October 3, 2013 | XLIII 39

Wild Things

The autumnal equinox has just passed and the days are getting shorter.

Flocks of summer birds are moving south now with their young ones. Skye Posey saw merlins near the Lutak tank farm. These small falcons prey on migrating songbirds. Most of the rufous hummingbirds left a month ago, but there are some stragglers, and occasionally an Anna’s hummingbird passes by on its way south from summering farther north. Rick Burroughs saw a horned lark.

Visitors and locals have been entertained by thousands of surf scoters, with this year’s crop of young staging and feeding offshore before moving on south. Likewise, families of great blue herons can be seen foraging along the shorelines prior to moving south.

Several people have mentioned that magpies are back. Magpies winter here and their summer range is expanding north. They started showing up in Fairbanks in recent years and their numbers are increasing there. Their cousins, ravens, crows and jays, stay all year.

When the pink salmon run peaks in late summer, harbor seals cruise up and down the Chilkoot River hunting salmon, including in Chilkoot Lake. They can even wriggle over the edge of the weir in pursuit of fish.

Several people have mentioned there seem to be fewer bears at Chilkoot. Last year there was a bumper crop of subadult bears, and, like teenagers of all species, they were full of energy, curiosity and just enough knowledge to get in trouble. 

In addition, there was the sow with three new cubs in the Small Tracts Road area. She had been raised in this area near the landfill and returned with her cubs looking for human food in all the wrong places. So last year, there was a lot of conflict. Now the landfill has an electric fence and the community is being more careful, so there has been less conflict. The subadults have either been shot or decided to move farther away from humans.

Brown bears are often seen feeding in Chilkat River channels along Mud Bay and River roads this time of year, feeding on chum or coho salmon. A sow and three cubs were seen in this area in the past week. Bears there arrive from the west bank of the Chilkat, and also come downriver from Jones Point, residents say.

A recent question was raised about the difference between Chilkat and Chilkoot bear populations. Preliminary DNA research indicates that these two populations are different. The Chilkoot bears tend to use the Chilkoot, Ferebee and Taiya watersheds, whereas Chilkat bears use the Chilkat, Klehini and Tsirku watersheds. More research needs to be done to confirm this.

Let us know what you are seeing. Go to www.takshanuk.org to enter your observations or see what others have observed, or email pam.randles@takshanuk.org or call 766-3542.