<![CDATA[Jakob Shockey - Blog]]>Wed, 09 Mar 2016 17:06:45 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Grow with Respect]]>Sun, 06 Mar 2016 00:53:19 GMThttp://www.jakobshockey.com/blog/grow-with-respect
So you’ve moved to the Applegate, with the plan to “grow” this year. You’re from Florida, New York, or Texas, and rented a house with some old pastureland or with a place for a greenhouse. Maybe you’re just on a hillside and plan on clearing out that manzinita and bulldozing some terraces. The green-rush is on, and even though the local market is flooded, your get rich endeavor doesn’t really depend on the Oregon market anyway, does it? So, while we are being real with each other, let me give you some neighborly and honest advice on how to be respectful of this watershed and its community. Generally, Applegaters tend to beat-around-the-bush in a conversation if it’s an uncomfortable topic. I’m not going to do that here. These are some of the things that people are thinking but few will say to your face:

If you are putting in a grow and plan to water it, get a water right. That’s what everybody else has to do, and many of our creeks can barely balance the legal irrigation draws with fish and wildlife needs during the summer, without the additional burden of your Honda pump. And please, don’t illegally use your household well for your irrigation needs. It’s not an endless supply down there in the ground, and all your neighbors have their straws in the same pool. Nobody likes it when wells run dry...just ask the folks up Humbug Creek.

While we are on water, please make sure you leave plenty of space between your grow and the riparian habitat to keep your overpriced soil amendments from soaking into the creek. Seriously, nitrogen and creeks don’t mix well. If you did plant too close to the creek, don’t cut down the riparian trees that are “blocking your sun” It’s rude, illegal, and those trees are now serving an important function in filtering up your fertilizer before it get’s to the water.

If you’re building an irrigation pond, don’t put it along the creek or river—sensing a theme?—as it will inevitably become a breeding ground for invasive plants and animals that don’t play well with the local aquatic species.

If you are concerned about rodents, erect raptor poles around your grow instead of using d-Con or any other anti-coagulant rodenticides (ARs). Simply drive 3-6” wood pole into the ground with a height of around 15’. Add an 18” cross piece at the top for a perch, made from 2” thick wood, and orientate to in an east-west direction so that it’s more visible in low light. These artificial raptor perches are used all over the world to help keep rodents out of large-scale plantings. You provide a safe vantage point for the hawk, and she eats your mice and voles. What a deal! Problem is, if any of those rodents have tasted an AR in the last nine days, than your hawk will die too. So get your neighbors to pack up the poison too.

Finally, some general suggestions for getting along:

Don’t call yourself a farmer. It’s hurtful to the people actually growing food in this valley for a thousand times less money.

Pay your “trimmigrants” a fair wage, but be aware that many local businesses can’t afford to offer the same $30/hour under-the-table. You are making it harder for everyone else to find labor during the fall.

Tip the person serving you at the Cafe, buy a Britt Festival ticket instead of trying to cut through the fence, etc. We all know you have a wad of cash in all four pockets, so don’t be stingy. Your buying power is supporting local farmers and small family restaurants.

In closing, welcome to the Applegate. It’s a beautiful place to live, with a diverse community of residents. Whether you plan on sticking around and growing some roots, or just making some money and moving on, I invite you to add to this community and place while you are here.

Author's Note:
I wrote this piece for our regional community paper,
The Applegater. Since it came out last week, I've had an overwhelmingly positive response from the local community. I've also been compared to Trump and called a "Nazi fucking pig".  It is clear that many have felt victimized by some of their new neighbors and this is a conversation we must have with each other honestly. This is not an "anti-cannabis" piece.  I voted for legalization and I'm generally "420 friendly".  I have less tolerance for greed and disrespect to my watershed and its community.  Perhaps my writing is "inflammatory", but inflammation is a biological response when feeling threatened by selfish outsiders.

<![CDATA[Dark History]]>Sun, 30 Nov 2014 20:23:11 GMThttp://www.jakobshockey.com/blog/dark-history
Harlow Cabin on Elliot Creek
This passage came from a local “history book” published in 1884:
        Within the bounds of Southern Oregon is found a population of about thirty thousand souls, pioneers and their descendants, who redeemed this beautiful region from the domination of the savage tribes and brought it within the domination of civilization. In the forty years of its history much has been accomplished.  The primeval forests have been leveled.  The fire of many a domestic hearth burns brightly in a land which not many years ago was wilderness.  The old story of pioneer life is repeated here on this western shore by those to whom hardship and adventure were as second nature.  Over this region, now fruitful in grain, the wild and debased Indian once roamed, an object of dread and danger.  Bloody and fierce were the conflicts he waged against the superior race, fast despoiling him of his heritage, and the crimson history of war attests his valor and stubbornness.  The Indian has melted away before the approach of the Caucasian, like snow beneath a noonday sun. Rude domestic utensils, and the arrow-heads fallen on many a bloody battle-field remain as sole mementos of a departed race.
It is easy to ignore history sometimes. In the day-to-day bustle of living and getting paid, we step through the present from task to task like upon rocks in a stream. We hop along, not looking at the history that swirls around us, until we accidentally slip and are plunged into its cold and lingering wetness. Once we’ve been immersed in the stories, it is hard to shake them off.

The history of this place in Southern Oregon is a heavy thing. Greed, of beaver pelts first and later gold, drove white men into this valley with self-important purpose. Peter Ogden’s journals, written less than 200 years ago, tell of arriving into the Rogue Valley near present day Ashland–how sunny and beautiful the weather in February was and how the native people assured him this good weather was normal for the time of year. I know this too, for 200 years later our Februaries are still sunny and bright. People always think about gardening for the first time in February. This concrete detail kicks me in the gut... because this is the same place.
The Applegate Valley
Ogden’s journals also tell of how his expedition, camped at present-day Applegate, sent two scouts up the Thompson Creek valley. They rode until they were turned around by the snows on Grayback Mountain. It was April 10th. He also notes a visit of local Takelma and how a pack of wolves chased 50 horses out of camp.

I am struck by the proximity in both time and space of these men. Those two fur trappers–the first white men to head up Thompson Creek–would have ridden across the land where I grew up. Past the White Oak (between 300-500 years old) where we hung our swings as kids.

This is my valley, less than a tree’s lifetime ago. The Takelma are now gone. So are the wolves. The beaver have gone underground, for their nation’s survivors no-longer build dams, but hide in dens dug into the mud of the riverbanks. In the years following those two men and their company, hundreds, thousands more would come. My other library books tell of gold mines and murders, “Indian wars” and sawmills along the same creeks I know; Humbug, Williams, Sterling, and the Little Applegate. People fought and killed on the same land I walk. A race of people exterminated.
<![CDATA[A memo from the Outside.]]>Fri, 25 Apr 2014 04:14:48 GMThttp://www.jakobshockey.com/blog/a-memo-from-the-outside
Spawned-out Coho Salmon. Photo by Jakob Shockey
A few years ago, I was talking with a sculptor well known for his portrayal of the natural world in metal.  He had invited me over for dinner to discuss some fieldwork I had recently completed and after we ate, he showed me his studio in the backyard. It was a living and dusty place–where the cast-off projects and references crowded newly cast work. Antlers, assorted bird wings and the tarnished back half of a river otter scattered around eighteen bronze pygmy owls, lined up and shining. It could have easily been the workshop of a field biologist.

I remember him pointing out that both field scientists and artists “are in the same business.” We both go into outside looking for patterns, often with an hypothesis of what we’ll find there. When we do see a pattern, or something worth sharing, we record it and come back to file a report on what we found. Whether we create this report through art or a written paper, we both want to communicate our observations to people in a meaningful way.

    ...and sometimes, you find something worth sharing by accident.

Last month, as the storms finally swelled the streams and ponds around our valley, I spent an afternoon playing in the rain with my camera. I recently bought a waterproof housing for it and like any kid with a new plastic toy, I wandered about dropping it into any puddle I found. Just downstream from my family’s land on Thompson Creek, there is a pool that has always held lots of juvenile Coho salmon, steelhead, and anything else looking to avoid herons and raccoons. So I set the camera on record and auto-focus, tied it to a rock so the buoyant plastic would sink, and lowered it onto the stream bed.

Like a monkey blindly fishing for hidden ants with a piece of grass, I perched on the exposed roots of a Bigleaf Maple, dropping in the camera, waiting, pulling it up to inspect my footage, changing position slightly, then dropping it back in. Within a half-dozen tries I had a good shot and moved on to film the chorusing tree frogs nearby. Back inside, I uploaded the juvenile Coho footage collected that afternoon to Youtube, and sent it around to the people I work with on riparian restoration projects around the watershed. The email responses were swift and enthusiastic, the video was forwarded on, “liked” and had been viewed over 200 times within the first few days—not to shabby for a fish video.

The comments were heart-felt and sincere. People, with whom I usually correspond only to discuss permits, grant deadlines or regional priorities chimed in to laud the footage and I found myself checking Youtube to watch the video’s “views” rise. What in real life had been 3 minutes squatting in the rain became three days of electronic entertainment. Three days, while the fish went about their own business, as did the rest of the real breathing world.

As I continue to look for patterns in the Outside, struggling to share what I see with others, I will return to my glowing screen at night to load many more such videos–for they are captured glimpses into other worlds... memos from the Outside. But the whole story can only be found for one’s self, playing in the world of mud and living things.
<![CDATA[Poisoned Marijuana Grows Silencing our Forests]]>Fri, 01 Nov 2013 18:30:37 GMThttp://www.jakobshockey.com/blog/poisoned-marijuana-grows-silencing-our-forestsPiece written for a community paper in Southwestern Oregon.
Whether you support it or not, marijuana cultivation has become increasingly rooted in our local community and economy. These grows bring boutique fertilizer stores, cheap weed and a Fall migration of slightly disheveled “trimmigrants” to our area, but many also bring deadly harm to this valley’s wildlife through their use of common rat poisons. These anticoagulant rodenticides (ARs) are spread thickly around the cannabis plantings and along irrigation lines to kill rodents that might eat the plants or chew into an irrigation pipe after water. Unfortunately, whether this happens in our public land or on a private parcel, these poisons (often flavored as bacon, cheese or apple) target the bottom of a wild food-chain, and it works its way up.

Pacific Fisher, one of the many wildlife poisoned. Photo by John Jacobson, WDFW.
In a study published last summer in the academic journal PLoS ONE, researchers found that threatened Pacific Fishers are being exposed and poisoned by these rodenticides on public land. The Pacific Fisher was once found across the Pacific Northwest, but is now isolated to small populations, one of which is in our State of Jefferson. They look like a small, short-haired Wolverine and specialize on eating porcupines, but also eat rodents, birds and opportunistically anything that seems tasty. 

In the Spring while cannabis seedlings are planted and d–Con is spread, fishers are nursing their milk-dependent kits in tree cavity dens. At this fragile moment, the effect of these poisons are amplified upon the fisher population, for if the mother dies she leaves three or four young to perish as well. This study highlighted one case where four dead kits were tested for poison after their mother stopped returning to the den, and AR poison was found to have been transferred though her milk—although they died of dehydration and starvation. 

Pacific Fishers are not the only wildlife at risk. Rodents can continue to live 7 days after ingesting a lethal dose of anticoagulant rodenticides. Anything that eats the exposed rodents, or that might try a flavored pellet can be poisoned. Exposure has been documented in hawks, eagles, falcons, owls (including our Northern Spotted Owl), foxes, bobcats and mountain lions. In their 2012 paper, these researchers end by suggesting promotion of lethal compounds that don’t have the same ability to move up this food-chain, like zinc phosphide—a readily available rodenticide. 

Anticoagulant rodenticide at a marijuana grow. Photo from Times Standard.
I, for one, will look into it. For while I do not grow marijuana, I live in a cabin with rodent  issues. It is maddening to wake up and find mouse droppings next to my coffee grinder and it would be convenient to tuck a few packets of d–Con under the porch. However, last year I saw a Pacific Fisher not 50 yards from this cabin. It was perched 15 feet up a Ponderosa Pine, intensely watching a covey of quail move through the blackberries below. The evening was on, and I paused, watching until its crouched form was no–longer visible against the night, and the quail had ceased their scratching. 

It is for moments like this that I live in the Applegate, where my daily activities can sometimes bump into the workings of the wild world. While researching the alternative pest management strategies may be a lot more work than grabbing some d–Con from the local grocery store, I think it worth it to protect this special place that we live.

<![CDATA[Conservation or Kidnapping?]]>Mon, 16 Sep 2013 05:00:09 GMThttp://www.jakobshockey.com/blog/conservation-or-kidnappingLast week, a couple of officials from the Dallas World Aquarium (DWA), a married couple from Virginia (who write children's books), and a Panamanian boat captain (a rumored former bodyguard of Panama’s last dictator), attempted to bring eight pygmy sloths into captivity. The truth really is stranger than fiction.

The sloths were crated and brought to the tourist town of Bocas—about 50 miles away by water and outside the indigenous region that encompasses Escudo de Veraguas. Six of the captured sloths were destined for Texas. The other two were to be housed at the Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica, which receives major funding from the DWA. As the sloths were being held in a hotel in Bocas, word spread, there was a protest, and the police responded. The pygmy sloths were returned to their island the following day.
Captured pygmy sloth. Photo from The Bocas Breeze.
The Dallas World Aquarium maintains it’s capture was a legitimate effort to establish a separate pygmy sloth population as conservation strategy—but this expedition is hard to look full in the face—for it was also a lucrative move on their part. Three–toed sloths have risen in social media currency. The Internet is laden with sloth memes, remix Youtube videos and celebrities gushing over captive sloths. While the DWA has been the only zoo in North American to keep three–toed sloths alive, they also capitalize on their captive sloths. 

The DWA had the correct Panamanian export permits, and the USA did not require any special import permits—as it does not recognize the pygmy sloth as an endangered species. However, the DWA consulted with none of the researchers and organizations that have been working on this species, and it’s still unclear if they had permission from the Ngobe people. Their actions have triggered shock, confusion and indignation from many who have studied the pygmy sloth. We still don’t even know what they eat... 
Photos taken at the Dallas World Aquarium...
What the DWA tried is not really that surprising, it simply brings to focus one of the dirty secrets of international conservation efforts. Saving charismatic mammals is the best way to secure conservation money. These conservation icons must be in peril, and there must not be a simple local solution (for this cuts out the need for international organizations).

Mother Teresa, when speaking of people in need, said “If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will”. This is true too for wildlife, and even science designates “indicator” and “surrogate species” to more clearly communicate landscape-wide conservation goals. As people who work in conservation, we must be honest with ourselves about what a species really needs. Sometimes this may not line up with the most flashy or catalyzing opportunity. It is our responsibility to draw the line.
Crated pygmy sloths wait on a dock in Bocas, Panama
<![CDATA[Rock chucks]]>Sat, 30 Mar 2013 04:01:35 GMThttp://www.jakobshockey.com/blog/rock-chucksThis March, I took a position with the Bureau of Land Management in Southern Idaho. An important aspect of my move to Twin Falls has been, well, Craigslist.  A faux antique dining room table (for a desk), a aged vinyl chair (1960’s diner style), and free pallets to support my thrift store mattress (always one of the more risky purchases). As a seasonal worker, I’m looking for inexpensive functionality and craigslist delivers. Recently I came across this ad offering “free rockchuck removal”.
free rockchuck removal (hagerman & surrounding)

Im looking for a good place to go rockchuck hunting close by if you have a lot and want them gone please let me know i will be respectful of property

Skeletal remains of a rock chuck, caught-up on a bush half-way up the cliff above Vineyard Lake.
There aren’t rockchucks (also called the Yellow-bellied marmot) in the Siskiyou Mountains where I grew up and my first encounter with Marmota flaviventris had been the previous day at the BLM office. A lone male has taken up residence under the building’s back porch, and he comes out regularly to nibble on the lawn and or lay in the shade of the picnic table. His appearance is what you’d expect of a burrowing, high elevation rodent. Flecked gray coat with deep orange belly. Small ears, tight to a squirrel-like head. He is about the size of a chubby house cat. Under more natural circumstances, he would have probably had a small harem of females and a series of burrows amid a rock outcrop or cliff. But he seems happy and who am I to judge. He’s definitely safer.

It is apparently a great entertainment to shoot these chubby rodents in mass, from the organized “chuck derby” to the leisurely afternoon of “yard-work” with your favorite high powered rifle. The internet is filled with photos of these marksmen shooting and posing with their vanquished and often disemboweled quarry. As Mrchuckhunter eloquently puts it in a youtube comments below his Chuck Hunt video “Passing a 27 caliber bullet through a chuck, is a little hard on the skin holding the whole package together. Where did he go? ‘Chunks and vapor.’” And according to the same man, Southern Idaho is the hotbed of rock chuck killing potential. I saw this first-hand just last weekend.

Picture posted by "Ironmaker" on www.ar15.com
A fish biologist friend had recommended that I explore Vineyard Lake, which lays in a small box-canyon just North off the Snake River Canyon. I started out in the early morning. Parking my car at a dead-end, I crossed an irrigated pasture and followed the rim overlooking the Snake River. It was cold and the wind blew through my clothes while I trudged East. As I descended into the box canyon, a Red-tailed hawk seemed to hover in the headwind just before me (redtails cannot hover in place like the Northern Harrier) and a rock chuck gave a severe alarm whistle from somewhere within the rock scree.

Down next to the lake the wind was almost imperceptible. There was a small creek that fed into the lake and I followed it to a spring that seeped from the canyon’s walls on three sides. I ate breakfast here and read a book for several hours. Later, when came out into the open back at the lake, something moved on the rim across the water to my right. It was one of three men, silhouetted dark against the sky some 350 yards away. I didn’t need my binoculars to see his scoped high-powered rifle, but as I brought them to my eyes I saw him croutch and fire down into the canyon. The other men were looking down at where he’d shot, and I scrambled back into the cover of a protruding canyon wall. My heartbeat churned in a panicked rhythm. I listened and waited, unwilling to venture back into the open to alert the gunmen of me presence. Eventually they left and I climbed out of the now silenced canyon.

I am a hunter and find a fierce joy in the seasonal pursuit of Black-tailed deer through the valleys and mountains of Southern Oregon. I love hiking in at dark and trying to reach a point which, from topo lines consulted the previous evening, I believe will have a thick riparian area and just maybe, a buck. If my job were to last until hunting season here, I’m sure I would find as much joy in hunting the Pronghorn and Mule deer of Southern Idaho. However I am unable to reconcile rock chuck shooting with hunting. It lacks the mental and physical challenge of hunting. It also lacks the humanity.

As I drove home that afternoon, the radio prattled on about the gun control legislation stalled in congress. Someone came on to say that no hunter would use such tactical military arms as they where attempting to control. I thought of the gunman silhouetted on the rim above me. No real hunter perhaps, but that is not to say that those guns are not used.

<![CDATA[Whale thoughts]]>Wed, 12 Dec 2012 21:38:54 GMThttp://www.jakobshockey.com/blog/whale-thoughts
While working on a project with Sperm whales this past spring, I found an early edition of Farley Mowat's "A Whale for the Killing" at a used bookstore in Olympia. On the first page there appears this quote from Henry Beston:

"Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth."

Off Washington's coast tribal fisherman had been reporting sperm whales near their longline boats.  These vessels fish well off the continental shelf, by lowering a long loop of heavy baited hooks in the deep Pacific and drawing up Black Cod, Flounder, and other deep sea fish.  These Black Cod can be over ninety years old. In Alaska, Sperm whales have begun stealing these fish off the lines as they are pulled to the surface. Tipped off, perhaps, by the distinct bubbling pattern of a boat's motor when operating its wench, Sperm whales will come from miles away. Sometimes as many as six whales to a boat. The largest predators on earth. 

They also have the largest brains on earth. Researchers in the Gulf of Alaska captured this video of a sperm whale delicately plucking the fishing line with its thin lower jaw, as if it were a guitar string. The resulting vibrations flicked the catch from its hook. Presumably, to be easily eaten by the whale without hindrance of hook and line. From the frequency of their feeding clicks while depredating these longline boats, it seems they increase their normal feeding rate by three times. What we choose to call this behavior really doesn't matter, to the whales. We are fishing in their world, and they have learned to take advantage of those efforts; the meme may be spreading.

Does the appearance of Sperm whales near boats in Washington suggest other whales have learned this trait independently, or have they been taught?  So far, every trick the fishermen have tried, from dummy longlines to bubbling buoys that obscure the engine's underwater noise pattern, have confused the whales for only a short time. We cannot know the thoughts of whales, but not because they do not think.