Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Nature of Ukraine

A series of tragic events have kept Ukraine in the news over the past year.  It thus seems appropriate to balance this image with a look at the natural features of that country, the largest that lies totally within Europe.

The great majority of Ukraine is covered by fertile plains, steppes and low plateaus.  Exceptions include the Carpathian Mountains, that cut across the southwestern corner of the country, and a swath of low, wooded hills along its northern border, extending southward from Belarus.  The Dneiper River, the fourth longest in Europe, rises in western Russia and flows southward through Belarus and Ukraine to the Black Sea; half of its length (about 670 miles) snakes through the center of Ukraine, passing through Kiev and several large reservoirs as it bisects the country.  Other Ukrainian rivers also flow north to south, entering the Black Sea.  As we know, the Crimean Peninsula was annexed by Russia earlier this year.

The rich soil of the Ukrainian plains yields one of the largest wheat crops on our planet, the Carpathian Mountains are home to brown bears, wolves and lynx and the varied geologic strata of Ukraine harbor a wealth of minerals, including large deposits of sulfur, manganese and iron ore.  Of the many National Parks and nature preserves that lace the country, four are UNESCO Biosphere Reserves.  Clearly, Ukraine is more than a theater for political and military conflict.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Reducing Personal Consumption

Those of us who care about the welfare of natural ecosystems lend our support in a number of ways.  Most donate funds to local or national conservation organizations, such as those listed on this blog.  Many of us also engage in volunteer work at nature preserves or participate in environmental restoration projects.  Almost everyone is attentive to recycling efforts, especially to those facilitated by our communities.

But the most effective way in which we can contribute to the conservation of our natural resources is to reduce our personal consumption.  Limiting purchases to what we truly need, buying used products (including homes, vehicles, tools etc.) and buying items made from recycled materials all help to reduce the destruction and degradation of natural ecosystems.  Of course, efforts to reduce our use of fuel, electrical power and fresh water are also important; the purchase of food and other necessities from local producers and a commitment to the use of mass transit will both help in this regard.  Finally, human population control is essential to reducing the worldwide consumption of natural resources.

Too often, we are discouraged by the overwhelming power of industry, convinced that our behavior will have little impact on the war against nature that unfolds across this planet.  But, beyond the donations that we make and the votes that we cast, we must reduce our personal consumption and, in the process, encourage others to do the same.  Eventually, retailers and producers will respond, the maldistribution of goods and services will be corrected and the assault on natural ecosystems will end.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Fallibility of Science

Those who attempt to derail science, for whatever reason, point to its long history of false conclusions.  The scientific method, after all, is a trial and error process, based on theories that must be proved or disproved through rigorous testing, evidence gathering and experimentation.

Errors are common in all scientific disciplines.  New medications or therapeutic procedures are withdrawn due to ineffectiveness or unexpected side effects, industrial products are recalled due to defective parts or safety concerns, the projected paths of hurricanes are altered and a host of theories are abandoned due to lack of confirmation; in all cases, the setbacks serve as guides for adjustment and further testing.  In its continual search for truth, science hits many roadblocks and heads down many blind alleys but such failures add to our knowledge base and stimulate our imagination; indeed, they are vital to scientific progress.

Yet, science agnostics latch onto these failures, using them to ridicule the scientific method and to support non-scientific dogma based on faith or political expediency.  They prefer simple, convenient answers to the mysteries of nature and their sources are deemed to be infallible; scientific knowledge is their enemy.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Lawns & Water

Finding themselves in the midst of a prolonged, severe drought, it was heartening to learn that California water authorities had the fortitude to enact harsh water-use restrictions; according to national news services, they have admonished homeowners "not to overwater their lawns" and threatened possible fines if water is seen on their driveway or sidewalks.  Really?  Is this the best they can do in a water emergency?

In my opinion, anyone who lives in the arid and semiarid regions of the Western U.S. has no business watering their lawn (ever!).  In fact, I see no need to water lawns anywhere in the U.S.; those who live in central and eastern portions of the country generally receive enough annual precipitation to nourish grass and, when periods of drought occur, brown lawns are hardly a threat to society.  Unfortunately, those Americans enamored with massive lawns are the citizens most likely to use automated sprinklers to douse their prized carpets (often as rain is pouring from the sky).

Receptive to the ads of the lawn masters and sensing pressure from their neighbors, Americans ignore the relative scarcity of clean, fresh water on this planet and use far to much of it to produce thick, green lawns.  The latter, of course, are not natural habitats; from the point of view of most wildlife, they might as well be parking lots (see Lose Some Lawn, The Cost of Lawns and Man and his Lawn).

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Front Range Geology

During the Cretaceous Period, 135 to 65 million years ago (MYA), a shallow sea stretched from the Texas Gulf Coast to British Columbia, covering much of Colorado; deposits within and along this sea would yield the Dakota sandstone and Pierre shale that are now evident near the base of the Front Range and across the Colorado Piedmont.  Near the end of the Period, a layer cake of horizontal Mesozoic and Paleozoic sediments stretched above the deep Precambrian basement rock (youngest to oldest from top to bottom).

Then, about 70 MYA, the Laramide Orogeny began and the Front Range of the Rockies crumpled skyward, reinforced by a second uplift during the Miocene Period, some 25 MYA.  The overlying strata were tilted upward, toward the crest of the range, and erosion began to sculpt the layers; resistant sheets of sandstone produced fins and ridges while intervening, softer layers of shale eroded into valleys.  Meanwhile, Tertiary debris, eroded from the Front Range, was carried eastward by many streams and rivers that dropped from the mountains and meandered across the High Plains; as a result, a veneer of these younger deposits covered the Cretaceous shale and sandstones left behind by the retreating sea.

Today, driving westward toward the Front Range, one crosses the Tertiary landscape of the High Plains, broken by valleys of Pierre shale and Cretaceous sandstones along the South Platte River and its tributaries.  At the foot of the Rockies, one encounters the Dakota hogback (Cretaceous sandstone), backed by the Morrison Formation, a valley of Jurassic shale; both are rich in dinosaur fossils.  West of the Morrison valley is an outcrop of Permian sandstone (the yellow-gray Lyons Formation) and, up against the foothills, are the salmon-colored sandstone fins of the Fountain Formation (Pennsylvanian in age).  The foothills and mountains are uplifts of ancient Precambrian granite, laced with Tertiary and Quaternary debris along their many streams.  In effect, the traveler crosses progressively older rock strata from the High Plains to the Front Range.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Autumn in July

An atmospheric trough, produced by a dip in the jet stream, has ushered cool, dry Canadian air into the American Heartland; overnight lows have fallen into the low 50s (F) while afternoon highs are topping out in the 70s.

This mid summer gift, arriving on the heels of hot, muggy weather, will certainly invigorate both the wildlife and those humans who enjoy watching them.  At Forum Nature Area, here in Columbia, birdsong has noticeably recovered from its summer suppression and visitors are unusually numerous for mid July.  Back home, many of our permanent avian residents are checking out the feeder (which I generally fill from October to April), seemingly fooled by the unseasonable chill.

No doubt, those who reject the evidence of global warming will point to this cool air incursion as further support for their entrenched position.  However, if they bothered to check the weather map, they would find that the trough is bounded by atmospheric ridges, bringing warmer than average conditions to the Pacific Northwest and Northeastern U.S; along the borders of the trough, thunderstorms delineate the clash of the air masses, producing some flooding in the East but bringing much needed rain to the Southern Plains.  Indeed, the undulating jet stream, rather unusual in mid summer, may be (at least in part) a consequence of our warming global climate.  Regardless of the cause, we'll enjoy the autumn-like weather while it lasts.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

America's Greatest Health Problem

What is the greatest health problem in the U.S.?  If you watch television you might conclude that it is erectile dysfunction, testosterone deficiency or postmenopausal vaginal dryness; after all, medications for those maladies are heavily advertised on prime-time programming, including the evening news.

Looking at statistics, others might suggest that our greatest health problem is heart disease, cancer, diabetes or some other common American disorder.  But, in my opinion, our most pressing health issue relates to preventive care, specifically to the lack of attention that it receives among the general population.  While those with insurance might show up for their annual physical (a practice of questionable value in young, healthy adults), too many Americans ignore recommendations related to diet, exercise, smoking, alcohol consumption, illicit drug use, seat belt use and other lifestyle choices.  Among the reasons for this deficiency is the conviction that modern American medicine will bail them out with wonder drugs, invasive procedures, screening tests and the latest surgical techniques.

Unfortunately, this unbridled faith in American medicine is misplaced.  Despite our expensive, high-tech healthcare system, America does not rank in the top 50 countries when it comes to longevity.  This sad fact reflects both the lack of adequate healthcare services for impoverished citizens and the sedentary lifestyle of most Americans, reflected by the high rate of obesity and its numerous sequelae.  Americans should rely on their healthcare provider for guidance but their personal health will depend primarily on the lifestyle choices that they make.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Mississippi Kites over Columbia

For the past several days, a pair of Mississippi kites have appeared above our neighborhood in Columbia, Missouri.  Generally present during the morning and evening hours, these graceful, aerial hunters have been observed in the company of chimney swifts and common nighthawks, feasting on clouds of insects.

Perhaps they drifted north with the warm, humid air that arrived this week or they may be nesting in the area.  Though I have observed them in central Missouri in the past, I have never enjoyed their presence for an extended period of time nor have I observed them at such close range, strafing the treetops of our property in search of prey.

As veteran birders know, sightings of uncommon species often occur unexpectedly; indeed, such encounters account for a significant percentage of additions to our life list.  Of course, even chance sightings depend on active observation, whether they occur in our neighborhood, at local nature preserves or at wildlife refuges far from home.  Awareness of nature is not achieved through passive means.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

American Lotus

Hiking around a lake south of Columbia, my wife and I found that the circular leaves and pale yellow flowers of American lotus had taken over one of its shallow coves.  This emergent aquatic wildflower, while resembling water lilies, belongs to a separate genus; it is native to North America and found in most States east of the Rockies and in California.

Favoring shallow ponds and lake margins, the American lotus spreads by seed or rhizomes and can rapidly take over an area of calm water.  Thick tubers develop at the base of the plant and both the flower and the leaves form at the end of long, individual stalks.  The large flowers (which appear from June to September in Missouri) are composed of twenty or more petals and have a large, central seed pod that resembles a shower head; while the showy, cream-colored flowers bloom for only two days, the seed head gradually matures, eventually releasing large seeds that are consumed by waterfowl and humans.  The tender vegetation may also be cooked and eaten and the starchy tubers have long been consumed by Native Americans; beaver and muskrat are known to feed on the rhizomes and the vast "stands" of American lotus offer ideal habitat for a wide variety of aquatic invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals.

The seeds of American lotus, known as alligator corn in the Southeast, remain viable for at least 200 years.  In areas where swamps were once drained for agriculture or development, flooding or habitat restoration may reawaken the long dormant plant; it is thus not surprising that ancient civilizations believed the lotus had mystical powers.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

First Annual Cicadas

As warm, muggy air pushed back into Missouri, I heard the first annual cicadas in our shade trees last evening.  After several years underground, where they feed from the root of a tree or shrub, the nymphs emerge by mid summer, climb a tree and molt into the adult form.

Focused solely on breeding, the adults may live for a few weeks if not consumed by a predator (jays, crows and house cats, among others).  During that time, the male attracts females with a loud, buzzy call that builds to a crescendo; these calls, often delivered in unison and especially prominent on mid-late summer evenings, may be heard into September.  Females dig a shallow groove in the tender, terminal limb of a tree or shrub and deposit their eggs within those tracks; this practice often kills the limb and clumps of dead leaves soon speckle the summer woodlands.

Once they hatch, newborn nymphs drop to the ground and burrow into the soil, not to emerge for several years.  Their entry and emergence burrows aerate the soil and the nymphs themselves are potential prey for mice, shrews and moles.  How vital cicadas are to woodland ecosystems is a subject for debate but their prolific breeding, so evident on summer evenings, has ensured their survival in nature's realm.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Our Crustacean Farm

Three months ago, we established a compost pile in our Columbia, Missouri, yard (see Building a Compost Bin).  Since that time, the grass clippings, dead leaves, sawdust and kitchen leftovers (fruits, eggshells and vegetables) have decayed into a darkening mound of maturing compost, fueled by the heat and humidity of a Midwestern summer.

Feasting on the organic matter and facilitating the process of decomposition is an army of insects, including ants, fruit flies and various beetles; of course, earthworms are doing their part from within the pile.  But the most numerous and conspicuous residents of the compost bin are pill bugs, those prolific Backyard Crustaceans known to children as rollie pollies.  Relying on gills for respiration and consuming a diet of carrion and rotting vegetation, they thrive in the warm, moist confines of the bin; indeed, peering into the structure, a novice might assume that it was designed to raise pill bugs.

Unfortunately, there is not a lucrative market for these ubiquitous crustaceans; in fact, the internet is loaded with advice on how to keep them out of your garden and basement.  While they may do limited damage to ground-spreading plants such as strawberries or melons, pill bugs are, for the most part, beneficial creatures, recycling organic material and enriching the soil.  They are certainly welcome in the compost bin!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Our Evening Pewee

On the past few evenings, an eastern wood pewee has appeared in our central Missouri yard, drawn to a dead snag on an aging tuliptree.  This rather nondescript, medium-sized flycatcher is a common summer resident across the eastern U.S., where it is best observed in open woodlands, along forest margins or in riparian groves.

Hunting from the end of a dead branch, eastern wood pewees make frequent sorties, flying out to snare an insect and then returning to its perch.  This characteristic activity, combined with the flycatcher's distinctive "pee-a-wee" call, make identification easy despite its many similar (though less common) cousins.

Current evidence suggests that eastern wood pewees are monogamous and share feeding duties; a cup-shaped nest, covered with lichens, is placed in the mid canopy of a deciduous tree and 2-4 eggs are generally produced.  By late summer, the parents and their offspring migrate independently, heading for the forests and woodlands of northern South America where they winter alone.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

At Nature's Mercy

Arriving back in Columbia Monday evening, we found ourselves enveloped in soupy, tropical air; it seemed we had taken a wrong turn on our way back from Colorado and had ended up in the Amazon Basin.  Later that night, lightning flashed along the western horizon, promising the relief of thunderstorms and, in their wake, cooler and drier air.

Within an hour of going to bed, I was awakened by fierce winds, whipping the trees in our neighborhood and lashing the windows with torrents of rain.  As the lightning and thunder became more intense, a loud roar passed overhead, as if a jet had taken off to our southwest and was climbing toward the northeast.  Checking the alarm clock, I found that our power was out and it has remained so for the past 36 hours; indeed, we anticipate another 24-36 hours before electric service is restored.

On the morning after the storm (declared a severe thunderstorm by the weather service but likely involving a weak tornado in my opinion), tree limbs and massive trunks, lay across roads, lawns and roofs; fortunately, damage was relatively minor and no serious injuries were reported.  Nevertheless, we have been "inconvenienced" by nature's wrath, learning to live without air conditioning, hot water, refrigeration, the internet and cable TV for several days; in a way, the storm has brought a refreshing change to our lives.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Geology of Rio's Domes

Watching coverage of the World Cup, one is struck by the spectacular natural setting of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, hemmed in and partly bisected by massive domes of rock.  The most famous of these, Sugarloaf Mountain, rises at the end of a peninsula while Corcovado, the highest summit (2300 feet) creates a magnificent backdrop for the city.

All of these rounded summits are composed of Precambrian gneiss, which formed about 570 million years ago (MYA), 150 million years before life first left the sea.  Since that time, tectonic forces have lifted this ancient bedrock and both faulting and erosion have produced the scenic landscape that we observe today.  Much of that sculpting occurred in the Permian Period (some 275 MYA), when South America collided with Africa (as Pangea formed), and during the Cretaceous Period (about 100 MYA), as the South Atlantic opened and the two Continents rifted apart.

We humans, having walked the Earth for less than 130,000 years ago, finally colonized this spectacular coastline about 18,000 years ago.  Now, through the marvels of modern technology, we view its natural beauty from homes and pubs across the globe, watching as the lofty domes of ancient rock reflect the setting sun.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Peaceful Nature of Doves

Throughout recorded human history, doves have often been chosen as images of peace.  After all, most doves are mild-mannered birds that avoid conflict with other species.

However, as Eurasian collared doves have spread across the U.S. (see March of the Collared Dove), there has been some concern that they might threaten the welfare of native dove species, especially the beloved and widespread mourning dove.  Larger, hardier and somewhat more aggressive than most North American doves, the collared doves have adapted to a wide variety of habitats across our Continent, from the subtropics of Florida to Western desert grasslands.

Collared doves first appeared on our Littleton, Colorado, farm in 2008 and at least one pair has inhabited our property ever since.  Easily distinguished from mourning doves by their distinctive call, larger size and paler plumage, the immigrants seem to get along well with their smaller cousins and I have not noticed any reduction in the mourning dove population; indeed, at least on our property, the latter remain far more common.  If only humans would learn from these doves and welcome immigrants with benevolence and peaceful coexistence.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Arthur and the Trough

Last evening, as Tropical Storm Arthur churned off the east coast of Florida, a broad dip in the jet stream, known as an atmospheric trough, stretched from the Southern Rockies to the Lower Mississippi Valley and thence northeastward across the Appalachian Plateau.  Along its leading edge, cold air was knifing beneath warm, humid air to its south and east, igniting a long chain of thunderstorms.

The cold front and thunderstorms will push into the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern States today and, ahead of the trough, southerly winds will begin to nudge Arthur to the north.  The advance of the cold front will eventually determine the path of Arthur, which is forecast to become a hurricane by tomorrow afternoon; should the front stall east of the Appalachians, the storm might rake the Atlantic Seaboard while, if it continues to push eastward, Arthur will stay well offshore.

The current forecast indicates that Hurricane Arthur will likely cross the Outer Banks of North Carolina and, farther north, lash Cape Cod and the Canadian Maritimes.  However, depending on its exact path, the storm may impact most of the Atlantic Coast, sending in high waves, producing rip currents and eroding beaches.  On the positive side, Arthur is expected to move rapidly to the northeast and, if so, its effects will be short-lived for any given location.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Floating the South Platte

Among the wide variety of outdoor activities that are available in and near Metro Denver is the opportunity to float the South Platte River.  Yesterday, granted another warm, sunny day along the Front Range, my wife and I pulled our our inflatable raft and enjoyed a winding, two mile excursion through South Platte Park.

Launching at C-470, below Chatfield Reservoir, we floated northward through the Park.  While we had to negotiate a number of rapids and narrow cascades,  most of our journey was a slow, peaceful drift, hemmed in by riverside marshes and woodlands.  Female mallards and common mergansers ushered their broods across the calm segments, belted kingfishers, black-crowned night herons and double-crested cormorants flew overhead, red-winged blackbirds called from the reeds, killdeer and spotted sandpipers foraged on the sandbars and yellow warblers flashed among the cottonwoods.

Floating trips offer a unique perspective of riverine ecosystems and give one an intimate appreciation for the force of moving water.  Regardless of one's skill (and ours is modest), the floater finds himself at the mercy of the river and must respect its power; patience, common sense and proper gear (including flotation vests) are always in order.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Thoughts on God

We humans are obsessed with the concept of God.  Driven by fear, hope and intellectual curiosity, we devote much of our lives to exploring, appeasing and expressing our thoughts and emotions related to this great mystery.

Most of us must first resolve the beliefs ingrained during our childhood, judging them in light of our personal experience and education.  Many retain those beliefs, though not always in a strict, literal sense; after all, these tenets of faith are closely tied to our thoughts on spirituality and our fear of death.  Even those who define themselves as atheists or agnostics often harbor some hope that there is a life force or spiritual plane that science has yet to discover.

I am inclined to view God as a concept that, in the human mind, embodies our hopes and fears and serves to explain all that we do not understand.  As our knowledge expands through education and personal experience, our image of God changes in concert; the personal, engaged, vindictive God of our childhood fades with intellectual enlightenment.  While organized religions strive to reinforce the ancient beliefs that justify their existence, using fear and guilt as their primary tools, humans are evolving toward a science-based view of our place in the Universe.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Breeding Bird Census

Today, I took part in a breeding bird census at South Platte Park, in Littleton, Colorado.  On this warm, sunny morning, my group surveyed a stretch of riparian woodlands east of the river.

Throughout our three hour period of observation, birds were both numerous and vocal.  Among the more abundant species were house wrens, American robins, yellow warblers, tree and cliff swallows, mourning doves and common grackles; cedar waxwings, western wood pewees, gray catbirds. northern flickers, downy woodpeckers, house finches, song sparrows, red-winged blackbirds and brown-headed cowbirds were also well represented.  Less numerous were red-tailed hawks, collared doves, northern orioles, barn swallows, American goldfinches, Say's phoebes, blue jays, black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches and yellow-breasted chats; mallards, belted kingfishers, a great blue heron and a juvenile black-crowned night heron were also observed on the river.

Combined with data from other groups and from counts on other early summer days, refuge biologists will develop a breeding bird census for South Platte Park.  In turn, this information will be compared with data from previous years, revealing trends that might result from changes in the regional climate or ecology.  Taking part in such counts is thus both an enjoyable and a rewarding experience.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Preventing Suicide

Suicide generally occurs is individuals who are suffering from depression or who, for other reasons, feel a sense of hopelessness or low self esteem.  While clinical depression is often triggered by a biochemical disorder of the brain, which may be genetic in origin, it may also be induced by life events such as bullying, the experience of war, the loss of a loved one, chronic illness, economic distress or persecution by other segments of society.

In recent decades, suicide has become increasingly prevalent among soldiers, young homosexuals and the victims of bullying; in many if not most cases, other humans (or segments of society) have been directly responsible for their deaths.  In the case of soldiers, our government has asked them to serve in highly stressful environments where they engage in combat while witnessing the deaths of comrades and innocent civilians; those who survive the atrocity of battle are often left with PTSD, including guilt and depression.  Victims of bullying, whether imposed by friends, co-workers, family members or anonymous online perpetrators, are left with a shattered self esteem.  Young gays, dealing with inborn factors that have determined their sexuality, face hostility, abuse and discrimination from many segments of society, often including members of their own family.

We, as a society, can choose to mitigate the occurrence of suicide among these groups of individuals by enacting policies that minimize conflict, offer support, eliminate discrimination and protect their rights.  Unfortunately, ignorance, intolerance, militarism and religious zealotry stand in the way of progress and the scourge of suicide continues to pervade our society.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Joy of Mass Transit

Mass transit has long been the butt of jokes and an easy target for criticism.  After all, most of us have endured the misery of being trapped in a bus or subway car with noisy, obnoxious or hostile passengers.  Then there's the history of inefficiency, unreliable service and the need to change vehicles in order to reach our destination.

Fortunately, modern transit systems are beginning to alleviate some of those concerns.  Today, I took advantage of Denver's light rail system to visit the downtown area; as we zipped along between a series of stations, I took note of the morning gridlock on I-25, caused primarily by single occupant vehicles.  Soon to extend to the International Airport and to northern neighborhoods of the Metro Area, Denver's network of trains has provided convenience to citizens and visitors while spawning residential and commercial development near its many stations across southern and western portions of the city.

One's attitude about mass transit is generally related to his/her dependence on the system and/or to their personal commitment to conservation.  As we face the threat of global warming, the quality, efficiency and cost effectiveness of urban transit systems will become increasingly important.  When these systems work well, riders are rewarded by both the experience and by the knowledge that their patronage is good for the environment (see No More Roads).

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Miner's Cat

Slender omnivores of the Desert Southwest, Mexico and Central America, ringtails are members of the raccoon family.  Though fairly common on rocky hillsides and in wooded canyons, these bushy-tailed hunters are nocturnal and are seldom encountered.

Feasting on a wide range of small mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, ringtails also consume berries, seeds and carrion; since they controlled rodents within and near mines, these agile climbers became known as the miner's cat.  Ringtails are generally solitary creatures though prolonged pairings have been documented; mating occurs in mid spring and three or four kits are born two months later.  Dens are placed in caves, tree cavities, hollow logs, beneath rock ledges or in abandoned cabins; cared for by both parents, the young emerge from the den within two months and are fully independent by autumn.

In Colorado, ringtails are most common across southern and western portions of the State.  However, they have expanded their range northward through the Front Range foothills and now inhabit the canyons west of Metro Denver.