High Peaks and Hot Springs in Idaho

Our time in Idaho is winding down and Alexi and I are scrambling to finish up our projects and to go on as many adventures possible before we have to leave this beautiful area. The last several weeks of our internship has been focused on digitizing riparian photo monitoring sites and then checking them in the field. We also have been doing a lot of bat monitoring. After we finished the cave surveys searching for maternity roosts, we started doing acoustic surveys using a program called AnaBat to monitor the presence of bats.

Microphone mounted on the truck during the bat acoustic monitoring vehicle transects

Microphone mounted on the truck during the bat acoustic monitoring driving transects

We’ve set up passive stations and have also conducted driving transects. AnaBat reads the frequency of noise that the microphone picks up and graphs it on a PDA attached to it. Each bat species has a distinct call with different shapes and different minimum frequencies. Some of their calls can be really similar, so it has been a challenge differentiating each species. But it has been a lot of fun seeing how many bats are actually all around us and also uplifting to see that their populations out west are still doing okay.

AnaBat software recording bat calls

AnaBat software recording bat calls

Silver-haired bat calls occur between 25 and 30k and have distinctive hook at the bottom. There's also a little brown bat call at 40k

Silver-haired bat calls occur between 25 and 30k and have distinctive hook at the bottom. There’s also a little brown bat call at 40k

Last week we had the opportunity to attend the First Annual Eastern Idaho Bat Bio Blitz at the Sand Creek Wildlife Management Area, a tranquil area dotted with ponds. This was an awesome opportunity because we were mist netting bats and got to see them up close. I had the opportunity to do this last winter, when I was in the Chiricahuas, and was very excited to do it again. We set up the mist nets right in the water and had to wear waders to get them in place.

Mist netting bats at the Eastern Idaho Bat Bio Blitz

Mist netting bats at the Eastern Idaho Bat Bio Blitz

Measuring the little brown bat's forearm. Don't worry it's not painful, he's just being dramatic.

Measuring the little brown bat’s forearm. Don’t worry it’s not painful, he’s just being dramatic.

We had a lighting storm come through and we all had to jump in the trucks to wait it out, but as soon as that was over all the bats came out to feed. We only caught little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus), but it was still very exciting.

This past Labor Day Weekend was one of the most exciting weekends we’ve had so far in Idaho. For me it started out on Friday night with an outdoor concert with The Head and the Heart in Sun Valley. This was only my second concert of the summer (last summer I went to six), so I was pretty stoked. The next morning I met up with fellow CLM interns Alexi and Emily and some other BLM friends in Stanley, Idaho and began a day of hot spring adventures. We started out at this hot spring called Boat Box that is literally right on the side of Highway 75. The hot water feeds out of a pipe into a metal tub and then into other surrounding pools along the Salmon River.

Boat Box Hot Springs near Stanley, Idaho

Boat Box Hot Springs near Stanley, Idaho along the Salmon River

The tub at Boat Box Hot Springs

The tub at Boat Box Hot Springs

We lingered there for a while and then made our way to the secret Goldbug Hotsprings outside Salmon, Idaho. Alexi told me about Goldbug at the beginning of our internship and ever since then I’ve been dying to go. To get to Goldbug you have to hike up about three miles through private property and then BLM land. On our way up we noticed a plume of smoke on top of the mountain. Then we saw a helitack crew with buckets flying toward the mountain and witnessed them putting out the fire.

Small fire near Goldbug Hot Springs (which is situated at the notch)

Small fire near Goldbug Hot Springs (which is situated at the notch)

Once we reached Goldbug I was not disappointed. There were about 20 different pools at various levels with waterfalls flowing into them. It was hard to believe this place naturally existed- it felt like a waterpark. The pools were all at varying temperatures and we hopped from one to another.

An oasis of pools at Goldbug Hot Springs

An oasis of pools at Goldbug Hot Springs


Goldbug Hot Springs

Goldbug Hot Springs

We met some interesting people while we were there, including two unabashed naked men who insisted on talking to us for a while. We stayed at Goldbug for a couple hours before driving down towards Mackay, Idaho to camp at the base of Mount Borah, the tallest mountain in Idaho.

The next morning we woke up to snow on the mountains and clouds hovering above us. We got up a little later than we intended because none of us slept well that night. This actually proved to be advantageous to us because in the morning clouds covered the top of Borah, obscuring the views. We met up with Jonathan, a fellow CLM intern and started hiking around 8:30am. The trail is only 3.5 miles up to the peak, but you ascend 5,262 vertical feet, which makes for a nice strenuous hike. As we got closer to the top there was a lot of Class 3 scrambling over loose rocks. The most difficult section is aa Class 4 arête (a thin ridge of rock) infamously known as “Chickenout Ridge”, since a lot of people will turn once they see it. Luckily we were with someone who has done the hike four times already and he knew exactly how to go. We actually ended up staying at that place for 45 minutes as our friend helped about 20 people get through that area.

"Chickenout Ridge", the Class 4 arête near the top of Mt. Borah

“Chickenout Ridge”, the Class 4 arête near the top of Mt. Borah

We ended up making a lot of friends and we all reached the summit at about the same time. The clouds had cleared away and the wind stopped making for perfect summit conditions. We all basked in the sun, shared some honey whiskey, and took a giant group picture. We were the tallest people in Idaho that day and we were having a great time.

View from the top of Borah

View from the top of Borah

Group picture at the top of Mount Borah

Group picture at the top of Mount Borah

Descending Mt. Borah

Descending Mt. Borah

Until next time,


Shoshone BLM Office

A Month of Wildlife and Water

It’s hard to believe that almost 2 months of my internship are done. This past month has been a whirlwind of work-filled weeks and busy weekends. The biggest adventure of this past month, and perhaps of my entire internship, was a two night float trip on the Gila River. I had never before been on such a trip. It was physically difficult due to the extremely low levels of water flow. In fact, it was the lowest flow trip that any BLM team from our office had ever completed. This trip began my month of animal encounters, with a rattlesnake at our campsite the first night, and the next day we encountered seven different Desert Big Horn Sheep, including a mom and her lamb at the riverside getting a drink of water. During the trip we used an electro-fisher and seine nets to monitor fish populations at four different sites along the river. In addition to our sampling efforts, our days involved approximately 10 hours of paddling, dragging loaded canoes over rock beds and plenty of getting in and out of the boats! Needless to say it took a while to feel fully recovered!

I feel like I was not very detailed in my last entry with exactly what I am doing during our fish monitoring/removal work, so I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about it now. When we plan to set nets in Bonita Creek (as we did 4 times in the past month), it is a two-day process. We leave the office at approximately 12-12:30 and drive about 45 minutes to the Gila Box National Riparian Conservation Area. There are many different areas of Bonita Creek that have perennial pools (ie, they have water year-round). We typically try to set our nets either in large pools or areas of the creek that have running water. The most important thing is that the water be deep enough to mostly submerge the nets in, otherwise we run the risk of a raccoon or other animal trying to get into the nets to get the dog food (which we use as bait). We allow the nets to sit overnight and collect fish. The fish enter the traps, but due to the design of the traps, cannot leave. However, they do still swim about inside the trap. In this manner the fish are not harmed and remain alive to be measured and put back (if they are native), or measured and removed (if they are non-native). The second day of our effort involves leaving the office at 6 AM and once we arrive we collect all the nets together and process the fish trapped inside.

One of the pools we set in for our Green Sunfish Removal Efforts

Example of how our nets are set in the water. Note how the black Promar is not 100% submerged. Sometimes Sonoran Mud Turtles enter the net and we leave them an air pocket.

Example of how our nets are set in the water, we usually tie them to a tree or something solid on the bank to prevent the nets from being washed downstream in case a storm surge comes.

We use two types of nets in Bonita Creek: Promar Mesh and Metal Minnow. They have very different mesh sizes and typically catch different compliments of fish (based on size). The Promar tend to catch most of the Bullfrog Tadpoles, Sonoran Suckers, Gila Chub, and the non-native Green Sunfish and Bullhead Catfish. The Metal Minnow traps tend to catch mostly the smaller, non-native Mosquito Fish and Flatheads, as well as young/small individuals of the other species.

Collection of Nets to be Processed

We collect all of our nets together in order to count and measure the fish within.

Measuring Set-up

We dump the fish out of the nets and into the blue bucket. Then they are measured on the white board and recorded. Natives are placed back in the pool while invasives are placed into the white bucket that contains a fish sedative.

Fish in the Bucket

Includes native Gila Chub, Bullfrog Tadpoles and native Sonoran Suckers.

Using these nets almost every week leads to damages. A large quantity of time this past week has been devoted to repairing both Promar and Metal Minnow nets in preparation for a team of contract workers to come and camp out at Bonita Creek for 3 full days of fishing aimed at causing a collapse in the breeding population of Green Sunfish. As a side note, in Bonita Creek we have also had a fair share of animal encounters. We have seen white-tail deer, juvenile brown bear, as well as a grey fox.

We also visited Pategonia, AZ one day and assisted Caleb (one of the other interns who traveled with us to Boise for the SOS training course). He works for Borderlands Restoration. We helped him to complete their monthly survey of pollinator supporting plants at 100 random points on a parcel of Nature Conservancy land. The group is trying to formulate a nectar-calendar for their area. They are going to look at when they currently have plants that support pollinators, and what periods on the calendar currently do not have plants to support pollinators. Then, once they have completed this process, they will plant new species into their system that will fill in the gaps. They hope that by creating a year-round supply of food for pollinators, they may cause a chain reaction that will allow their system to grow and recover from the bottom of the food chain, up to the top. I think it is a very interesting concept and will be excited to hear about the progress of this project in the future!

We also began work on creating a brand new BLM Junior Explorer Booklet. It will be called “Across BLM Lands: Desert Fishes and their Aquatic Habitats”. It has been very educational to collect information for this booklet and to create different activities in order to communicate the information to 8-12 year olds. I am excited that by the time I leave this internship I shall (hopefully) have a booklet to take home that I co-created!

The last major thing that we have done is two hiking trips in the Aravipa Canyon Wilderness to Horse Camp Canyon. The pools that remain in this canyon during the dry season are a sort of refuge habitat for Green Sunfish, from which their population survives the monsoons and then re-colonizes the main stretch of the stream in the spring. The hike out to this site is arduous to an inexperienced hiker like me, to say the least. It is 5.5 miles of hiking each way. In total we hike approximately six hours each time we go out there. The trips are very physically demanding as the route requires hiking over a variety of surfaces as well as in and out of the creek for long periods of time.

Our first trip was to pick up 10 Promar nets and 10 Red Promar nets that had been set the night before by another research team. Between our efforts pulling those nets, seining, and the efforts of the research team the day previous we removed approximately 600 Green Sunfish. It was an incredible day for wildlife as well! We saw a black bear on the road, on the drive into the Wilderness, and we also saw four white-tailed deer within 10 minutes of hiking. We thought that would be the extent of our wildlife experiences for the day. However, around an hour into our hike we rounded a corner and saw a Mama black bear and two cubs. When the mother noticed our presence, she sent her cubs up a tree. We were able to walk around them at a safe distance and kept on with our day. We also saw the same family group on the hike back out. As if those weren’t enough, we also encountered a fully coiled and rattling rattlesnake on our hike out as well. Jeff was the one who startled it, and I am very glad it wasn’t me; I am not 100% sure how I would have reacted. At the very end of our hike out to the truck, Rosalee and Heidi came across a troubled juvenile red tail hawk from the Creek. Rosalee formerly worked at Wildlife Rehab Centers and so she was able to help secure the bird. Heidi and Jeff took the bird to Tucson the following day and apparently it will make a full recovery. Our second trip into Aravipa a week later didn’t involve any pre-set nets, we only used seine netting and we removed 400 Green Sunfish. Though it was not nearly as exciting for wildlife, we did see a juvenile bobcat on drive in.

It is incredible to see so much life thriving out here in the desert. The last thing that I expected when I signed on to work in the desert was to almost constantly encounter animals in their natural habitats. I have been incredibly lucky so far and I can only hope to continue to see more animals. My goal/dream is to see a coati in the wild. My last internship was at the Oakland Zoo, which involved taking care of our troop of six coati, so I am very fond of these animals and would be beyond excited to be able to see them while I am here in Arizona. Even bought myself a coati hat when I visited the Desert Museum in Tucson last weekend [which is well worth the trip and I would highly recommend it!]

The Coati Hat that I bought at the Desert Museum in Tucson

This will be my first weekend to stay in Safford, with nothing to do, since the beginning of my internship. It will be amazing to relax and recover from a long month of work.

Until next time! 🙂