It’s winter on Mt. Hood! The snow is falling, and our volunteers are busily documenting wildlife activity by surveying for wildlife tracks and keeping our motion-activated cameras baited and working.
The first weekly winter update focuses on Pocket Creek, which is a location we’ll be getting to know well this winter: there are two wildlife cameras there, and the first tracking trip of the season surveyed the flats between Newton Creek and the East Fork of the Hood River there this past Sunday.
When our volunteers get out of their cars at the Pocket Creek Sno-Park, right about where Newton Creek crosses Highway 35, they find themselves at about 3,500 feet, and if they face southwest they may get a glimpse of a ridge that rises to about 5,500 ft. The Badger Creek Wilderness is on the other side of that ridge. As they head into the woods, they find themselves among Doug Firs, Silver Firs, Western Hemlocks, and White Pines in the mid-elevation Silver Fir forest zone.
Cat Tracks and Cameras
Two weekends ago, two volunteers headed up to re-bait their assigned camera from the Pocket Creek Sno-Park as some of the first snows of the season dusted the cold but uncovered ground. They completed their mission, and as they headed back to the car, discovered a completely fresh cat trail. Can you spot the great prints in this picture?
Our two wild cats in the area are bobcats and mountain lions, also known as cougars, and the major distinction between them is size. Our intrepid volunteers didn’t have tracking equipment with them, so they weren’t able to get clear enough measurements to fill out a track log and collect a data point on this cat (a good reminder to camera volunteers that you should be prepared to find cool stuff on your way out to your site!) but they enjoyed following this critter around the woods.
Squirrely with a chance of Weasels
Two weeks later, this past Sunday, our first tracking survey team went to Pocket Creek in the midst of a week when the area got the first significant snowfall of the season. Because the snow was fresh and still falling when they got there, most of the wildlife activity from the past week was covered in a foot of snow.
There was plenty of wildlife activity from the previous few hours, though! While roaming about the flats just south of Newton Creek, the team counted a number of Douglas squirrel and snowshoe hare tracks – tallying these prey species is an important part of our data collection. There was one weasely trail that had the team occupied for a while, following the trail pattern and taking measurements, but it ended up being to squirrely to be conclusive. Overall, though, a great day in the snow!
Thanks for reading, and thanks for all your hard work out there, volunteers! The forecast is calling for more snow on the mountain this week, so there’s more good tracking ahead and slots available in both trips next weekend – sign up now!