Bitterroot Outdoor Journal – Winter Birds and Caribou
The Bitterroot Outdoor Journal took a holiday turn this week with Bob Danley comparing caribou (often called reindeer) with our own elk herds (see photo above). There are 14 species of caribou worldwide, while there are only four subspecies of elk, mainly in North America. Elk are much larger than caribou and only the male elk have antlers.
Caribou can be found in woodlands and, up north, in tundra. Both sexes have antlers and those antlers are the largest horns relative to the animal size of any in the world. Caribou are about 55 inches tall, weighing about 350 to 400 pounds. Interesting fact - they are the only deer species that have been domesticated (as Santa knows!). Another thing Bob found in his research is that they have ankle tendons that click when they walk and their hooves are soft in the summer and hard in the winter, to handle the ice. Their migration distance is the longest of any animal on Earth - 3,000 miles.
Staying on the Christmas theme, Bob said that Christmas Mistletoe comes from the European plant, which is big and quite decorative. However, as foresters know, the mistletoe we see in our woods are parasites on trees and don't look as festive as the European mistletoe. The American Dwarf mistletoe (photo below) has the same name but is not related to the European plant. By the way, the Thicket Hairstreak butterfly uses dwarf mistletoe for food during its larval stage.
The Hamilton Christmas Bird Count happened last weekend. The Stevensville count is coming up. So far this year, observers in Montana have seen 224 bird species in Ravalli County and 245 species in Missoula County. The Christmas counts will probably add to those totals. By the way, the worst month for spotting birds is February, when the average is only 62 species, while other months have quite a few more species.
Our next Bitterroot Outdoor Journal will be the first week in January. Bob wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. KLYQ runs the journal on the air Wednesdays during the 7:30 a.m. Bitterroot Morning news.