Today up on Cloud Cap in the Cooper Spur area there was fresh, powdery snow about a foot deep with a snow pack of 3 feet or so. The temperatures were in the mid 20's without sun. Since it was so cold and without sun, there was very little snow plops that had fallen from the trees to obscure tracks. Which means that almost everything that looked like a track was a track. Sometimes the snow plops that fall from trees can look deceptively like tracks so it is great news when there are little to none of these plops.
While up exploring Cloud Cap there were a lot of Squirrel tracks and much time was spent on the first set of squirrel tracks that were found because they looked a lot like weasel tracks. After much investigation the group came to discover all the squirrels were imitating weasels by placing their hinds on or very close to their fronts - thus leaving sets of two prints. These two prints were typically staggered a bit. After returning home and reading Elbroch on the subject, it was discovered that this is common for squirrels in deep fluffy snow.
The group used an interesting technique wherein they put a strong flashlight under the tracks. This helped them to see track details that were otherwise difficult to see. Fascinating! Take a look at their technique below:
What an eventful day up on the mountain. It is so nice to have snow back up on the mountain. We are all really excited and hope you are as well.
Today's tracking trip took us to the East side of Mt. Hood, Little John Sno Park.
The group got a chance to compare Douglas Squirrel tracks to Gray Squirrel tracks on the trip, as well as got a valuable data point on Gray Squirrels' presence in that area.
Gray squirrels are found in conifer forests as well on the east side of the cascades, but are pirmarily associated with oak woodlands. Biologists still don't have a good understanding of the extent to which they utilize conifers, or the population size in those areas.
The Little John group also found plenty of signs of Douglas Squirrel activity, including this hole made by a squirrel going down to the base of a small evergreen with scat deposited near the edge.
There were two successful tracking trips this weekend. What a great start to the tracking season. I hope you all can join us on trips this winter!
The wolverine tracking trip this Saturday had a fantastic outing to Clark Creek area of Mt. Hood. We saw heaps of Douglas squirrel tracks around us all day long. A Douglas squirrel even popped out right in front of the group so we were able to see exactly how the animal's movement and its tracks lined up by investigating the fresh tracks that were left behind. It was a wonderful learning opportunity and great practice.
We had fun at the end of our journey puzzling over these tracks below:
They were all over a large open area that had stalks of grass poking through the snow. Using out tracking and detective skills we concluded that these tracks were from birds hopping along to each of the seed bearing grass stalks. There were areas where the tracks seemingly began and end abruptly suggesting to us that this was where the birds landed and took off.
What a great start to the tracking season. It will be fun to see what other experiences the tracking groups have this season. Stay tuned!
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!