Ever wondered what's it like to spend a night in the woods, the way the animals do? Many animals, in fact, are most active during the night and early morning hours. Well, some of our trackers made an overnight snow camping trip to Twin Lakes this weekend to see for themselves.
The team of six hiked to the upper lake on a beautiful, overcast Saturday with light snow falling. Some equipment failures slowed progress, but they managed to repair a broken snowshoe with an extra strap, and made it to the lake in plenty of time to scout for a good campsite.
For their sleeping quarters, about half the group used sturdy tents, and the other half built snow caves to sleep in. The strategy of using snow for insulation is actually one that many animals use during the winter, especially small mammals. Sure looks cozy!
Our volunteers got a good night's sleep, but there was a lot of action in the forest. Many animals come out at night (you've probably heard the term for that -- nocturnal) or they prowl the forest at dawn and dusk (you may not have heard the term for that -- crepuscular).
Of course, animals don't stick to strictly one time period, and a good example is the creature we caught on video recently:
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It's a coyote checking out our bait and passing it by -- guess he wasn't interested in a midnight snack.
Here's another nighttime shot, of tracks left by a snowshoe hare. The motion detector on this camera must have been sleeping on the job, because it wasn't quite quick enough on the shutter to catch the hare itself.
And here's a creature we often associate with crepuscular activity: the bobcat. We caught a series of shots of this one on camera just as the day was starting to brighten beneath the forest canopy.
With all that going on in the woods, our volunteers sleeping by the Lake were excited to get up and get tracking. They found a remarkable number of squirrel trails, and a very special set of bobcat tracks: The bobcat had come through about a day earlier, and left tracks in soft, melty snow, perhaps at the end of a day's sun and melting. Overnight, the tracks froze and then later were covered with snow. When the volunteers first saw them, they were just faint depressions in the snow, but when they melted the top layer of snow with their hands, they could feel the toe prints -- now those are tracking conditions you don't find every day.
While they were out looking for wildlife, though, some wildlife took the opportunity to visit their camp: ravens. These bold and hungry birds made their way into one of the ice caves and managed to open and pick through a food bag, taking with them two bagel and egg sandwiches and leaving nothing but crumbs. Chalk that one up to a lesson learned in food security!
Perhaps because they were mourning the bagel sandwiches, the volunteers didn't get any pictures of the tell-tale raven tracks, but did snap these fresh songbird tracks in the snow:
That's all for this week, but there'll be more soon, thanks to all our intrepid volunteer explorers! Thanks for all you do to keep Cascadia Wild.