I officially arrived in the Yukon last Thursday, and arrived at the field site for the Kluane Red Squirrel Project dubbed “Squirrel Camp” on Friday. The drive from Saskatoon to Kluane was long but amazing, and a great way to get to know the crew of fellow squirrelers. The wildlife sightings on the way up checked off my list of firsts for a number of species – caribou, properly wild roaming woods bison, lynx, and willow ptarmigans.
This week has been a crash course in fieldwork. Things I had never done before but am already getting the hang of include live trapping, tagging, checking reproductive status, building radio collars, telemetry, climbing spruce trees, taking DNA samples (my MSc project dealt with samples from the freezer – so despite having a genetics degree, taking samples is new to me!), and the most exciting of all: gathering fecal samples. I’m also learning what other squirrelers had warned me of: watch out for gray jays.
Today is our weekly day off, so before coming into Haines Junction to shower and do laundry the new squirrelers drove up to Kluane Lake to do a short hike on Sheep Mountain. It wasn’t long before we found a herd of Dall sheep. They weren’t shy, so we watched them for a while. Seeing the lambs run after one another was nothing short of adorable, and I got some great photos of a female nuzzling the horn of the male.