Hello all, today was the last tracking trip of this winter season and our trackers this weekend head up to the Clark Creek area. They had originally intended to head for Elk River Meadows to find good snow for tracking, but they quickly discovered that they didn't need to go that far at all to find some great tracks in the snow. Shortly after the group crossed Clark Creek, they came upon a clear fresh trail of a diagonal walker. They of course decided to follow the tracks and figure out what animal left these tracks behind.
While following the trail the animal left behind and investigating the shape and look of the tracks, our perceptive trackers noticed that the tracks at the beginning of the trail had both canine and feline characteristics. The tracks were more oval than round, many had a fairly triangular rear pad, and some had a clear X visible between the pad and toes; all classic canine track characteristics. However, they also saw there were no claws marks present in any of the prints; which are generally indicative of feline tracks. Additionally, the ratio between heel size to toe size appeared to resemble that of a feline; all four toes would fit in the area of the heel.
Find this trail of tracks really peaked the interest of the team so they spent the rest of the day trailing this animal and looking for more clues. They followed the trail for quite a ways as it curved in between trees and traversed logs. In addition to track in the snow the trackers spotted some other signs that were left behind by the animal the were following. Urine was found as well as a spot where the animal stopped to scratch a tree, with clear tracks all along the way. An image of the scratched tree with tracks by it can be seen below:
After looking at hundreds of tracks and all the behavior along the trail, the team felt confident in their decision to identify the trail as that of a bobcat. They also concluded that the animal was likely on the hunt because they spied many squirrel and grey jay trails close by to the bobcat trail. At one point while following the bobcat trail our trackers saw a disturbance in the snow that was the result of the bobcat pouncing. However, it appears that the prey must have escaped, as there was no evidence of a successful kill.
The determined team did a great following several types of animal sign, implementing their tracking knowledge to determine what animal they were following, and had outstanding perception during their hike. Fantastic documentation and drawings, Damon! These great drawings and observations, seen on the data sheet below, supported the group's conclusion of identifying the animal tracks as bobcat.
Thank you to everyone who joined us on the mountain for this year's tracking season. We had a wonderful time with all of you wonderful folks. We are definitely looking forward to our next season of tracking and can't wait for you to join us again.
Greeting all! This weekend, our adventurous trackers took a trip out to the Pocket Creek area, and found a lot of interesting animal tracks and sign, despite difficult snow conditions.
They found quite a number of snowshoe hare tracks, and their scat. When they cut off the trail into the thicker cover that these nervous prey species and are very fond of, they found even more, including this great set featured below:
And where there are snowshoe hare, there are inevitably carnivorous animals looking to eat snowshoe hares. The team found some wandering tracks going into and out of thick cover where the snowshoe hares tracks were observed. The melted snow conditions meant that the tracks were actually higher than the snow around them, which meant there was very little detail to use for a definitive identification of these particular tracks.
What the team could tell, though, was that this animal had a diagonal gait in the acceptable range for a bobcat, and that the way the trail went in and out of thick areas also suggested it could be a bobcat. Despite the lack of detail in the tracks, the group was able to use other tracking information to come to a conclusion. Great job everyone!
The trackers found an interesting spot where a good deal of tree bark was removed on pine trees. They made sure to get a very close look, because large sections of bark removed from trees can be a sign of porcupine, one of our target species.
Careful investigation is the key to good tracking, as this team demonstrated well! They took measurements of the incisor marks from the animal that had done this, and found them to me 1/8" or less -- too small for a porcupine, but just right for a squirrel! Way to use your data and skills, team!
Our intrepid weekend tracking adventurers had a fun and eventful tracking day out in the wilderness near Laurence Lake on the north side of Mt. Hood that ended with a pretty full tally data sheet by the end of the day trip. When the group set out on their journey the temperatures were hovering slightly about the freezing point. .
They set out right at the old Laurence Lake campground site and the first animal sign they encountered was a fresh beaver chew at the edge of the lake, which is featured in the picture to the right.
What a great find!
Upon discovering this example of Beaver sign, the group wondered about beaver winter cycles and did some research wherein, they learned that beavers don't hibernate. Instead, the mostly stay in their lodges or burrows and feed off of food caches of sticks that they collect and stash underwater during the warmer months of the year. If Beavers are out and about currently, which this fresh chew indicates, it must be a sign that we are seeing that spring is beginning to spring. At the end of the day, our tracking team spent more time on the water and continued to find more signs of recent beaver activity. They even spotted what they believed to be food caches. Look at the stick piles under the water in the photo below:
After leaving the lake's edge and doing some more hiking and exploration, the group was rewarded with a beautiful fresh bobcat trail, and a set of squirrel tracks. Later on, they found an unusual set of snowshoe hare tracks; the gait was unusual and there were deep foot drags present. What do you think tracking detectives? Could this have been a wounded rabbit? And then, as if coyote and deer scat weren't enough, the team finished a perfect day with a rainbow laden snow shower on the way home!
Today our tracking team visited the Frog Lake Buttes area, where snow conditions were pretty poor; it had rained much more recently than snowed. Despite the poor snow condition, it was a great reminder that there are many ways animals leave signs of their activity other than tracks in the snow. The group found some aged and weathered scat that was either coyote or bobcat as well as a few areas where snowshoe hare were clearly frequenting, leaving behind a large quantity of scat.
The most extensive droppings found on top of the snow weren't scat, they were tree droppings, so the group took the chance to brush up on their tree identification. Knowing your trees is an important aspect of tracking, because it helps you identify the forest type you are in and know what kind of animal life you can expect there. We looked at the trees themselves, and also at cones they dropped. In the picture below, from left to right: Douglas Fir, Mountain Hemlock, and Western Hemlock cones. Can you spot the differences?