Field Biology Trip to the Desert

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Here are some pictures from a field biology trip a few years ago. We went from Auburn, Alabama to Portal, Arizona and back in 9 days. We camped on BLM lands and surveyed small mammals (bats and rats) at every stop.

The picture with the bucket shows how you catch a ground squirrel (should you ever need one.) It’s a low-tech method. You cup your gloved hands around the hole after the squirrel dives into it. Someone pours a bucket of water into the hole. When the squirrel runs out, you grab it gently but quickly with your gloved hand.

The pile of dirt with holes in it is a kangaroo rat mound. A whole family occupies a single mound. Tubes of underground pathways and secret “rooms” riddle the cooler earth beneath.

Kangaroo rats are incredibly tame. That’s one on my neck and on my hand. I’m not sure what the little guy on my neck was planning.

The big rat is a wood rat. They are fierce little fighters and I would never actually kiss one — note the distance from pucker to rodent. They are very difficult to wrangle out of the live traps because when you “scruff them” they can almost turn a complete circle inside their pelt. They’re teeth are SHARP!

Anyway, enjoy.


About Donna Hesterman

Mom, wife, Marine, science teacher, science writer.
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