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September 24, 2010     The Catalina Islander
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September 24, 2010
 

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Adopt a Species: GROU'N D SI UIRREL :BY BOB RHEIN The Catalina California ground squir- rel (Spermophilus beecheyi nesioticus) is endemic (exclusively native) to Catalina. It's a unique sub-species of its main- land counterpart. Slightly larger and more robust than mainland California ground squirrels, it is identified by its darker coat with less dis~ct shoulder patches. Catalina is the only Channel Island with a ground squirrel species and because sloping ground near rocky areas or under trees or logs. The burrow system may be elaborate, with six to 20 entrances. The tunnel lengths average 35 feet, and range from three to 138 feet. There are three types of burrows. Male burrows are simple and are usually dug at the outskirts of the colony. The long, complex nest burrows are occupied by females with young. Long, multi-branched colonial burrows are used by both sexes and the young after leaving the nest burrow. ground squirrels ~e diurnal (active during :" :' Catalina California" ground squirrels ~ d~r)tl~'y~ak~:' e~iy k/i~ibi~,~6 i~lahd ' ~e;co~mon al()ng roadsides and in grass- ~jl~r~). The scmntlfic name, beecheyi, was bestowed upon ti~ ~ihimal by its origi- nal describer, Captain F. W. Beechey. The Catalina California ground squir- rel is 8 to 10 inches tall when sitting upright, approximately 17 to 19 inches in total length including its taft and weighs 10 to 26 ounces. They may live as long as six years in captivity, but average three to four years in the wild. California ground squirrels are most active during the day. They may become lethargic for periods of time when food is scarce and temperatures are extreme. " T~ie';;~L~Lng of inactivity varies greatly with individuals, populations, weather, and habitat. Cover and protection is provided by burrows excavated in loose soils, often on 'land habitats. Open terrain offering a clear view of potential predators is preferable, while nearby rocks, logs, and fences are often used as lookouts. The ground squirrel is listed as the Island's largest native herbivore with a diet stems and leaves of grasses forbs, and trees, seeds, nuts, acorns, fruits, bulbs, and fungi. They may be more accurately documented as ommvores as they may also eat some insects, bird eggs, and carrion.A popula- tion estimate based on capthre-recapture success has not taVen place on Catalina. one month. The Catalina ground squirrel litter rang- es between three and 15 young per litter. Females usually produce only one litter per year, but have })een known, to produce two litters per year on occa- sion. Young are weaned at about 55 days and are full- grown in 7 to 8 months. Catalina ground squir- rels live a relatively shel- tered life on the Island, however, among their main threats are motor vehicles. Building their burrows on the berm of roads, they are often seen crossing the road back and forth, which puts them in harm's way. Speed limits on the Island roads are designed to help keep road fatalities for all Island animals to a minimum. Also, ground squirrels, especially the young, can fall prey to Island foxes and feral cats. Through the Con~ervancy's new The Catalina California ground squirrel is Adopt a Specmsprogram, you can play omm Only'seen fl oughout the iSland and aleading r-oi - : orotection and is considered very abundant, especially management on Catalina Island. Choose during years of above average rainfall, a "syrabolic adoption" from among four Peak mating activity occurs March of Catalina's iconic and endemic species through June with gestation of only including the Catalina California quaff; the federally endangered, endemic Catalina Island fox; the endemic Catalina Island ground squirrel; and the iconic American bison, introduced to the Island in 1924. Starting at just $100, you can partner with Conservancy wildlife biologists to protect these and other Island species and help them continue to thrive. For m o~e inforination, visit: catalinaconservancy. org and click on Adopt a Species on the home page. READY. FOR HiS In 1926, while filming "The King-of Kings," director Cecil B, DeMille moved his cast and crewto Catalina Island. There, while shooting the Galilee and loaves-and- fishes sequences, he housed everyone in tents to promote a sense of community on the project. Not everyone was happy with the tents, including H. B. Warner, the actor-playing Christ, One day, in the middle of a scene, a yacht sailed into camera range. When an enraged DeMille learned that the yacht belonged to his leading man, he said, "If I thought Mr. Warner needed a yacht, I'd have brought my own. Just who does he think he is?" "Jesus Christ, sir," replied a crew mem- ber. DeMille digested this and then s,~d, "That puts me at something of a disadvan- tage, doesn't it?'.Mark it down as one of the very few times anyone ever got the better of Cecil B. DeMille. The superb film historian Scott Eyman includes this anecdote in his admiring and exhaustive new DeMille biography, "Empire of Dreams," a life of the man who, as much as anyone, forged our idea of Hollywood. Here and elsewhere, Eyman labors to unlock the contradictions in DeMille's puzzling personality, or at least to put some flesh on the legend. Good as Eyman is, it's uphill all the way. DeMille was a master showman onscreen and off. No one ever worked harder to mold a pub- lic mask or keep it in place. He ruled with a despot's hand and a hambone's instincts. From his knee-high boots right up to the megaphone through which he communi- cated to his casts of-thousands, he culti- vated an image of dashing, unquestionable authority. Nearly all of our cliches about imperious movie directors come straight from him. Struggling to penetrate DeMille's facade, Eyman never gets much beyond establishing that the filmmaker was an autocrat on the set and a kindly man at home (albeit one with three mistresses). But there is almost no time--~r reason---to tabulate flaws. Told at a breakneck pace, "Empire of Dreams" resembles nothing so much as a DeMille movie--gaudy, corny and enthralling. For an unparalleled half century, DeMille was one of the most power- ful, successful producer-directors in Hollywood. And yet, on contemporary lists of great directors, he often goes unmentioned. His historical and biblical epics, with their strange brew of piety and prurience, are no longer the fashion. And his right-wing bullying during the blacklist era only cemented the image of an out-of- step reactionary with nothing to offer a modern audience. His fellow directors are wiser about DeMille's accomplishments. Martin Scorsese claims that on/y Steven SpieJberg knows as much as DeMille about manipu- lating crowds onscreen. Better yet, DeMilIe at his best always knew how to make a movie move. The special effects in "The Ten Commandments" look clunky today, but the story never flags. Every scene sets up the next, and the film holds your inter- est whether you like it or not (and yes, it's always worth waiting around for Anne Baxter to deliver one of the great howl- er lines in cinema history: "Oh, Moses, Moses, you stubborn, splendid, adorable fool"). Cecil B. DeMille was a storyteller of genius--a genius without shame, but a genius just the same. The CATALINA ISLANDER Page $ i Friday, September 24; 2010