How to sex a marmot from 100 meters Posted on by CarolPatterson

“Stop!” I screeched at my husband as he scrambled over granite rocks looking for the perfect place to rest. “There’s a marmot right above you!” Colin looked up at golden-mantled ground squirrel and kept walking, knowing he was far enough away not to startle the squirrel.

Hoary Marmot

Hoary Marmots are often heard but seldom seen by hikers at high elevation


My mind started its internal commentary. He can’t possibly think that squirrel is the marmot. Why isn’t he listening to me? I tried again. “The marmot is right above you!” I whispered as loudly as I dared, trying to get my camera out before Colin scared the marmot off.

Riders say a horse is dead-sided when it ignores your leg cues. I was watching the human version of this phenomenon as Colin ignored my verbal cues and proceeded to walk within ten meters of the marmot before finally finding the perfect rock for his rest. I clicked off several pictures of the marmot that surprisingly hadn’t moved from his perch and I sprinted up to Colin.

Paintbrush on Stanley Glacier trail

Paintbrush on Stanley Glacier trail

“Did you see THE marmot?” I squealed, “Why didn’t you stop when I told you to?” Colin

The hoary marmot is the largest of North American marmots

The hoary marmot is the largest of North American marmots

looked up and caught the gaze of the dog-sized squirrel looking down at him. “Oh that marmot!” he shrugged, “I never heard you.”

I wasn’t sure I believed him but I’m pretty sure that marmot was a male following the guy code of having each other’s back. I had my picture, Colin got his rest, and the marmot got a little human drama.


The hike into Stanley Glacier provides stunning views at all elevations

The hike into Stanley Glacier provides stunning views at all elevations

If you go:

The Stanley Glacier hike in Kootenay National Park is an outing that gives maximum value for your time outdoors. From the time you step out of your car in the crowded parking lot until you crest the rock scree below the receding glacier there are dozens of eye-popping views worthy of an Instagram post. There is also a good chance of seeing hoary marmots, the largest species of North American marmot. It is found above tree line which means you have to work for your sightings but at Stanley Glacier you can reach marmot habitat within a couple of hours.

Crocodile rock Posted on by CarolPatterson

(story by Carol Patterson originally printed in Red Deer Advocate Saturday February 7, 2015)

Costa Rica’s 111-kilometer long Tarcoles River is one of the most polluted water bodies in Latin America. Plastic and paper litters the brown water’s edge and is embedded in the muddy banks.

When seasonal floodwaters recede, ribbons of trash demarcate high water points. Sewage from interior cities and towns drains into the river. It is a horrible place to swim.

Tarcoles Rivers has one of the world's highest concentrations of crocodiles

Tarcoles Rivers has one of the world’s highest concentrations of crocodiles

But if you are a crocodile the warm, nutrient-rich water are a feeding bonanza. Dozens of American crocodiles line the riverbanks sunbathing in statue-like stillness. Others ply the water for a meal, their nostrils and unblinking eyes the only hint of the killing machine below. With an estimated 25 crocodiles per square kilometer, the river has one of the highest croc populations in the world.

Most people would not see Tarcoles River as a potential tourism attraction, but where others saw lemons, one man saw an opportunity for lemonade.

Dr. Mario F. Orjuela, a veterinarian from Columbia who specialized in crocodiles, iguanas, snakes and toads, was struck by the area’s richness on his first visit in 1993.

Tarcoles River is one of the most polluted in the world

Tarcoles River is one of the most polluted in the world

“While undertaking survey expeditions and night excursions, I began thinking of a way to show this hidden treasure to visitors, to let them know in an educative way about the fascinating creatures and the ecosystem of this tropical paradise. And so the ‘Jungle Crocodile Safari’ was born,” he once said.

Orjuela died several years ago – a victim of crime, not crocodiles- but his company lives on.

Over 6,000 people come from around the world each year to see these muscular river juggernauts. Two-hour tours on covered boats with open sides allow unobstructed views of 100- plus bird species and the main event, crocodile feeding.

Staff member, Willie, greeted our group and explained the challenges of co-existing with reptiles that bite is fifty times stronger than a humans, “There are two words to describe crocodiles – prehistoric and unpredictable.”

So it was with some anxiety that I watched our guide, Andrey sidle our boat up next to a very big croc and cut the engine. “This is Tyson,” Andrey said, pulling the croc’s tail into the boat and pointing out where National Geographic researchers had made a notch, “he’s the biggest crocodile on the river and named after Mike Tyson, the fighter.”

Visitors get a chance to see a crocodile tail up-close

Visitors get a chance to see a crocodile tail up-close

Tyson didn’t seem to mind the tail handling and lay with an unblinking stare that could mean either ‘I’m full’ or “you look like my next meal”. Andrey left the safety of the boat and stepped into the chocolate-colored mud a meter from Tyson’s head with a kilogram of raw chicken in his hand.

Realizing a bad day on my job was never as grim as a good day for a crocodile guide, Andrey proceeded to swat 300 kilograms of wild crocodile on the nose with raw meat.

Crocodiles are capable of great speed bursts and I wondered how Andrey knew if the croc would be satisfied with the chicken or go for the whole enchilada.

Tyson didn’t appear interested in the free meal so Andrey readjusted his position, moving slowly to avoid losing his footing on the slippery bank, before hitting the croc harder. Tyson’s jaws opened, shutters clicked in rapid staccato, and the chicken disappeared.

Andrey jumped back in the boat.

Guides offer crocodiles meat for better photo opportunities

Guides offer crocodiles meat for better photo opportunities

“Is this a well-paying job?” I asked, thinking the risk of losing a limb would be well compensated, but apparently not.

“If I want to support a family, I will need to get another job,’ he replied.

However Andrey’s efforts have their own rewards. Since the tours started, crocodiles kill fewer fishermen. Willie said, “We try to feed the crocodiles up river and away from the mouth of the river where the fishermen are. And we have removed 10,000 tires from the river. It is the cleanest it has ever been.”

While Tarcoles River still looked polluted to me, the signs advertising crocodile tours scattered through Tarcoles town indicated Dr. Orjuela’s vision had been realized. Visitors are seeing the biotic richness of the Tarcoles River and locals are seeing richness from crocodiles and the tourism dollars they bring.

If you decide to go:

Jungle Crocodile Safaris offers tours four times a day in nine boats.

Accommodations in Tarcoles town are limited. Consider staying in the resort town of Jaco 17 kilometers away.

To see my video on crocodile tourism go to

Eight things you don’t know about Sheridan, Wyoming Posted on by CarolPatterson

sheridan-wyoming1. A lot of wealthy people live here. The private airport is bigger than the public airport (handy for those private jets) and gorgeous horseflesh peeps across the fences at sprawling country estates. Forrest Mars Jr. (grandson of the founder of the Mars candy empire) calls the area home. Another Sheridan citizen, Leandro Rissuto, started Cuisinart.

2. The soil around Sheridan contains proteins that grow great grass and build strong horses. Over 20,000 horses were shipped to the British Calvary in South Africa’s Boer War and ever since horse lovers have been raising beautiful horses. Which leads me to #3.

visit-sheridan-wyoming3. This is a great place for polo. Polo players come from all over the world to participate in the free polo matches every summer weekend. Ascots and fancy hats are optional; having a good time is not.

4. Buffalo Bill Cody held auditions for his Wild West show on the front porch of the Sheridan Inn. You can audition for a full stomach with the mouth-watering Wyoming steaks served at the hotel’s Open Range restaurant.

5. The Brinton museum has a rammed earth wall built with the same construction methods as the Great Wall of China and expected to last longer. The wall protects a fabulous art collection including paintings by Frederic Remington and Charles Russell.

6. It has a vibrant theatre community. Producers work with Sheridan College to develop and test shows before taking them to major U.S. cities.

sheridan-wyoming7. Queen Elizabeth likes the place. She came for a private holiday in 1984 to see her relatives and admire the horses.

8. There is a herd of bison and elk in town next to Kendrick Park. The Elk Pasture is supported by a 1% local sales tax.

To plan your trip go to:


Eight things you don’t know about Sheridan, Wyoming. Click to Tweet.

My friend, @Reinventure , shares 8 things you don’t know how Sheridan, Wyoming. Click to Tweet.

My friend, @Reinventure , learned these 8 interesting facts about Sheridan, Wyoming on her recent adventure: Click to Tweet.