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Rising K Ranch

Klay Klemic is a showcased Cedar City, UT horseback riding lessons instructor on NewHorse.com!

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At Rising K Ranch, learn to commnicate with our horses on our beautiful Utah trails!

Located between Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks in Utah!

Wednesday, October 30 2019
Utah Wildlife: The Marten

   Body Length: 13-20 Inches

 

   Tail Length: 6-10 Inches

 

   Description: Slim bodied with a long, bushy tail. His tail and his underside is darker than his back. Dull Yellow patch of fur on his Throat and on his Breast.


 

   One of Utah’s most significant fur-bearing mammals is the Marten. So valuable is this animal’s pelt that some nations, such as Croatia, have based their entire currency around it for almost a thousand years, either using his pelt in place of money, or featuring his image on their coins as they still do to this very day! Although the Marten’s pelt may not buy you much in a store today, the Marten himself remains a marvelous creature to observe if you should come across one in the forest!

   The Marten is found primarily in places that have a cold winter. His range includes most of Canada and Alaska as well as the Continental  United States in Maine, Minnesota, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Nevada (only around the Lake Tahoe area), Northern California, Oregon and Washington. 

   The Marten is an omnivore, his diet consisting of many types of food, such as mammals like squirrels and snowshoe hares, as well as nuts, berries, insects and birds. Keep in mind, however, that not all of the Marten’s food is found in the wild. In some places, the Marten makes such a habit of crawling underneath a vehicle and chewing up its rubber hoses and small parts that some people purchase insurance against vehicular Marten damage!

    He spends most of his time in the treetops, which is where you are most likely to find him at any daylight hour. Since he is largely nocturnal, your best chances of seeing him on the ground will be at night when he is more actively hunting and foraging.

   The Marten is a rather solitary creature, associating with each other only during the mating season which is in the summer. Although the Marten breeds is the summertime, the female will not give birth until the following Spring, which is an exceptionally long gestation period compared with other small mammals. Astoundingly, the reason for this lengthy gestation period is that the fetus does not develop continuously. Instead, the Marten fetus waits practically dormant until one month before his birth, when he will grow in one quick spurt! This method of gestation is known in the Animal Kingdom as “Delayed Implantation.” Other mammals who develop according to this method are the Armadillo, the Black Bear and the Fisher.

   In Utah, the Marten is found primarily in the Uintas and will only rarely be seen as far south as Zion or Bryce Canyon National Park, though of the two he is far more likely to be seen in Bryce Canyon than in Zion due to his love for cold, dense coniferous forests and plenty of snow. Here at Rising K Ranch, your chances of seeing a Marten are extremely low- almost nonexistent. I have seen somewhat similar creatures while horseback riding on my own, such as the Ermine and the Long-Tailed Weasel (and those I have seen only rarely), I have never yet coe across a Marten, nor am I likely to here.

  

Posted by: Klay Klemic AT 10:10 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, October 29 2019
Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park Wildlife: The Striped Skunk

Striped Skunk

 

Body Length: 15-19 inches

 

Tail Length: 7-10 inches

 

Description: White Stripe on Face, White Neck Patch, White V on the Back, Bushy Tail With White and Black. The Main Fur Color is Black.

 

   Found in both Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, as well as right here at Rising K Ranch and throughout the entire state of Utah,the Striped Skunk is both larger and more common than the Spotted Skunk. His range extends throughout the continental US, most of Canada, and northern Mexico. Like all skunks, the Striped Skunk is especially known for his ability to emit a powerfully odiferous, and even somewhat blinding, spray. The warning, if one is given, that the Striped Skunk is contemplating using his spray is that he will arch his back, raise his tail, stamp his front feet and shuffle backward. Because of his spray, the Striped Skunk has few predators. For the most part, it is only the birds of prey, especially owls, that can truly take the skunk by surprise enough to make a decent meal out of him.

   The Striped Skunk is largely nocturnal, becoming active right about dusk and ambling about through the night searching for food. The Striped Skunk is an omnivore, feasting quite a lot upon insects such as grasshoppers which are a favorite of the Skunk. Depending on the season, the Striped Skunk also feasts upon meat from small mammals, eggs, and fruits and berries. In Autumn, the Striped Skunk focuses on growing as fat as he can so that he can spend his winter inside a den. He does not quite hibernate; but he does become quite dormant throughout the cold winter.

   If handled correctly, the Striped Skunk can be very easily tamed and throughout the 1800’s, the Striped Skunk was kept by many people as a barn pet in place of a house cat as a means of killing off mice and rats. The early settlers also found the Striped Skunk quite useful for his sweet, white meat (provided he had not sprayed just before he was shot) and for his fur. I certainly do not advise that you set about to eat or to tame a Striped Skunk for yourself, however, because they are second only to racoons when it comes to carrying rabies. If the potential spray is not enough to keep you from approaching too closely to a Striped Skunk, perhaps keeping in mind the potential for contracting rabies or leptospirosis will! 

   Like most of Utah’s animals, the Striped Skunk is a brilliant thing to see in his natural habitat and is nothing to be afraid of provided you use common sense and do not attempt to corner him.

   Although he is mostly nocturnal, I have come across the Striped Skunk several times riding horses here at Rising K Ranch. I have yet to be bothered by them or even been close to being sprayed by them. Rather than coming after you to try and spray or bite you, the Striped Skunk is much more likely to walk away from you, or if you are quiet enough and not riding directly toward him, he may just ignore you altogether,

Posted by: Klay Klemic AT 10:37 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, October 28 2019
Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park Wildlife: The Western Spotted Skunk

Body Length: 8-14 inches 


Tail Length: 5-9 inches

 

Description: Black & White Pattern, having a head covered in white spots and a body covered with several stripes or spots. The tail is bushy and black with a white tip.

 

Preferred Habitat: Forests, Prairies, Dense Shrubbery, Rocky areas, Anywhere Close to a Source of Water.

 

   The Western Spotted Skunk is one of four species of Spotted Skunks: The Western Spotted Skunk, the Eastern Spotted Skunk, the Pygmy Spotted Skunk, and the Southern Spotted Skunk. It is the Western Spotted Skunk that makes his home in Utah, and he can be found by a diligent wildlife observer in both Zion as well as Bryce Canyon National Park.

   Like all skunks, the Spotted Skunk is famous, or perhaps infamous, for his horrific odor, which is used at will as a means of warding off potential dangers. The Spotted Skunk in particular is known for his pre-spray warning, which is a rather impressive handstand. Not only does the Spotted Skunk’s handstand serve as a warning; but even more importantly, the handstand allows him to direct his scent glands exactly towards the threat. In addition to the signature handstand, the Spotted Skunk may also hiss, raise his tail and stamp his front feet. It is a good thing that he gives us this warning, and if you should see any of these signs you had better take heed because the spray of the Spotted Skunk is even more pungent than that of the larger Striped Skunk! It is also in the Skunk’s best interest that he gives a warning because he only stores about one Tablespoon of the pungent oil inside his body. In one sense, this tablespoon is plenty since it allows him up to five sprays in a row and he is incredibly accurate up to a distance of 15 feet. However, if he were to use up all five of his sprays at once, it would take him a full week to fully replenish his much-needed (you might even say “essential”) oils. The Spotted Skunk is a small animal in a dangerous world, so he must give at least some concern towards conserving his ammunition!

   If you or, more likely, your dog find yourself sprayed by a skunk there are a few solutions to your dilemma. While tomato juice will not do anything at all to neutralize skunk odor, here is a list of things that certainly will:

  1. Liquid Laundry Bleach- not for skin, but for hard surfaces or white clothes that will not be damaged by the bleach.

  2. A Hydrogen Peroxide/ Baking Soda Mix. For colored clothes, furs, and even your sprayed pet, mix 1 quart of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide with ¼ cup of Baking Soda, then add 2 tablespoons of liquid dish detergent. While the concoction is still foaming, scrub it into the desired fur or cloth. There is a possibility that this concoction will become explosive if you store it in a sealed container so be sure to discard what you do not use rather than try to save it for later. Hopefully you or your pet learn the skunk lesson after the first time anyway! Also, this will change hair color.

  3. For Removing Skunk Odor from Human Skin: First, take a shower using a deodorant soap or grease-cutting dish detergent all over your body. Second, take a 20 minute bath in hot water with 2-4n cups of baking soda mixed into the water. Third, take one more shower. Like the first.

 

    The Spotted Skunk, like the Striped Skunk, is omnivorous. However, the Spotted Skunk makes more liberal use of meat in his diet than his larger cousin does. Among the Spotted Skunk’s favorite delicacies are such small mammals as mice and rats. The diet, as you might expect, varies with the seasons and climate. Typically, the Spotted Skunk will eat more insects in Spring and Summer, more fruits in the Fall, and more meat in the winter when insects and vegetation are scarce. Since they have rather poor eyesight, their primary aids in finding food are their keen senses of smell and their hearing.

   Found all throughout Utah as well as all the Western States, the Spotted Skunk makes his home in a wide variety of habitats. It seems that the most important thing to the Spotted Skunk is that he is somewhat close to water, preferring a stream or brook to a large lake. The Spotted Skunk makes use of dens that were created by other burrowing animals and may sometimes den up with several of his own species. The den of a Spotted Skunk is usually one that is not totally dark on the inside- the Spotted Skunk likes to have at least a little bit of sunshine in his home! 

   Breeding season for the Spotted Skunk is usually late September through early October. After a 6 ½ month gestation period, the Spotted Skunk gives birth to a litter sometime from April through June. The litter average for the Spotted Skunk is 5 ½  young, with two thirds being males. Each baby Spotted Skunk will already have a color pattern similar to the adult. For the first month of his life, his eyes will be closed and he will spend a great deal of time nursing. Only a few days after he opens his eyes, the baby Spotted Skunk, called a “Kit”  will begin to eat solids. At about two months of age, he will be totally weaned and by the time he is four months old, the Spotted Skunk will be fully grown. If kept in captivity, a Spotted Skunk will often live up to ten years; but in the wild, they rarely live to be even half that old. About half are killed by one predator or another before they are even 2 years old.

   Here at Rising K Ranch, there are certainly several Spotted Skunks around. However, because they are nocturnal we seldom see them on any of our horseback rides. The skunks are especially drawn to Rising K Ranch because we have several free-ranging chickens. The skunks, if it were not for the dogs we have here, would often eat both the chickens and their eggs. As it is, they only rarely make off with an egg or two and nobody minds it too much at all. Spotted Skunks do not hibernate; but they are exceedingly less active whenever the weather becomes either hot as it does for a week or two in July or cold as it often does for several weeks in December-March. With that in mind, the Spotted Skunk will be easier to find in the summer in Bryce Canyon National Park where the elevation is 8,000 feet, in the winter in Zion National Park, where the elevation is 3,000 feet, and almost year ‘round here at Rising K Ranch which is just between Zion and Bryce Canyon and our elevation is 6,000 feet. 

Posted by: Klay Klemic AT 10:49 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Saturday, October 26 2019
Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park Wildlife: The American Badger

   

 

Size: 18-23 inch body and a 4 ½ - 6 inch tail

 

Color: Black Facial Markings with a White Stripe Down the Face and up the top of the Head. The body is covered with gray, shaggy fur and he has large, intimidating claws.

 

   One of Utah’s larger mammals, the Badger often lives in areas with little moisture and few trees. Omnivorous, the Badger’s diet consists of earthworms, insects, eggs, small birds, small mammals, lizards, frogs, fruits and roots. With regards to his carnivorous habits, the Badger has a rather unique relationship with the coyote. While, for the most part, they simply ignore each other, there are both times when the badger will eat a coyote as well as times when the coyote will eat a badger. Some have even noted rare occasions when the coyote and the badger will work together to hunt their prey together here in the wild Utah ccountry! While the Badger is a truly ferocious animal, he does have his fair share of natural enemies including the aforementioned coyote, Golden Eagles, Bobcats, Black Bears, Grey Wolves (though not in Utah), and especially the Mountain Lion. While most predators will only attack a small Badger, the Mountain Lion will often take down a full-grown adult!

    The Badger’s range in widespread, covering not onlu Utah; but most of the Continental United States, Central Canada, and much of Mexico. Although he is present in both Zion as well as Bryce Canyon National Parks, as well as the Utah mountains and deserts that lie between Bryce Canyon and Zion, the Badger is still quite rarely seen. This is because the Badger is a nocturnal mammal and is almost never active during the day. When the Badger is seen, it is usually for only a few brief moments before he uses his enormous claws to speedily burrow into the ground and escape. His burrowing habits make him much more likely to be found in an area with soft soil or Utah clay that is easy for him to dig into. Utah has many places that are full of malpais or volcanic rock where it is incredibly difficult to dig and sometimes even difficult to walk. The Badger is not likely to be found in such a rocky place as this. The large tunnels created by Badgers as they chase their prey or escape detection are typically all that is seen. Here at Rising K Ranch, we have several badger tunnels within only a few hundred yards in any direction. In one area about a mile away there used to be an entire Utah prairie dog town and the Badgers (or at least their tunnels) would often be seen in that area.

   In somewhat the same manner as a skunk, the Badger is able to emit a powerful odor from special scent glands. He is a rather solitary creature, conversing with others of his kind only during mating season, which is in late summer. During the winter the Badger does not hibernate, but he does become significantly less active.

   As with most of Utah's wildlife, your best chances of seeing a Badger from horseback will be to ride out when the sun is only barely coming up and to ride quietly, keeping your eyes on the areas all around you rather than just focusing on the ground in front of you or on your horse's ears.

   

Posted by: Klay Klemic AT 11:29 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, October 25 2019
Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park Wildlife: The Ringtail

   One of my favorite of Utah’s mammals, though quite rarely seen, is the Ringtail or Cacomistle. His nocturnal lifestyle as well as his coloring and size are somewhat similar to Utah’s raccoons; but he is much more cat-like than a raccoon. In fact, he is rather like a cross between a fox, a cat and a raccoon!  He is typically about 2 pounds and about 15 inches long in the body with an equally long tail. It is this long tail that gives him his name, being long and bushy with alternating black and white rings, ending with a black tip. It is this long, extraordinary tail that provides the Ringtails a great deal of balance as they lithely climb trees as a means of escape, attack, rest, and recreation. Since they are nocturnal, they often spend their days resting in the treetops, making them quite difficult to spot. Often, the only means of spotting a Ringtail will be to find their long tail dangling from a high-up tree bough! Although the Ringtail preys upon other animals, he is also a prey animal himself and must always be on the lookout for such enemies as foxes, coyotes, raccoons, bobcats, hawks, eagles and owls. 

   Found primarily in America’s southwestern states and into the majority of Mexico, the Ringtail prefer to live in rocky and densely wooded areas and is known to kill his prey in much the same manner as a cat, lying in wait until they suddenly pounce and kill by means of a strong bite to the neck. Their prey most commonly includes rats, mice, squirrels, rabbits, snakes, lizards and frogs. Although he does prey upon these animals, the Ringtail is an omnivore whose primary food is berries and insects as long as they can be found. It is during the winter months when such food is scarce that the Ringtail typically turns to a more carnivorous diet.

   Since the Ringtail, if it can be captured at a young age, can be quite easily tamed or domesticated, it was once used by miners for the purpose of keeping rodent populations to a minimum within the mines; which gave the Ringtail yet another name: “Miner’s Cat.” 

   In Utah, the Ringtail can be found in both Zion as well as Bryce Canyon National Park. However, it would require quite a lot of patience, silence and luck, as well as a readiness to keep watch all through the night.  Although he may be in the tall pine trees just above your head, you are not at all likely to see the Ringtail with your own eyes.

Posted by: Klay Klemic AT 04:44 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, October 23 2019
Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park Wildlife: The Raccoon

   The Racoon seems to be just at home in the middle of a highly populated neighbourhood as he is in the middle of Utah’s most isolated mountain ranges. Not only are raccoons prominent in Utah, but their range covers almost the entirety of the continental US, southern Canada, and most of Mexico. While there are several subspecies, Utah’s raccoons are typically the Common Raccoon, which is 16-26 inches long in his gray and black body and 8-12 inches long in his bushy, ringed tail, with the famous dark eye mask and quite nimble little paws which resemble hands.

   A nocturnal animal, the Raccoon prefers to dwell close to water, and will often feed on crayfish found in country streams, ponds, and lakes. Around both Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, you will often find the hand-like print of a raccoon in the Utah mud close to some form of water. Though he loves crayfish, the raccoon also seems to love every other remotely edible item, thriving on berries, eggs, grains, garbage, carrion, small rodents, insects and nuts. The Raccoon has an unusual habit of often dunking their food in water before they eat it. While some believe this to be due to a sense of cleanliness, it is also quite likely that his food-dunking habit comes from his natural instinct to catch food found in water (such as Crayfish.) 

   Raccoons do not hibernate; but in areas such as Bryce Canyon where it gets cold, raccoons are usually much less active during the winter, sometimes remaining for whole days inside their den. Raccoons mate in late winter in order to give birth in the warmer Springtime weather, with each litter yielding an average of four young. A baby Raccoon, called a Kit or a Cub, will often stay with its mother through its first winter until the arrival of the following Spring. 

   While Raccoons may be found in both places, I personally have seen far more raccoons in the Zion area than I have in the Bryce Canyon area, and I have only rarely seen raccoons or sign of raccoons, here at Rising K Ranch itself. 

Posted by: Klay Klemic AT 05:16 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, October 23 2019
Bryce Canyon National Park Wildlife: Gapper's Red-Backed Mouse

   The Gapper’s Red-backed Mouse, also called the Red-Backed Vole, is a small, brown mammal that is quite numerous in many coniferous forests throughout Canada, the Rocky Mountains, and the Appalachians. He is an extraordinary tree climber and will often climb all over dead and live trees in search of a place to build a nest. Through his constant gnawing on the tree bark, the Gapper’s Red-Backed Mouse has been known at times to kill trees as large as a foot in diameter. 

   With its many predators, the Gapper’s Red-Backed Mouse typically has a short lifespan; but it reproduces at such a high rate that he is often the most numerous mammal in the forest. As you may imagine, this small, bottom-of-the-food-chain mammal is highly important to the forest’s ecosystem.

   Dwelling more abundantly in the northern regions, and preferring to live in a more humid or moist environment, the Gapper’s Red-backed Mouse is more likely to be seen in Bryce Canyon than in Zion National Park, especially in an area where there is plenty of water and something of a marshland such as you may find just a few miles outside of Bryce Canyon National Park at a small reservoir called “Tropic Reservoir.” 

 

Posted by: Klay Klemic AT 04:44 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, October 22 2019
Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park Wildlife: The Difference Between Shrews and Moles

   Though perhaps few people in today's busy world pause to think or to meditate, the truth remains that even the smallest life on our beautiful planet is a veritable miracle- testimony to the Almighty God’s Power, Wisdom, Beauty, and Creativity. Even in its current, sin-affected condition, I do believe God derives pleasure from the beauty of His creation, and I do believe He appreciates the beauty of each flower, bird, and fish that is in it. It would not surprise me at all to one day find out that the most beautiful of all His flowers had been placed in total isolation from the business of man, existing solely for the pleasure of God’s eyes alone. These articles, however, are written for those few of you out there who do intend to discover the intricacies of the created world, and who do have such a mind as would like to separate from common fools in order to attain wisdom in all manner of things. (Please note, I do not mean to say that all wise people will necessarily love my articles; but rather that all wise people will find learning itself fascinating, though they may choose to attain knowledge from a loftier source than my simple “blogs.”)

   One such intricacy of the animal kingdom is that of the difference between the shrew and the mole. While moles and shrews seem quite similar, here are a few of the most obvious distinctions:

  1. Shrews are more akin to the mouse in their body shape and are sometimes even smaller than most mice. Moles are usually fatter in their shape and larger in their overall body size.

  2. Shrews have a thinner tail than a mole. The Shrew’s tail is usually about an inch long (though in the case of the Masked Shrew it is often 2 inches long) and is thin, causing it to appear longer. In addition to the thinner appearance, the Shrew usually has some hair growing on his tail. A mole, however, has a stubbier-looking tail with little to no hair on it depending on the exact species.

  3. The eyes of both the Shrew and the Mole are quite tiny. However, in the case of the Mole, the eyes are even more diminutive, with some species being totally blind, having skin covering their eyes.

  4. Both Moles and Shrews also have a long snout; but the Shrew’s snout is more mouse-like and has hair almost entirely to the tip while the mole’s snout is hairless and pink in colour.

  5. The feet are perhaps the most striking difference, Whie a shrew has claws that are suitable for creating burrows, his feet are not too unlike those of many small mammals. A mole, on the other hand, is completely unique, being equipped with special feet designed for two purposes only- burrowing quickly through soil and paddling quickly through water. Unlike the Shrew, the soles of the Mole’s feet face outward, causing him to appear as though his feet were put on backwards! 

 

   Here at Rising K Ranch, we will likely be too busy riding horses all over the hills and enjoying Utah’s beautiful red peaks and pine-covered mountains to be looking down at tiny little moles and shrews; but it is nonetheless amazing to ponder upon the many types of wildlife that dwell, not only on ground level with us, but above us in the trees and sky and even beneath us in the ground and streams!

Posted by: Klay Klemic AT 05:37 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, October 21 2019
Bryce Canyon National Park Wildlife: The Masked Shrew

   At about 4 inches, the Masked Shrew is one of Utah’s smaller mammals. He has a brown body and a tail that is longer than the tails of most species of shrew. Although he is small, the Masked Shrew is a veritable bag of ferocious energy and is able to thrive in a greater diversity of habitat than any other North American mammal. Feeling just as comfortable in the grassy fields and marshlands as he does in the Rocky Mountain’s forests and peaks, the Masked Shrew thrives on a diet that is every whit as diverse as his habitat, feasting on such comestibles as insects, worms, mollusks and even scavenging from carcasses! Although he swells in a great diversity of climates, it does seem somewhat more likely for the Masked Shrew to be found in the Bryce Canyon area than in the Zion National Park area, due to the fact that the number of Masked Shrews tends to increase the further north you go, with his range only barely extending into Utah and New Mexico. 

   Rather than engage in manual labour, the Masked Shrew typically prefers to make use of burrows that have been created by other species of burrowing mammals. Using dried grass, the Masked Shrew will often improve his living situation inside these abandoned tunnels by building a small nest. The Masked Shrew remains active all year long, even through the cold Utah winters (and even through the cold Alaskan and Canadian winters for that matter!) Not only is he active all throughout the year; but he is also active all day and night, taking only small naps. 

    Each year, the female Masked Shrew will bear several litters of young, with each litter consisting of up to 10 individuals. However, due to his many predators such as birds of prey, snakes, foxes, leopard frogs, brown trout, other shrews, weasels, and even bluebirds, as well as disease and long, cold winters, it is rare for a Masked Shrew to live longer than just one year.

Posted by: Klay Klemic AT 10:24 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Saturday, October 19 2019
Bryce Canyon National Park Wildlife: The Snowshoe Hare

   Requiring cold climates, the Snowshoe Hare is much more likely to be seen in Zion than in Bryce Canyon National Park. Named after his remarkable feet, the snowshoe hare is able to walk on top of the snow. While the Jackrabbit used his great, broad ears as a means of dispersing his body heat into the air to stay alive in extreme heat, the Snowshoe Hare uses his great, broad feet as a means of walking and running on the surface of the snow and thus escape predators, forage, and survive in extremely snowy climates.

   Also called the “Varying Hare’, the Snowshoe Hare changes color each year from brown in the summer to pure white in the winter. This, of course, is his camouflage to keep from being spotted by predators such as lynx, bobcats, weasels, martens, fishers, minks, coyotes, wolves, Mountain Lions, owls, eagles and hawks. Due to his snowy white coat, the Snowshoe Hare is a prized specimen to the hunters and trappers during the winter. 

    Due to his love of the cold weather, the Snowshoe Hare is much more likely (though still rather rarely)to be spotted in Bryce Canyon National Park than in Zion. The prefer a densely wooded and even shrubby climate such as is common in Utah;s higher elevations where scrub oak is common and thick. Their love for extremely dense vegetation as a home is one of the reasons the Snowshoe Hare is not nearly as easy to find as the Jackrabbit. Out here at Rising K Ranch, I can recall only one time I have ever seen a Snowshoe Hare. It was during the winter when I was around 16 years old, and I was only riding a horse of my own as the horseback trail ride had not yet even been conceived as an idea. The Snowshoe Hare is active all year ‘round. In the  warm months, he lives on whatever green feed he pleases, having at his disposal an abundance of grasses, leaves, and even raspberries in some areas! In the winter, however, his diet consists of whatever he can find, even if it is only pine needles, twigs, tree bark, and sometimes even meat scavenged off of dead animals. What a relief spring must be to the Snowshoe Hare!

Posted by: Klay Klemic AT 07:33 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, October 17 2019
Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park Wildlife: The Black-Tailed Jackrabbit

   The Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, found throughout most of the Western United States as well as most of Mexico, will be rather easily found in both Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, although he may be slightly more numerous in the warmer climate of Zion. The Black-Tailed Jackrabbit is quite able to survive at any elevation from sea level in western California all the way up to 10,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains! As the name suggests, he has a black tail as well as black-topped ears and a brown coat peppered with black markings. At about 6 lbs., and averaging 2 feet in length, the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit is among the largest of the hares. Due to the large size and somewhat slow and low movement of a walking jackrabbit, many of our riders here at Rising K Ranch mistake a distant jackrabbit in the evening for a coyote; and because of the great size of his ears, there truly are times when you would swear that he has antlers and you’d just seen a “Jackalope”! The Jackrabbit’s long ears are thought to help him stay cool in the hot desert areas. This is possible due to the many blood vessels in his wide ears. Whenever the jackrabbot heads into a shady area for rest, his body circulates his hot blood up to his thin ears and finally back out into the desert air in a process known as vasodilation.

   Since he is able to survive off of many types of shrubs, grasses, and sometimes even scavenge off of dead carcasses, the Jackrabbit is able to thrive almost anywhere. The Jackrabbit does not chew the cud in the same manner as a cow, but he does re-digest his food by eating his own droppings  Although the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit does not hibernate, he typically will remain within a 640 acre area year ‘round, growing a warm coat for the cold winter months. Unlike the Cottontail Rabbits which also dwell in both Zion and Bryce Canyon, the Jackrabbit typically is not hunted by man for food and is only occasionally harvested for pelts. This is due to the fact that Jackrabbits are nearly always carrying many types of fleas, lice and other parasites. Eating the meat of a Jackrabbit is often a means of acquiring some type of fatal disease.

Posted by: Klay Klemic AT 07:36 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, October 17 2019
Bryce Canyon National Park Wildlife: The Pika

   The Yellow-Bellied Marmot (often referred to as a Rock Chuck) is somewhat similar to the more famous Woodchuck or Groundhog. However, the Yellow-Bellied Marmot may be easily distinguished from the Woodchuck by his habitat, his yellow chest & white facial markings, as well as his social lifestyle as he often dwells in colonies of several dozen members. You will be much more likely to see a Yellow-Bellied Marmot at Bryce Canyon than Zion National Park, due to the fact that they prefer higher elevations of at least 6,500 feet. Here at Rising K Ranch, is very rare that I see a Marmot on our shorter horseback rides; but whenever I ride up the mountain into the coniferous forests or even go above treeline, I see them much more often. They survive these higher elevations because they hibernate for about 8 months, active only from May- August. 

   The Yellow-Bellied Marmot is a stout little creature, often weighing around ten pounds. Their lifestyle is rather similar to that of the Utah Prairie Dog, as they form colonies, live in their own burrows, and keep guards over the colony to whistle whenever danger is near. They usually begin to reproduce at two years old, giving birth to litters consisting of 3-5 individuals. The vast majority of a Marmot’s life is spent inside his burrow. Not only does he hibernate there for up to 8 months, but he also spends most of his summer nights and afternoons inside his burrow. The Yellow-Bellied Marmot is like many wealthy retired Americans, having both a summer home and a winter home.  His winter burrow used for hibernation may be up to 23 feet deep in order to avoid possible predators as well as to stay below the frost line. His summer burow is usually about 3 feet deep and is plenty adequate for shade on a warm summer day and for protection against eagles. Unlike the Prairie Dog, the Marmot rarely builds his colony on level ground. They instead make use of cliffs and steep hillsides or mountainsides. Although the Marmot may at times eat bird eggs or insects, the larger part of his diet is made up of several types of grasses, leaves and flowers, especially dandelions. The Yellow-Bellied Marmot may sometimes live to be as old as fifteen years. 

Posted by: Klay Klemic AT 07:17 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, October 16 2019
Bryce Canyon National Park Wildlife: The Yellow-Bellied Marmot

   The Yellow-Bellied Marmot (often referred to as a Rock Chuck) is somewhat similar to the more famous Woodchuck or Groundhog. However, the Yellow-Bellied Marmot may be easily distinguished from the Woodchuck by his habitat, his yellow chest & white facial markings, as well as his social lifestyle as he often dwells in colonies of several dozen members. You will be much more likely to see a Yellow-Bellied Marmot at Bryce Canyon than Zion National Park, due to the fact that they prefer higher elevations of at least 6,500 feet. Here at Rising K Ranch, is very rare that I see a Marmot on our shorter horseback rides; but whenever I ride up the mountain into the coniferous forests or even go above treeline, I see them much more often. They survive these higher elevations because they hibernate for about 8 months, active only from May- August. 

   The Yellow-Bellied Marmot is a stout little creature, often weighing around ten pounds. Their lifestyle is rather similar to that of the Utah Prairie Dog, as they form colonies, live in their own burrows, and keep guards over the colony to whistle whenever danger is near. They usually begin to reproduce at two years old, giving birth to litters consisting of 3-5 individuals. The vast majority of a Marmot’s life is spent inside his burrow. Not only does he hibernate there for up to 8 months, but he also spends most of his summer nights and afternoons inside his burrow. The Yellow-Bellied Marmot is like many wealthy retired Americans, having both a summer home and a winter home.  His winter burrow used for hibernation may be up to 23 feet deep in order to avoid possible predators as well as to stay below the frost line. His summer burow is usually about 3 feet deep and is plenty adequate for shade on a warm summer day and for protection against eagles. Unlike the Prairie Dog, the Marmot rarely builds his colony on level ground. They instead make use of cliffs and steep hillsides or mountainsides. Although the Marmot may at times eat bird eggs or insects, the larger part of his diet is made up of several types of grasses, leaves and flowers, especially dandelions. The Yellow-Bellied Marmot may sometimes live to be as old as fifteen years. 

Posted by: Klay Klemic AT 10:57 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, October 01 2019
Bryce Canyon National Park Wildlife: The Utah Prairie Dog

   One of the most iconic animals of southern Utah is the Utah Prairie Dog. The Utah Prairie Dog is about 10-14 inches long and loves the short grass and meadows of Utah. He is fat with a less broadly shaped head than the more common Black Tailed Prairie Dog. The Utah Prairie Dog’s fur is a mixed color of black and several shades of brown and reddish-brown. They have a short tail with a white tip and have a black stripe above each eye that looks something like a black eyebrow. The Prairie Dog is not in any manner related to the canine; but is a poerterly rodent who earned his name through his high-pitched barking sound that he uses as a means of warning his fellow Prairie Dog. The Utah Prairie Dog is the Prairie Dog that lives the closest to the Pacific Ocean- with most other types of Prairie Dogs residing in the Midwest. 

   The Utah Prairie Dog makes use of a rather elaborate tunnel system to build a sophisticated “Town” in which the entire society of Prairie Dogs will reside. At one point in history, these “Towns” would cover many square miles and would contain millions of inhabitants. Today, however, due to the settling of his historic ranges, the Utah Prairie Dog (or any species of Prairie Dog)  is not seen in those numbers. The “towns” are the Utah Prairie Dogs shelter from weather as well as from such predators as coyotes, hawks, falcons and eagles. While the tunnels are an excellent means of escape from such predators as these, they are no help at all when it comes to an attack from a badger, a rattlesnake or a weasel. In order to keep the town safe from these predators, the Utah Prairie Dogs will take turns keeping a 24 hour watch. Whenever potential danger is spotted by the lookout, he will give his signature bark to warn the entire colony. Once the danger has been signaled, most of the Prairie Dogs will retret as best as they can into their burrows while a few others will go tease the predator by attempting to draw its attention from one prairie dog to another and keep him from focusing on any one victim in particular. 

   Unlike most Prairie Dogs, the Utah Prairie Dog hibernates in the winter. In early March (which is still plenty cold in Utah) the males will become active and towards the end of March the females will awaken from their hibernation as well. Early April is the Utah Prairie Dog’s mating season and about 28 days of pregnancy will bring about the birth of a litter of Utah Prairie Dogs consisting of 1-8 young. The young (called “pups”) will be fully grown by October and ready to have pups of their own when they are a year old.

   The best place for you to see a Utah Prairie Dog is at Bryce Canyon, particularly at the Northern Border where one of their towns is. Be sure to keep your distance as the Utah Prairie Dog is a common carrier of the Plague. Not only could you contract the Plague from being bitten by a Utah Prairie Dog, but you could easily contract the Plague by being bitten by a flea that jumps off the Utah Prairie Dog and onto you (and these fleas can jump about 10 feet at once!). The Plague, along with human settlement, is the primary reason for the Prairie Dog’s reduction in population- and it naturally receives the disease from the fleas, which are given to the Pairie Dog many times by the Northern Grasshopper Mouse.

 

   

 

Posted by: Klay Klemic AT 07:29 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, October 01 2019
Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park Wildlife: The Least Chipmunk

   While visiting Zion or Bryce Canyon National Park, you will encounter many different species of wildlife if you rise early and walk quietly in more solitary locations.  Some creatures, however, may be easily observed in the National Parks even if you are a loud-mouthed late riser (of which there are a whole lot when it comes to tourists.) Chipmunks are often such easily found creatures. You are almost guaranteed to see a chipmunk whenever you head out for a horseback trail ride here at Rising K Ranch, or on almost any hiking trail in Bryce Canyon or Zion.

    The chipmunk that resides here in Utah is sometimes called the Least Chipmunk and is indeed aptly named, for he is only 3 ½ inches in the body with a 3 inch tail. He is small and quite slim and has stripes running down his head, sides, and back. The Least Chipmunk lives in all kinds of terrain, from the Sagebrush Deserts belows Zion National Park, all the way up through the Juniper-Pinyon Woodlands and the Coniferous Forests of both Zion and Bryce Canyon, and even up to the treeless tundra areas above Bryce Canyon National Park.

   Just like many humans, when it comes to chipmunks it is usually the smallest ones who are the most active. The Least Chipmunk does at times climb up into a tree; but he is much more commonly found scurrying all over the ground from one fallen log to another, and if he is near a cabin, he will almost always be someplace inside the firewood stack! The Least Chipmunk hibernates through the winter and once awakened from its hibernation, seeks out a mate. Usually it is a month after awakening that the female is giving birth to a litter of as many as 7 young, which will stay with their mother for several months.

   The Least Chipmunk will often vary in its exact coloring depending upon the terrain in which he lives. Chipmunks who live in a dense forest will usually be darker and somewhat more vibrant in their coloring while those who live in a Sagebrush Desert are usually more dull in their appearance.

   I hope you will drop bu Rising K Ranch for a Utah horseback ride full of adventures and opportunity to see Zion's wildlife!

      http://www.risingkranchtrailrides.com

Posted by: Klay Klemic AT 07:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, September 30 2019
Bryce Canyon National Park Wildlife: The Northern Flying Squirrel

   If you are visiting Zion or Bryce Canyon National Park and you see something flying through the forests at night- it just might be the Northern Flying Squirrel!

   The Northern Flying Squirrel is 5-6 inches long in the body with a 3 ½ to 5 inch long tail. His fur is grayish brown on the back and is white below. He has little folds of skin between his front and hind legs, which he uses to glide from tree to tree. Since he loves the broad-leaved and mixed forests, the Northern Flying Squirrel is another animal that is more likely to be found near Bryce Canyon National Park than Zion National Park.

   Rather than truly flying, the Northern Flying Squirrel is able to use the folds of skin between his legs to glide for a usual distance of 20-30 feet. In order to begin his glide, the flying squirrel simply leaps from the tree and spreads his legs. He then controls his glide by moving his legs, using his tail as a sort of a rudder. Immediately after landing on another tree, the Flying Squirrel will often scramble to the farther side of the tree as a means to avoid any owls who may have witnessed his glide and, for all he knows at the time, might be close on his gliding heels! Unlike all other American squirrels, the Flying Squirrel is nocturnal (which of course is the reason he is so concerned with owls.)

Posted by: Klay Klemic AT 07:45 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, September 30 2019
Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park Wildlife: The Red Squirrel

    The Red Squirrel is a noisy little squirrel, often using a loud, harsh, strident call as a means of announcing the presence of an intruder. The Red Squirrel is easily identified by his rusty red colored fur above with whiter fur below. He is a little smaller than the Gray Squirrel and has a somewhat less bushy tail. He is usually about 7 ½-8 ½ inches long in the body with a 4-6 inch tail.

   While you will find several ground squirrels and chipmunks inside Zion National Park, the Red Squirrel is more likely to be found in the higher elevations of Bryce Canyon National Park with its mountainous forests and more abundant Ponderosa Pine. This is not to say that you will not find him in Zion at all- especially in places where tourists are known to sit down for lunch!

   Like many animals, the Red Squirrel is most active in the short hour or two just after sunrise and just before sunset. Much of a Red Squirrel’s summer day is spent in cutting down pine cones and caching them in a private log or burrow. During the winter, the seeds found within these cached pine cones will serve as their nourishment. The Red Squirrel is also known to feast on various mushrooms that would be quite fatal to humans. Along with pine seeds and poisonous mushrooms, the Red Squirrel also feasts daily upon tree sap, buds, and sometimes even bird eggs and nestlings. These Red Squirrels are themselves an important source of food to many birds of prey.

   Like many rodents, they are known to carry many deadly diseases, so even though they may be cute it is wise to resist the urge to pet them. A bite from a rodent is much more to be feared than a Mountain Lion. If you see a Red Squirrel on your visit to Utah’s National Parks, be sure to keep at arm’s length (or even longer.)

Posted by: Klay Klemic AT 07:32 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, September 29 2019
Zion National Park Wildlife: The Norway Rat

   Some animals seem to have found a way to be a pest all over the world- animals such as cockroaches, flies, and mosquitoes. In this case, it is the Norway Rat, which is also called a Street Rat, Common Rat, Brown Rat and many other names. Originally from Asia rather than Norway, this rat reached the colonies in America by way of European ships right around the time our Founding Fathers were writing the Declaration of Independence; and they also reached a small Alaskan island called Hawadax Island back in 1780 due to a Japanese shipwreck (the rats wreaked havoc upon Alaska’s ecosystem and the small island was not rat-free until June of 2009.)   

   The Norway Rat can easily be identified as it is simply a Common Rat. It has a body of 7-10 inches, a nearly hairless, scaly tail of 5 ½- 8 inches, and has coarse, brown fur. The Norway Rat is known to have an average of 5 litters per year with each litter containing 8-10 young.

   While the Norway Rat does, to a small degree, reside in the National Parks such as Bryce Canyon and Zion, you are much more likely to see him in a large city, for whenever possible they prefer to dwell in an urban environment where it often contaminates food and spreads various diseases. Its favorite residences are buildings, wharves and dumps. 

   

Posted by: Klay Klemic AT 07:54 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, September 29 2019
Zion National Park Wildlife: The Bushy-Tailed Woodrat

   The Bushy-Tailed Woodrat, with a body length of 7-10 inches and a tail length of 5-7 ½ inches, has a tail that is quite bushy considering it is a rat, pale, reddish-gray to black fur above and white fur below, prefers to live in rocky areas and in coniferous forests. With this type of habitat preference, both Zion National Park as well as Bryce Canyon National Park are great locations for the Bushy-Tailed Woodrat. 

   More commonly known as a “packrat”, the Bushy-Tailed Woodrat is well-known for his habit of making unilateral barters with mankind. Anything a Bushy-Tailed Woodrat might take from an unsuspecting camper is often replaced with another item such as a twig. In truth, the Bushy-Tailed Woodrat is not seeking to make a trade, nut is simply dropping whatever he may be carrying at the time in order to take home the man-made trinket, especially if it is something shiny such as a banjo pick or a coin. In some way or another, the rat will incorporate this new trinket into his stick-and-bone nest.

Posted by: Klay Klemic AT 07:33 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Saturday, September 28 2019
Zion National Park Wildlife: The Ord's Kangaroo Rat

   Ord’s Kangaroo Rat is most commonly seen hopping across a road at night, especially in a dry sandy area such as you might find near Zion National Park. Since they love to be in a desert climate, you are much more likely to find an Ord’s Kangaroo Rat in Zion than in Bryce Canyon National Park. With a 4 inch Head and a 6 inch tail and two extraordinarily large hind feet, the Ord’s Kangaroo Rat is the most common of the kangaroo rats and has been observed leaping over two feet at one bound, sometimes even changing directions in midair! They are a light brown above and white underneath, with a long, striped, tufted tail and have tiny ears and a light patch behind each eye.

   Not only are the Ord’s Kangaroo Rats able to jump quite well, but they also are noteworthy for their ability to stuff seeds into an external cheek pouch (that is, the cheek pouch is on the outside of their cheeks) and carry them into burrows to be stored for a later date. 

   The Ord’s Kangaroo Rat uses burrows as a means of shelter during the daylight hours and are nocturnal. They almost never drink water, but receive their hydration from the digestion of their food.

   The Ord’s Kangaroo Rat receives its name from its Latin name: Dipodomys ordii

Posted by: Klay Klemic AT 07:05 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
 

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    Rising K Ranch is a Horseback Trail Ride and Riding School in Utah, located perfectly between Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks.

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