Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Conservation Northwest Ocotober Newsletter

The October edition of the Conservation Northwest newsletter is available online and features a number of images from my wolf project along with excellent articles on related topics! Downloaded it at:

View all of Conservation Northwest's Newsletters at: The September edition also features a number of my images and excellent related articles.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

16-20: The aroma of rotting salmon

Spent 4 of the last 5 nights out in the field, attaining a sense of oneness with the river, the tides, the migrating salmon, the moss and lichen cloaked trees of the rainforest, the bloodthirsty blackflies, and the ever present aroma of rotting fish carcasses--the good life. Several interesting encounters with wolves  which I'm sure will make it into the book.

Flying south tomorrow and home the day after. Now that all the field work is completed, I reckon I'll be chained to my computer for the next month and half writing. Don't think I'll be posting daily updates.

A black bear carries its prize back to shore for a late afternoon meal. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

15: Getting teased like a raven swooping on a wolf

Heavy fog slowed our arrival at field sight. We likely scared them out of the stream when we showed up. Found a ton of headless salmon and a couple laying the grass still flopping. Got a few images of one animal. Heading back out this evening to camp for a few nights in an attempt to be out there at first light without disturbing them! Wish me luck! May be a few days before my next post.

The remains of a very recent meal of some rainforest wolves on the British Columbia coast.

A raven taunts a wolf in morning fog.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Day 14: They come in the night

Well, we were right to be hopeful. The wolves came. And the wolves caught and ate salmon. Right in the stream in front of the blind were we were set up to photograph. During the night between when we left at sundown and before we arrived at first light. We did watch one wolf skirt the edge of the meadow we are set up on later in the morning but didn't take any photographs.

When we left the pink salmon were literally streaming into the mouth of the creek on the rising tide so we will see what tomorrow holds!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

12/13: Go for the eyes

Rain, wind and looming deadline for three chapters of writing kept me in yesterday. Today Doug and I spent most of the day in the location we photographed the pups a week ago. Tons of pinks in the river and we heard howling just as we were packing up to leave at dark. Optimistic about tomorrow!

Find out more about my project on Wolves in the Pacific Northwest!

A raven pecks out the eye of a recently expired pink salmon in a shallow stream on the British Columbia coast.

Two men dwarfed by the rainforest they are about to enter. They were out counting fish carcasses along the stream to determine the number of salmon returned thus far for the Heiltsuk Nation's Fisheries Program.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

11: A not so great bear

A long day sitting along a river here in the Great Bear rainforest trying to stay dry and not get eaten alive by bugs. The only large mammal out and about today besides us was this yearling black bear which poked around in the river briefly before nearly walking into my blind before I said hello and it ran off into the forest.

On the way back in the evening we passed an absolutely massive barge carrying a huge amount of timber heading. Hard to tell from this image but the barge is multiple stories tall. Bet the bears where those logs came from are having a worse day than the fellow who ran into me this morning.

To find out more about conservation issues related to the Great Bear Rainforest visit Raincoast Conservation Foundation's website at

A young black bear makes its way across a coastal stream in the Great Bear Rainforest.

Tug pulling a barge loaded with rainforest trees, dwarfing a fishing vessel to the right.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Day 10: Of fish and bird

Got 18 species on my bird list for the day including two new ones for the life list, a Black Turnstone and a Surf Bird. Lots of salmon in the streams we visited but the wolves have continued to be scarce.

Doug enjoying a cup of coffee during the morning commute to the office.

The Office

The only sign of wolves we found today were a couple of brainless chum salmon.

Chum salmon swimming upstream.

Jumping Coho salmon

Black turnstones

Friday, September 2, 2011

Day 9

A beautiful morning on the same stream I've been at for the past several days. The only wildlife activity was a tiny shrew that scampered in front of my small blind before disappearing into the tall grass. No salmon in the section of stream I was set up on today. Doug's dad, a commercial fisherman had a slightly better catch today, (about 26,000 pounds of salmon better) so I won't be going hungry tonight.

View from my blind.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Day 8: Why I am up here for 21 days

Rain all morning and wind along with a vey high tide kept me out of the field all day. Luckily I was able to explore the small town of Shearwater, home to a lovely fuel dock and a pub that has a pretty good Pale Ale on tap at the moment.

Find out more about my project on Wolves in the Pacific Northwest.

Shearwater Fuel Dock. Featuring gasoline, diesel, and a slot reserved for floatplanes.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

And on the 7th day he rested

Spent the day catching up on sleep and writing. Actually enjoyed not lifting my camera once today. Back at it bright and early tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Day 6: Sick of listening to ravens

Spent much of the day back in the same location as yesterday. No wolf activity but the ravens and eagles where quite active further upstream. After three hours of sitting in my makeshift blind I wandered upstream to see what was so interesting and discovered the remains of about a dozen coho that had been killed by wolves the day before (likely around the time we were photographing the pups).

For some more images of the area check out the awesome photos of Douglas Brown at his website:

More info on my project at:

One of the many ravens lingering along a salmon bearing stream and feeding on the remains of coho killed the day before by wolves.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Day 5: Puppies!

Doug and I walked into a area where he has found wolves fishing for salmon in past years to see if there were fish running in the stream yet. Apparently we weren't the only one's curious about it!

Three curious wolf pups in a wet meadow.

Two ravens discussing the morning's events.

Learn more about my project on Wolves in the Pacific Northwest!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Day 4: Quiet day on the water

Calm morning water on an inlet north of Bella Bella

Jumping chum salmon are a common sight in the still waters close to fresh water streams at the moment

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Day 3: Salmon are spawning!

We discovered a stream in an inlet northeast of Bella Bella today in which the chum salmon have started moving into and spawning. Along the banks close to the mouth we also discovered about a half dozen carcasses that had been fed on by wolves and a couple of fresh scats.

Spawned out chum salmon in a small stream in the Great Bear Rainforest.
Chum salmon carcass with the top of the head removed by a wolf and a fresh wolf scat besides it.

Learn more about my project Wolves in the Pacific Northwest.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Great Bear Rainforest Day 1-2

View from the flight into Bella Bella-a maze of rainforest clad islands
and wandering ocean inlets bounded by the Coast Range to the east
View from the water on my first day out in the field.

Doug Brown, the field station manager for Raincoast Conservation Foundation,
and my guide, spotted this wolf along the shore of a small island northeast of Bella Bella

Sunshine and wolves greeted me on my first day in the field here on the central coast of British Columbia. The salmon are gathering at the mouths of the creeks and rivers here.

Learn more about my current project on Wolves in the Pacific Northwest!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Wolves of the Pacific Northwest

Contact David at to support his project! 

A unique and fascinating story is waiting to be told about one of the world’s most intriguing animals and its place in the diverse and striking landscapes of the Pacific Northwest; from wild coastlines and rainforests to remote mountain ranges and inhospitable deserts.
  • How do wolves survive in a temperate rainforest and how is this different from their behavior and ecology in the harsh high deserts east of the Cascades and BC Coast Range?
  • What have been the impacts of over a century of wolf extirpation from Western Washington and Oregon?
  • What are the prospects and ecological significance of their recovery across Oregon, Washington and Northern California?
  • What is the cultural significance of this iconic predator for indigenous peoples of the region and for modern western culture in the Northwest?
Answers questions such as these, and inspiring appreciation and conservation of our region’s wildlife and wildlands are at the heart of Wolves of the Pacific Northwest, a book I have a contract to write and photograph (Timber Press, Portland, Oregon). Lyrically written and strikingly photographed, while also academically rigorous and original, this book is designed for a broad audience. 

The wolf is an icon of the wild, and a critical element of many of the ecosystems it inhabits. The story of wolves living in the Pacific Northwest is unique and provides a new lens to explore the ecology of a well known species, one often associated with the wide open tundra or vast grasslands rather than dense old growth forests, wild coastlines, mountainous landscapes, or deserts. As wolves become an increasingly conspicuous element in wildlands of our region and capture headlines in the news, people’s interest and curiosity about this regal symbol of the wild will also grow.
The re-establishment of wolves is now underway in the southern Pacific Northwest, making this project both a timely and time-sensitive one. With state and federal managers actively working on preparing for a rapid increase in the numbers and associated issues of wolves in the region, interest from the general public will only be growing in the near future.

On the wild Central Coast of British Columbia, one the most inaccessible parts of the region, wolves face challenges from increases in industrial resource extraction and declining salmon runs. Vancouver Island, where wolves were once extirpated but naturally re-established themselves has been at the forefront of challenges between wolves and recreation wilderness users, an issue which will also likely be prominent in Washington and Oregon.

There are few single elements of the natural world more compelling to the human psyche then wolves. Across the globe, and throughout time, wolves have captured the imaginations of humans. Here in the Pacific Northwest, both their recent absence and now reestablishment have brought into sharp focus the interest in this charismatic apex carnivore.
Along with the production of a book, photographs, articles, and presentations from this project will be used to promote awareness and conservation regionally through collaborations with educational and conservation organizations including Conservation Northwest (www.conservationnw.orgWilderness Awareness School (, and Wildlands Network ( .

Pulling together the multitude of parts of this complex story will involve extensive literature research, interviews with experts in the field and expeditions across the region to places where wolves have maintained healthy populations, areas where reestablishment of populations in now occurring, and locations were wolf extirpation has had significant impacts on the regional ecology.
All of the writings and other media produced for this project will draw on the latest research findings on wolves and my own first hand encounters in the field with wolves and their environment. Field research and photography expeditions will be carried out via kayak, ski, backpacking and boat trips.

 The support of numerous individuals, along with grant funding I am seeking from foundations, and in kind donations, has helped secure equipment needed for field work and photography, defray travel costs, and help underwrite other research and cost of living expenses as I've started this project. However, with many field trips ahead to complete the main manuscript for this project and plan public outreach events I am still actively seeking funding.

If you are interested in supporting this project please send me an email at

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Do mink (Neovison vison) have webbed feet?

While researching and writing my field guide I encountered various published accounts of the foot structure of mink (Neovison vison). Because of these discrepancies I sought out specimens to examine personally. I examined the feet of 3 recently deceased mink, all from western Washington as well as about a dozen museum skins at the Burke Museum at the University of Washington. All of the green specimins I examined showed mesial webbing on both front and hind feet. Some of the museum skins did as well, while others where dried in such a way so as to make analysis of this impossible. None of the green specimins or museum skins were clearly lacking webbing between toes. The amount of webbing is slightly less than in their larger cousins, river otters (Lutra canadensis) but is none the less quite clear. As is typical with the tracks of most web-footed animals, webbing can be detected in footprints in deep substrates but is often not apparent where substrate is firmer.

The photos of actual feet bellow are from a male mink which was killed by a vehicle in the Snoqualmie River Valley, King County, Washington in 2009.

Left front foot.

Left front foot with toes splayed showing mesial webbing between toes.

Hind feet.

Toes splayed on hind foot revealing webbing.

Top view of a hind foot also showing webbing.
All four tracks of a mink in a typical loping pattern for the species. In this deep substrate the webbing between the toes has registered. Tracks from along the Snohomish River, Snohomish County, Washington.

Closer view of two tracks (left hind on top of left front) from the same set of tracks as above.

Tracks a small (likely female) mink from along the Yakima River in Kittatas County, Washington, also in a typical loping pattern. In this firmer substrate the mesial webbing has not registered.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Clayoquot Sound Revisited

 A week of journeying by land and sea has yielded some great results as I continue to collect material for my forthcoming book on Wolves of the Pacific Northwest. I am tremendously grateful to Steve and Susanne Lawson for their invaluable assistance in my fieldwork here in Clayoquot Sound thus far! Stay tuned for more photos and stories to come!

Sea Otter patrolling coastal waters north of Ucluelet.

The return of extensive bull kelp forests along the northern Pacific coast has been associated with rebounding Sea otter populations, a classic example of a trophic cascade. Bull kelp was released from heavy browsing pressure by sea urchins with the return of otters which love to eat urchins.

Rocky coastline close to Wye Point, north of the town of Ucluelet

Guess the beach brings out the playful side of more than just juvenial people. Here two yearling wolves play with washed up seaweed  on an island in Clayoquot Sound.

Wolf crossing a lead of water at first light.

We watched this randy male black bear following a smaller female bear earnestly, stopping only to rub vigorous on a large drift wood log, a behavior which increases during the breeding season.

Oystercatchers are one of the most common shorebirds in the Sound this time of year.