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The flora and fauna of the Boise Basin.

 According to some anthropologist the early animals of the Boise Basin may have included mammoths and mastodons (which differ in classification due to differences in molar teeth, in case you were wondering).  Evidence of these large mammals have
been found in north central Idaho at Tolo Lake near Grangeville, Idaho.  Other animals may have included the saber-tooth cat, dire wolves and the bison.  These animals may have existed in Idaho as early as the Pleistocene Age or 1 million years ago.
 
Many scientist believe these animals crossed from Asia to North America over the Bering land bridge.  This connection between Asia and North America existed during the Pleistocene Age when much of the northern hemisphere was covered by a huge sheet of ice.  It is also believed that this is when man first crossed into North America.  They would likely have been following these large animals.
                        
                   Wooly Mammoth
                   (Public Domain Photo) 
 
Many of these animals became extinct due to climatic change which also brought an end to the ice age.   Some believe that these animals became extinct due to over-hunting by pre-historic man.  I find it hard to believe that such a small population of humans could have made a difference to an entire species of that time.  Other scientist believe that mammoths may have existed as late as 4,000 years ago.  It seems to me that a more likely explanation of their extinction would be environmental causes including the climatic change that has occurred over the last several thousand years. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Sabertooth Cat
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  (Public Domain Photo)
Whether any of these animals actually reached the Boise Basin is hard to say.  Among the early people who hunted these animals were the Clovis people so named after their peculiar tools or Clovis points.  These tools or Clovis points have been found in Idaho at Tolo Lake and as far south as the southern Camas Praire near Fairfield, Idaho.  The Clovis people existed around 11,000 years ago.   It may be possible that these people migrated through the basin in search of these now extinct animals.
 
 
                                       Idaho Clovis Points
 Found on the Simon Ranch near Fairfield, Idaho while putting in a road.
       
The theory of animal migration to the western hemisphere via the Bering land bridge seems to lead some to assume that there were no animals in the Americas prior to these migrations.  I suspect this is based on the theory that all life originated from a single location.  I find this also hard to believe.  Does this mean that there were no animals here previous to this migration?  It would seem unlikely that the western hemisphere was entirely devoid of animal life before that time.  If it were possible for life to originate in one location could this also have occurred in additional locations?  I would surmise that the western hemisphere was populated by many animal species prior to the migration of other animal species via the land bridge.  One could hardly believe that turtles and snakes would have made the trip.
 
In any case, the evolutionary or natural selection or creationist changes (which ever you happen to believe) that has occurred in the animal kingdom on all continents over the last millions of years, (how ever it has happened) has led to the present form of animal life of which we are now familiar.
 
The animals that live in the Boise Basin today include ruminants, canidae, ursidae, felidae, mustelidae, sciuridae and other "daes" that I don't remember.  In regular people language this would be deer, elk, moose, coyotes, wolves, bear, mountain lions, racoons, squirrels and other mammals.  There are also many species of Aves, subclass neornithes, this would be birds to you and I.  Don't forget the reptilia squamata or snakes and lizards.  And of course my favorite, the aquatic vertebrates of the salmonae species, especially the oncorhynchus mykiss,  oncorhynchus clarkii, oncorhynchus tshawytscha and the  oncorhynchus nerka, more commonly known as, rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, sockeye salmon, chinook salmon and kokanee.
 
 
     Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel, not to
     be confused with the chipmunk (Public
   Domain Photo)
 
If you have spent much time in the Boise Basin you have probably seen a number of these residents.  Most of these creatures are shy and try to avoid contact with humans.  Most people who pass through the Basin never see much wildlife at all.  I find that humans are the noisiest creatures of all.  This trait in and of itself tends to separate us from other members of the animal kingdom.  The more technologically advanced we become the louder we become.  Automobiles, radios, ORVs, chainsaws and other machines disrupt the natural world and make it difficult for us to interact with the beauty that is here.  It boggles my mind when people come to the mountains, supposedly to get away from it all, only to break out the boom boxes, generators and even TVs.  No wonder they never see anything.
 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Steller's Jay, not Blue Jay
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  (Public Domain Photo)
 
In my quiet wanderings through the basin I have seen elk, deer, moose, wolves, coyotes, mountain lion, bear, lynx, raccoons, beaver, porcupines, black tail squirrels, golden mantle ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmot, martins, ermine, and many, many others.  I have come across rattlesnakes, garter snakes and snakes who's names I do not know.  I have seen horned  toads, sagebrush lizards, blotched lizards, blue bellys and skinks.  I've even caught an Idaho Giant Salamander.  I enjoy watching birds and have seen woodpeckers, blue jays, steller jays, robins, sparrows, finches, eagles, hawks, osprey, owls, crows, ravens, Canada geese, ducks of all kinds, nuthatches and of course hummingbirds hang around the house all summer.
 
It's not my point to brag, okay it its, but my real point is that anyone can see any of this wildlife if they will just be quiet.
 
Now, just a couple more comments on the wildlife in the basin. 
 
I am very supportive of licensed hunting although I haven't hunt much for several years.  I was brought up in a hunting family and went deer and elk hunting from the time I was old enought to walk, (no I didn't carry a firearm until I was twelve) but my grandfather and my father took me along whenever they went.  My father's method of hunting was to walk all over the forest looking for deer.  He was fairly successful.  My grandfather's method was to go up on the saddle not too far from our place and go to sleep.  I was sworn to secrecy that I would never tell my grandmother how he hunted.  Pretty soon he would hear something in the brush, he would sit up and bang, he had his deer.  He was always successful.
 
                                    Hunters camp
             (Public Domain Photo)
 
I gave up hunting years ago because I got tired of getting shot at by city slicks, or flatlanders as we call them.  Some hunters will shoot at anything that moves, orange or not.  Seems there is a new breed of hunter now days.  They don't mind killing something but they have no idea of what to do with it when they get it.  The Fish and Game Department requires hunter safety courses but they should also require proper training in meat processing.  One time in Boise I saw some slicks in a big Ford pickup with a beautiful buck hanging out the back that hadn't been bled, gutted or skinned.  Sad end to a noble animal. 
 
Many of these hunters hunt on ATV's mainly because they are so out of shape they wouldn't be able to cross the street on their own two feet.  I was lucky to have a father and grand father who taught me respect for wildlife in general and for game animals in particular.  We hunted for the meat and the chance to do something together and we were thankful when we were successful. Now and then my buddy and I hunt just to get out.  Sometimes we have perfect shots but don't take them because we know the real work starts when the animal is down.  We call it "armed hiking."
 
My other thought (or rant as it may be) on wildlife in the basin has to do with out-of-staters, especially some so called experts from some eastern university who come here to tell us that our experience with wildlife is all wrong.  I remember one particular time shortly before the wolf reintroduction, I was talking to an eastern "expert."  I was telling him that I had seen several wolves in the basin over the years.  He corrected me saying that there were no wolves in the Boise Basin.  I think he was from New Jersey or Maryland or somewhere like that.  I asked him how long he had been in the basin,  he said two weeks!  But his university textbooks assured him that there were no wolves here.  Hmmm.  Enough of my rants. 
 
When I was little my grandmother used to hang pork rinds out on the bushes.  The Steller's jays used to swarm around picking at the rind.  She used to feed the golden mantle ground squirrels and chimpmunks out on the rock wall in front of their place.  The squirrels would become tame enough to eat out of your hand.  The chipmunks were more timid.
 
Once we had two baby bears show up at our place.  We could see the mother up on the hill watching them nervously.  Apparently she decided it was okay.  The cubs would eat out of our hands.  Something I would probably never let my own children do.  We had an old fellow that lived next to us.  He mixed up some pancake batter and Karo syrup in a large bowl.  He would put his hand in the batter and hold it up and we would watch the cubs lick it from his hand.  I think people and animals were friendlier then.
 
The basin is full of all kinds of wildlife.  If you are quiet and still you will see them.
 
 
 
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