There’s smoke in those there hills.
Wildlife seems to react to smoke in the air about like people do: Some wildlife can’t do anything about it and appear to go about their business as usual, while others try to ignore it. Some try to escape the smoke, and some continue to indulge in strenuous activity without regard to air quality.
It has been known for many decades, if not a century, that when certain forest trees burn some insects and some birds detect them first from many miles away and come to the fire area. Sometimes even during the fire. Some predators, animals and birds know to patrol the edges of a fire to prey on wildlife attempting escape.
How some distant insects and birds locate forest fires remains a small mystery but is assuredly smoke borne.
We became interested in some of the wildlife behavior during a blaze called the Waterfall Canyon Fire on the west bank of Jackson Lake in the Grand Tetons. We had an opportunity to get to know some wildfire experts of the day as well as firefighters. We saw cerambycides (longhorn beetles) that were arriving, burrowing holes and depositing eggs seemingly as some tree limbs smoldered. The insects didn’t make the firemen’s task any easier and were given an obscene name. Ask your neighborhood forest firefighter.
If anyone has any anecdotes about the behavior of wildlife during and immediately after forest fires and would care to share them, my number is 733-3721.
Probably unlike you, because you are sensible, I watched and listened to much of the two conventions of the Republican and Democratic parties. The important party platforms got very little coverage, and you had to be a big party figure to have your speech carried on the airwaves. But it seemed that whenever the delegates were moved to arm waving that underarm hair has disappeared from the armpits of American women. (The fate of male armpit hair remains a mystery, since no males in Cleveland or Philadelphia were wearing sleeveless shirts.)
Casual inquiry of a few ladies I know suggests it is not an evolutionary occurrence but a cosmetic one. It has been suggested to me that there is an entire industry devoted to the removal of body hair, with some practices sounding barbaric. When puzzling over the function of armpit and pubic hair, one woman bluntly stated the purpose is sexual. Among the odors collected on strategically located patches of hair are pheromones, which get dispersed through the air to potential sexual partners.
At certain intervals during the political campaigns I found myself wondering what a panorama of raised armpits, each with hair, would be like. I imagine it would be great television.
Field Notes: Summer goes by fast for most Jackson Hole residents. Time to look at the calendar, calculate everything you want to do, square your shoulders and have a tall, cool drink.
In this hot, dry, windy period of recent weeks, occasional leaves have begun to fall. Forest fires continue to burn, and smoke from them sometimes fills the valley.
For a lot of reasons one hopes the smoke will clear out soon.
Meanwhile, some gardeners struggle to save usually reliable plants, fuel hummingbirds and preserve berry crops.
Blackbirds have finished their nesting cycle and are beginning to flock. The same goes for pine siskins, house finches and Canada geese.
Take another sip of that tall cool one.