A tireless traveler, the marten (Martes americana) leaves an endless line of tracks through the Alaskan wilderness. Like other members of the weasel family, martens successfully hunt quick prey like the red squirrel and snowshoe hare in deep snow. Tracks are the most common sign of the presence of martens. Following or backtracking marten tracks will tell a story of what this tough, little predator has been up to and gives clues to their habits. Though they are seldom very common, martens are not endangered over most of their range. But martens are so shy and secretive that little is known about their mysterious lives. Old growth forests with large trees and numerous standing and fallen dead trees are a martens prefered habitat, providing cover, food, shelter and cavities for their dens. Continue reading
Northern flying squirrels are more common in Alaska than most realize. They are found in coastal rainforests as well as the boreal forests of the interior. Flying squirrels are nocturnal thus rarely seen. I began to see them as I photographed the nocturnal activities of a pair of nesting boreal owls. As it turns out, boreal owls and flying squirrels share the same habitat preferences. They seem to prefer the big white spruce stands that grows along streams and other places where permafrost is not close to the surface. They share these places with the red squirrel. Red squirrels are active during the day and flying squirrels are active at night. But in the far north where it does not get dark for a several weeks during the summer, their activities overlap. Flying squirrels nest in abandoned northern flicker nesting cavities or other natural hollows.
Since nesting began, the male has been impossible to locate in the dark, damp forest near Slana, Alaska. But each evening he arrives at the nest site to deliver prey to the owlets. As the Alaskan days grow shorter, the male becomes active as twilight engulfs the stand of tall white spruce and poplar. He is the sole provider for the five owlets snuggled inside a hollow stub. The female abandoned her owlets when they were three weeks of age. They no longer needed brooding so apparently her role is complete. Continue reading