Wildlife Tracking at the Slickrock Gathering hosted by B.O.S.S.

Every spring Boulder Outdoor Survival School hosts the Slickrock Gathering, an opportunity for their staff and students to come together and learn primitive skills such as flint knapping, pottery making, and hide tanning. This spring, I was invited to join the gathering to teach wildlife tracking. During three days in the field with a group of instructors for the school, we visited several locations close to Boulder, Utah. We spent the first day focused on learning to identify tracks and interpret the stories left behind in the trails of wildlife.

A myriad of prints of small animals including mice, voles, woodrats, lizards, a snake, and numerous insects were found zigzaggging across the sand protected under this rock overhang along Deer Creek. A myriad of prints of small animals including mice, voles, woodrats, lizards, a snake, and numerous insects were found zig-zaggging across the sand protected under this rock overhang along Deer Creek.
BOSS instructor Lori Jonestrask and Apprenticeship Director and instructor Bryan Puskar inspect the tiny nest of a humingbird found under another overhang along the creek. BOSS instructor Lori Jonestrask and Apprenticeship Director and instructor Bryan Puskar inspect the tiny nest of a humingbird found under another overhang along the creek.

Trailing Elk and Mountain Lion

On the following two days we focused our attention on following the trails of wildlife. One day we spent half the day following the fresh trail of a mountain lion, piecing together the story of her hunt through clearings, aspen stands, open pine forest, and oak scrub over a couple of miles. On the third day we picked up the very fresh trail of a group of elk and followed them, determining they had been foraging above the creek we had been following, eventually abandoning their trail as the heat of the day set in, anticipating their trail heading away from the canyon bottom, was likely leading to where they were currently bedded down.

Trailing a Mountain Lion in southern Utah. We first cut the trail of the mountain lion on an old road southeast of Boulder Mountain.
Left hind track of a mountain lion The left hind track of the mountain lion discovered on the road.
Trailing a Mountain Lion in southern Utah. When the large cat left the road and began meandering through aspen stands, grassy clearings, and through open pine forests, the trail became much more difficult, forcing us to anticipate where we believed the cat likely traveled and search for clues of its passage along this route. This process of prediction and follow up allows the tracker to move much more efficiently across challenging substrates.

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