It was another busy weekend for Cascadia Wild volunteers up on Mt. Hood! Tracking teams went out on Sunday and Monday this week to lower-elevation sites on the West Side of the mountain, including the beautiful Salmon River area, pictured above. And at the same time, camera teams were venturing out to refresh bait and returning with memory cards full of photos.
In this edition of the winter weekly, we'll look at what we've learned about these areas, including a look at three weeks worth of camera footage. Read on for some tracking adventures and the full story in pictures of three weeks in the winter woods.
Sunday's trackers took advantage of low snow levels to explore the Salmon River area, at about 1,500 feet. Much lower than many of the spots we've been tracking, they saw a lot of deer activity, including feeding sign and a site where two deer bedded down for a rest.
They saw squirrel bird activity along the river (a woodpecker and a dipper), as well as bird tracks, and also had fun examining the moss, lichens, and trees in the area. Can anyone identify this fungus?
On Monday, a second tracking team ventured just slightly higher in elevation to Sandy River Flats, where we also have wildlife cameras. They found deer tracks, as well, and had a chance to follow a fresh coyote trail, even finding a place it had urinated. And of course, snowshoe hare and squirrels had been bounding about, leaving plenty of tracks to tally.
So with that tracking-based assessment of active wildlife in the area, is anyone curious what our wildlife cameras saw? We sure were, and volunteers recently brought back footage fresh from the field of January 28 through February 20 right there at Sandy River Flats.
Let's explore what the camera saw over those three weeks. The first picture on every memory card is of the volunteer who set it up, making any last adjustments to that motion activated camera.
After volunteers set this camera up, there were quite a few quiet days, and only a light dusting of snow. The cameras are set to take a picture once a day, even if the sensor isn't activated, and that's what we're seeing here. It was clear for several days, and then there was some snow accumulation.
And then, a week after the camera was set, the first animal visitor came by. This bobcat had already taken a sniff and began to keep going by the time the camera caught it, and then turned around for a second look. All these pictures were taken in a few short seconds -- note the time stamp.
And that was it! The cat must have darted out of the frame before it could trigger the camera again. Camera shy, perhaps?
All we have on a daylight view of the tracks it left behind, and even they were quickly obscured by melting snow and falling twigs over the next couple days.
Then, in the middle of the night almost two weeks after the camera was set, we have another visitor -- a raccoon. This one pokes around and rips off a piece of the bait to eat. After that snack, though, it's eaten its fill, and it's gone.
There are no easy tracks left behind, and snow conditions continue to deteriorate as it warms up over the next week. There's not a visitor to be photographed, or at least not one that triggers the camera's sensor.
And then comes the final mammal of every camera roll -- the next volunteer, coming to change out the memory card.
Pretty interesting, right? Our tracking survey detected deer, coyote, squirrel, and snowshoe hare, none of which appeared on camera. And the camera detected bobcat and raccoon, neither of which left us tracks at the right time.
Looks like it takes a lot of time and multiple tools to get a full picture of what's going on up on the mountain. Thank goodness there are volunteers like you making it all happen!