Volunteers were diligently combing the mountain for wildlife this weekend, documenting a number of species. The trackers that were out explored two new areas for this season, on the South side of Mt. Hood.
Saturday’s tracking team was made up of participants in Cascadia Wild’s Tracking Intensive, who spend eight sessions exploring different habitats around Portland and diving deep into the art and science of tracking. Having covered several lowland habitats so far this year, they explored the Teacup Lake area up on the mountain. It's a gently sloping area at a little over 4,000 ft. elevation on the Southeast side of Mt. Hood, not far from Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort.
As they explored the area, they found tracks of the prey species we’re used to, snowshoe hare and Douglas Squirrel, and some harder to spot signs as well. The team recorded elk antler rub, though it was from several seasons past, and sign of the elusive Aplonondtia, or Mountain Beaver. If you’re not familiar with this creature, the world’s most primitive living rodent, read up on the Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife website.
In addition to those subtle signs, the team also found an unusual but hard-to miss coyote sign: a spot where I coyote had dug under a log, likely on the hunt for small rodents overwintering in the snow underneath it.
What was the coyote digging for? Well, Sunday’s tracking team found tracks of one likely prey species: Deer Mouse.
They found the tracks on a trip that started at Barlow Pass, due south of Mt. Hood's peak, and descended along the Barlow Creek drainage to the beautiful area at Devil’s Half Acre Meadow, a little under 4,000 ft. elevation. The meadow is a flat, moist, open area with steep slopes to the East and West, and the pass itself to the North. Barlow Creek flows south out of the meadow, towards Palmateer Meadows further on. There’s a campground on one edge of Devil's Half Acre, complete with an outhouse, but in the winter it’s usually free of human visitors.
They also found tracks of a bird in the snow, marveled at local lichen, and found at least one mystery track, on which they did thorough research and documentation. The final word? Likely, though not certainly a bobcat.
And here’s an update from our camera crews:
Volunteers are hard at work hauling in footage from the field, rebaiting cameras, and sorting through footage! We look forward to sharing some highlights with you soon. Just as soon as we sort through some of the somewhat less exciting photos, like these from the Lost Lake area.
Stay tuned for more in the next Winter Weekly!