“The January moon brightens, like a clear day.”
~ A Sicilian Proverb
The days have been clear and wonderfully warm. Within a few days, the first full moon of the new year will appear. This certain one is no brighter than any other, but perhaps more appreciated during the dark days of mid-winter.
Native American tribes, long before most of our ancestors arrived, named each month’s moon. The names varied among the tribes, but were based on the weather, activity or important event at that time. Some tribes refer to the January moon as the Snow Moon, but most reserve that name for February when snow is deepest in the northern climates. Even so, this moon is commonly known as the Wolf Moon. Whatever you call it, a full moon in the midst of winter often appears so bright that the night takes on a mystical glow from the moonlight as it reflects off the surrounding landscape. A vision worth howling about!
Neither wolf nor snow accurately describe a January moon in the Crescenta Valley. You may hear coyotes howling as they roam down from the mountains. But no wolves remain in Southern California except in captivity. The likelihood of snow is real, though. It can – and does – happen, although not predictably from year to year.
One hundred years ago, wolves roamed our area. Coyotes were not the “top dog” back in those days. The wolf held an important place in the Western ecosystems. Deer and elk were genetically stronger, as the wolf would prey on the weakest in the herd. They were also known to harass coyotes, which have become a significant problem in rural areas. (We can relate to this.) Wolves were eradicated across the West in the early 1900s by hunters and trappers who saw them as a threat to livestock. The last wild wolf documented in California was killed by a trapper in Trinity County in 1924 and is now considered an endangered species. Over the past few years, a lone wolf – OR7 – has made its way from the Oregon Cascades into northern California. It will take years before a mature established pack forms. Watch out, coyotes!
I remember when I was in college being awake in the early morning hours (studying no doubt). This particular time was in January after a big storm and the skies had just cleared. I looked up at the mountains toward Mount Lukens. The picture was a snow scene, brilliantly lit by a full moon. Not able to contain my awe, I woke the whole house.
Mountain snow showers are forecast as a low moves in from Alaska. Colder temperatures and rain are expected to affect us into next week. Exact amounts and timing has not been established as yet.
Saturday, Jan. 26: Full Moon. However, I prefer to call it the “Umbrella Moon.”
Sue Kilpatrick is a
Crescenta Valley resident and
Official Skywarn Spotter for the
National Weather Service. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.