain to the understory. I've asked this before, but what's the term for this natural occurrence? Is it a combination of throughfall and fog interception?

rototilled ground

While there are skunks and badgers at Fort Ord, I think the likely candidate that did this were wild California pigs (Sus scrofa), an odd cross between feral domestic pigs and Eurasian wild boar. They've only been seen at Fort Ord since 2004, and more than a hundred have been trapped since 2006. While I've never seen them, Andy has seen several during his many trail runs at Fort Ord.

dusky-footed woodrat house
Neotoma fuscipes

Normally, I'd have this as its own post, but now I'm starting to see dusky-footed woodrat houses as indicators of certain habitats. I most often see them in heavily forested coast live oak areas. I rarely see just one house, and more often than not there's a whole complex of multiple houses. The king of woodrat blogging is Nature of a Man. Check out his blog!

Fort Ord Army Lands

This picture was taken very near where I saw an incredible display of Indian warriors on March 20, 2011. There's a new Fort Ord map as of last September, but we believe it's already out of date. They've done quite a bit of new trail building that will make it easier to get from the BLM InterGarrison side through open Army Lands to the BLM Creekside entrance. I'm not quite sure what this corridor was since it's not a trail; I suspect it was a temporary road that was used for equipment to build the new trails. It's been exciting to see all the work being done to convert Fort Ord into a public access space. I just hope people can respect the land, the life, and the rules so that everyone can enjoy it for years to come.

ps 02/28/12 - Given my pet peeves above, particularly pets on public lands, Shaina of Middle of Everywhere has a decent post about where this might head.

pss 03/14/12 - Well, here's a different idea - just throw the poo into the bushes according to Rambling on...


John @ Beans and I on the Loose said...

Oh my, people and their dogs! This makes me appreciate how fortunate I am to live next to a State Park with 40 miles of trails and dogs strictly forbidden. Your comment about the dog crapping on beach sand reminded me of an article I read recently. I cannot find the link so here is the piece in it's entirty. Worth the read:

"Some people go to the beach but eschew going into the water because it's "gross". If that's you, then you are a sucker. According to a new EPA study, playing in the sand more than doubles your chances of getting sick.

The study, which was a collaboration between the EPA, UNC Chapel Hill, and Johns Hopkins, found a relationship between sand exposure and gastrointestinal illnesses due to fecal microbial pollution in beach sand. Yeah, sandpoop. It was even worse than exposure to the ocean water. The researchers tested 144 wet-sand samples from beaches within two miles of a waste treatment-works outfall (testing for Enterococcus, Bacteroidales, fecal Bacteroides, and Clostridium, and others) and conducted nearly 5,000 interviews at the beaches with followup interviews two weeks later.
They found that, compared with beachgoers who did not dig in the sand, the adjusted odds ratio (OR) of illness among those who dug in the sand with the highest Enterococcus levels was 2.0 for GI illnesses and 2.4 for diarrhea (considered as a separate outcome).
In other words, they were between two and two and-a-half times as likely to get sick. And it was even worse for people who were buried in the sand. The EPA doesn't advocate avoiding the beach all together, but says people "should consider washing their hands or using a hand sanitizer after playing in the sand or water." Yeah, or maybe a Silkwood shower would do the trick.

Obviously, examining beaches that are near waste-treatment plants are liable to be nastier, but the EPA thinks wider conclusions can be drawn. Beaches with less nasty water are likely to have less nasty sand, but the sand is still likely to be nastier than the water. Way too much nastiness for my liking.

I'd never really considered this, but it actually makes a lot of sense. Sand is often used for filtration systems (y'know, they're called "sand filters"), because it's good at pulling contaminants out of water. Those contaminants don't just disappear. So basically, the beach is one big filter for the nastiness in the ocean. Which is, y'know, gross, but if you think that's going to keep me off the beach you've got another thing coming. If you need me, I'll be surfing in an biohazard suit

Imperfect and Tense said...

It's ok to rant. Really, it is. There ain't no point in bottling it up.

In fact, this was a very justifiable and well-crafted rant. I hope that airing it made you feel a bit better.

Is it wrong of me to think that mixing bikers and UXOs is a problem that will go away?

Cindy said...

generally, poop from domestic dogs is a homogenous color and texture due to their eating only dogfood. A single coyote poop can show mix of colors, vegetation and hairs. If you see straight hairs that are brown on one end and switch to white on the other end, that is usually deer hair so that is kinda cool to see. But that is not always the case with either critter. I remember reading something about telling the diff, so I will see if I can find it next week.

Raving about careless dog-owners - the only effective action I have ever witnessed is for conscientious dog owners to say something. They usually start out with the friendly questions about the other person's dog and then they move onto pleasant but firm suggestions that the other owner get a grip on their dog's behavior so they all don't get kicked out.

Katie (Nature ID) said...

John, I hope I didn't offend your sensibilities with my rant about mountain bikers since I know you love your bike. I suspect you're very respectful of the trails. As for sand poop, well, it is one of the reasons why I don't hang out on the local beaches more often and also why I don't swim in the Bay, even though I love swimming. Our town has some poorly designed sewage systems from when it was basically a tent church camp retreat. It's extremely disturbing to see pipes suddenly pour "water" for a few seconds directly into the Monterey Bay as if someone just flushed their toilet. Every so often they test the sand at Lover's Point, and the results are indeed quite gross.

Graeme, ooh, I do have some unintended pun fun in this post, eh? I feel better, although the people who need to hear this will never hear it.

Cindy, I was hoping you'd read this, because of anybody I figured you'd know or have a resource for determining the difference between dog and coyote poop. Scat doesn't sound quite right when referring to pet poop. I wish I had said something to the biker dog owner in the parking area. Usually, I don't hesitate at all, but the dogs were causing quite a distraction by jumping and circling us. Quite honestly, I wouldn't mind if they banned both bikers and dogs at Fort Ord BLM lands, but given their lack of following rules I don't think that'd actually change anything.

I've added a postscript of descriptions for my other photos.

John @ Beans and I on the Loose said...

No offense taken. You'd have to do a lot more than that to offend me. I fully realize how there are people in all aspects of various activites who ruin the pursuit of that activity for those who are responsible.