Reveal That Metazoan! Frenchman Coulee Fuzzy Critter Edition

Let me tear you away from the slopes and Silver Lakes of Mount St. Helens for just a moment here, and take you back in time to the previous trip, when B and I headed to the dry side. We saw some pretty super-awesome things on that journey. One of them was barely visible. I’d never have noticed it, but B’s brain is really good with the something’s-not-like-the-others game. Let’s see if you can spot it.

Image shows a rocky slope, a few sage bushes, and a barely-visible animal that is probably in the Sciuridae family.
Mystery Metazoan I

C wut evolution did thar? No? Okay, I’ll give you some hints: look up to the right of the big bush at the top left. See that thing that looks like a marmot sticking its head over the hill? Yeah, that’s not it, that’s a rock. Look in front of that rock, and you’ll see a gray and rusty-brown little bugger lying flat and doing an A+ job of blending in with its surroundings.

We’d just finished our initial hike around Frenchman Coulee, and were getting ready to head up-Coulee to the Feathers, when B pointed out this awesome little animal on the hillside. At first, I couldn’t see it for anything – in fact, I think I took that first photo blind, just hoping I was in the right general area. Then it seemed to realize we were talking about it, and raised its head.

Image is zoomed in on the critter, which now has its head up. It has small ears that are almost flush with its head, a long face, and a muzzle that looks like a prairie dog or marmot.
Mystery Metazoan II

And lo, I was instantly smitten, because it is a cute and fluffy wild animal.

I don’t think it would ever be interested in being hugged and squeezed and petted and loved and called George, though. In fact, in this next shot, it looks like it’s seriously contemplating a rapid exit, although B and I weren’t anywhere close to it and weren’t trying to climb the hill to see it better.

Image shows it crouching, looking quite nervous now.
Mystery Metazoan III

Timid wee beastie, that. If it’s the same as many others we saw on the trip, this seems to be a species trait. All of them were pretty skittish any time they saw a people.

After a moment, our beastie decided it wasn’t comfortable sunning itself where people could see it, and got up. It checked out the area one more time before it fled.

The wee beastie is now facing toward the bush, giving us the hairy side-eye one last time before it scarpers.
Mystery Metazoan IV

OMG it is darling!

So, I have two questions for you, my darlings: what is it, and what shall we call it?

Oh, and for those who are wondering what the Feathers are, here they are:

Image is taken from a high point on the coulee wall, looking slightly down at a row of basalt columns.
The Feathers of Frenchman Coulee.

Such a lovely stand of basalt columns, left standing single-file by the erosive power of the Missoula Floods! Damn it, now I want to go back there and do all the geology – but gotta work on Mount St. Helens first. Sigh.

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Reveal That Metazoan! Frenchman Coulee Fuzzy Critter Edition
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8 thoughts on “Reveal That Metazoan! Frenchman Coulee Fuzzy Critter Edition

  1. 3

    It’s kinda blurry, but the face looks a lot like that of the groundhogs we have in the mountains of NC.

    I’ve (rather pathetically) rock climbed at the Feathers! After a concert at the Gorge! The formations are amazing, both from a distance and up close.

  2. 4

    Don’t call it George, call it Chuck. As in how much wood could a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck, couldchuck wood. Rock chuck and ground hog are of course equally valid names.

  3. 5

    You should name him George and pet him and squeeze him and rub him and hug him and pet him and squeeze him and pat him and pet him and caress him.

  4. 6

    I’m fairly sure that’s a yellow-bellied marmot. Right size and right location.

    Best you didn’t approach… the yellow-bellied marmot is called such because it uses cowardly hunting tactics, luring prey in with adorableness and then the rest of the pride erupts from the ground swarming the victim until nothing is left.

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