We had another great tracking outing this past weekend to Clark Creek. A small amount of snow fell in the early hours of the morning, so the tracking conditions were pretty good, despite rain that was falling on and off during the day while the team was out. The animals that walked on the fresh snow left very clear tracks.
Today was a great opportunity for our group to get a good look at fresh tracks in the snow, and as with several trips lately, do some coyote trailing. They followed the Coyote trail for quite awhile, through many changes in its trail pattern. They were able to have discussion about what behaviors or motivations might have caused the animal to move in various ways they were seeing as they tracked the Coyote. Eventually, the fleet-of-foot coyote made a jump across a creek, and our wise trackers abandoned the trail rather than risk any leaps of faith weighed down with their day packs and snowshoes. They did document a few particularly good Coyote tracks, like this very clear front/rear double register -- the glove is for scale.
The team also saw snowshoe hare tracks, Douglas squirrel tracks, and mouse tracks; which are a tiny treat to find in fresh snow. Additionally, they found some great bird tracks, which they identified as most likely raven, and some very aged mystery tracks that started some fun hypothesizing.
We hope to see you all out on the mountain soon! There are only three trips left this season, and all of them have space for more trackers, so grab your chance to squeeze in one more snowy trip to the mountain this season on the sign-up page!
Hello, Wolverine Tracking Project Team!
I am excited about all of the fascinating little critters our trackers found signs of at White River this past weekend.
Our two teams that ventured to White River this weekend reported that they found small tracks and sign that we don't see very often: flying squirrel and mountain beaver. In addition, there were also weasel, hare, and Douglas squirrel track sightings for both of the groups.
How do you recognize flying squirrel tracks? It's kind of hard! Our trackers actually didn't realize what they were at the time, but took careful notes and measurements and turned to reference materials at home. Based on the track characteristics and the tell-tale sign that the front feet consistently registered ahead of the rears, they concluded it had been flying squirrel tracks. Very cool!
Our other weekend tracking team found signs of an unusual small creature, the mountain beaver. I've been lucky enough to see the signs of their burrows and twig munching only a few times in my life, and this team found a young Doug Fir sapling that was a mountain beaver buffet. How did they recognize it? The sapling caught their eye because it was missing so many branches, from ground level up to 6 feet plus. They carefully observed the cuts on the ends of the branches, noting the clean ends and that they had been cut at different times, more recently and further back. Then they ran through a series on who it could have done that, noticed that they were right next to a stream (mountain beaver habitat!) and figured it out.
Check out this picture of the chewed branches our team found:
Thank you very much to all of our exploring, teams! I hope to see you all out on the mountain soon. Let's see what other exciting finds we discover this tracking season!
P.S. Here is a little extra fun puzzle for you all. Who do you made these holes that Chris is standing next to?
Cascadia Wild trip Leaders Lela, Paul, and Chris headed up to the Cooper Spur with 29 volunteers to snowshoe and track animals in the areas for the day in partnership with BARK. BARK is a local group whose mission is "to transform Mt. Hood National Forest into a place where natural processes prevail, where wildlife thrives and where local communities have a social, cultural, and economic investment in its restoration and preservation." For more information on BARK please click on this link: http://bark-out.org/content/about-bark
What a great collaboration event and turnout! It was a very fun day of tracking and learning for all. Also, happy 157th birthday Oregon!
Stay tuned, there are many more tracking outings for this winter season coming up. See you again soon.
Snowy greetings, trackers!
Saturday's trip to Timberline was beautiful and successful! It started out overcast, but the clouds cleared up enough to get some beautiful close up views of the mountain and into the valley in the other direction. As always during ski season, it was a bit of a trek at first going under the ski lifts and dodging skiers, but once the group made it past that area, it started to feel really remote, with no footprints other than our trackers and the critters they were searching for.
The snow quality for tracking was excellent, thanks to fresh snow the night before. The team found a weasel trail appearing and disappearing as it moved in and out of the tree well. Not too much animal activity was discovered further on aside from some coyote tracks which turned into the big story of the day.
The adventurous trackers followed the coyote trail as it went up a hill, turned around, then headed back down the slope. It even found a spot where it rested a bit on its haunches before taking off down the hill. Along the way, the coyote marked a few places with urine (February is mating season for coyotes) and the trail ran along the edge of a steep canyon that is probably one of the more prominent features of the landscape around there, so it's a great time and place for marking.
As they continued to follow the trail, and got to a place where they saw more coyote trails (possibly from the same animal looping back, but it could have been three trails from three animals travelling together) the group was tempted to keep following to investigate, but due to it being later in the day and the start of heavy snow, they turned back towards the cars to head home.
Continuing to keep a watchful eye for tracks on the return trip. they saw one set of Douglas squirrel tracks on their way out, confirming that these squirrels are up even where the trees start to thin out.
Thank you so much for all your work, trackers. The snow conditions have been great, and there is a lot of great tracking left to do this winter. See you soon!
Today involved a trek out to Barlow Pass to visit one of the cameras that is set up in the area. We have several cameras set up on Mt. Hood to assist us with our efforts of collecting data on forest carnivores. The cameras allow us to have visual confirmation of animals in the area. From time to time to batteries need to be changed in the cameras as well as the pictures on the camera data cards need to be collected. Therefore, we periodically head out to the sites where our camera are located to check on them.
Even though the goal of today was to check on the camera the group kept their eyes open for animal tracks and signs.
On the journey today the snow under the trees was nothing but continuous snow plops which made for poor tracking. However, in the open areas there was about half an inch of new snow that showed new tracks really well. Many hare and Douglas squirrels tracks were seen as well as a weasel, which is shown below:
Once the group made it to the camera location they were surprised to see that the camera had about 6,700 pictures on it! It is very unsual to get this many photos on our cameras, usually there are only a couple hundred captured. The group surmised that a wealth of the pictures probably featured many Grey jays, as Grey jays often frequent meat bait that is put out near the cameras. A Grey jay was even feasting on the new meat bait that was placed out even before they left.
The camera check mission was very successful and the weather was sunny, warm, and beautiful all day long. In the coming weeks the pictures that were taken by this camera will be sorted through and we hope there are many pictures of forest carnivores among the 6,700 pictures.
Happy tracking and exploring to you all!