text by Kim Shelton, photos by David Moskowitz
Monday morning David and I connected with Dark Woods Preserve manager Adrian Leslie at a coffee shop in the town Salmo. He was incredibly helpful, gave us a map, a forest service road radio to help us not get run over by barreling logging trucks and and then a tour of promising locations on the preserve. We toured through the miles of gravel roads of the Dark Woods preserve, a chunk of land with prime caribou habitat segmented by private land running right through the middle and countless clear cuts.
That afternoon we walked out to Devils Hole lake, a subalpine lake in a remote corner of the preserve, at the end of over 30 km of logging roads. We went hoping to find caribou sign. What we found was ironic: an animal even more rare than the 12 Caribou in the area. We laughed at the rarity of them, wolverine tracks dotted the shoreline of Devils Hole lake.
A white tailed deer grazed in the meadow on the opposite side of the lake as we snuck through the forest along a well used bear trail. Grizzly and black bear tracks marked the ground as we stalked along, pausing for Dave to get some shots of the deer as the mosquitos marauded us and we donned our head nets. We eventually spooked the deer and moved into the meadow to search for caribou sign. Nothing but more bear sign. As we made our way back along the trail Dave excitedly motioned me forward to see “screaming fresh” bear scat – right on the path we walked to come this way. A moment later a crack of breaking branches on the hill! I became very aware of the location of my bear spray on my body. The bear didn’t show itself and we made our way back to the vehicle, pausing to dunk in the lake and ease the itching of mosquito bites all over our bodies.
We drove back to our camp spot, through the nature conservancy – clear cuts and logging roads–always conscious of any tracks in the road dust. An incredible day but no mountain caribou.