At the end of September, 10 hearty wildlife trackers braved wind and many inches of rain to have their skills evaluated and certified by Mark Elbroch and myself along the Columbia River and in the Oregon Coast range. Here are a few highlights from the evaluation.
Despite very challenging field conditions due to the weather, eight Level III certificates were awarded during this evaluation and one Level I certificate. For a complete list of certified wildlife trackers in North America click here.
In August, Erin Smart and I took a week-long trip to the world famous Bugaboo Mountains in the Purcell Range of British Columbia. Here an amazing collection of granite spires rise out of alpine glaciers draw climbers from around the world while temperamental weather conditions add to the unpredictable nature of climbing in the area.
This July I made my first trip to the heart of the Canadian Rockies, having previously only been as far north as Waterton National Park along the Canadian-United States boarder. Joined by fellow adventurer Marcus Reynerson, we departed Seattle on a sunny Thursday, bound for some of the tallest and grandest mountains in North America.
Wildlife of the Canadian Rockies in Banff and Jasper National Parks
Marcus and I spent a number of days exploring alpine tundra, high mountain meadows, wetlands and riparian corridors searching for tracks and signs of wildlife. Highlights included signs of black and grizzly bears, Canadian lynx, and lots of moose and elk sign. Feeding sign of several species of woodpeckers was another highlight in the dense spruce-fir forests which dominated much of the lower elevations of the mountains.
Road Ecology and Wildlife Crossing Structures in Banff National Park
Given my involvement in an ongoing research project on wildlife and road ecology in the Washington Cascades (Cascade Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project), I was very excited to check out the crossing structures and fencing along Canadian Highway 1 which runs through the Bow River Valley in the heart of Banff National Park. The design of these structures was ground breaking work for the field and much of the design of our project in the Cascades was deeply influenced by this project.
Snow, Ice, and Rock on One of the Tallest Peaks in the North Cascades
In early June, two colleagues of mine from Northwest Outward Bound School, Trever Waage and Joel Reid, and I set off to climb the Stuart Glacier Couloir, a classic steep snow/ice and rock route on the north side of Mount Stuart, one of the tallest non-volcanic peaks in the Cascades.
This month, Mount St. Helens Institute hosted a Cybertracker Conservation Track and Sign Certficiation in the southern Washington Cascades. The Institute’s mission is to promote stewardship, science and appreciation of volcanic landscapes of Mount St. Helens and the Pacific Northwest. We spent two days examining the wide variety of wildlife tracks and signs found in the forests south of Mount St. Helens.
Congratuations to Maggie Starr, Tonja Spanish-Fish and Lloyd Murray who earned a Level 1 Certification and to Teri Lysak who earned a Level 3 Certification. For a complete list of certified trackers in North America click here. To learn more about Cybertracker Conservation and Track and Sign Certification click here or visit cybertracker.org.
Endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals on Kauai’s Napali Coast
During my recent trip to the Napali Coast in Hawaii I camped out on the Kalalau beach with Darcy Ottey. One afternoon, after a walk in the jungle, we returned to the beach to discover an endangered Hawaiian monk seal had hauled out on the beach. We watched it for several hours before it returned to the ocean during an evening downpour. A few weeks later the New York Times ran a really interesting article, “Who would kill a monk seal?” by Jon Mooallem which explores the complex history and current situation around the conservation of this species, endemic to the Hawaiian island chain.
Check out more photos of this monk seal and the Hawaiian islands here or more conservation oriented photographs here!
May marked the end of this years Wildlife Tracking Intensive at Wilderness Awareness School. We spent one more weekend exploring wild lands in the region looking for tracks and signs of wildlife and testing our skills in the field.
Advanced Path Student Projects
Saturday afternoon our two Advanced Path students presented on their research projects.
Thanks to all of our students this year for their passion for developing their skills as wildlife trackers and naturalists! It was another great year!
Interested in learning more about the Wildlife Tracking Intensive? Check it out here! Applications now being accepted for next years class which starts in September!
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.
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.
In early May I had the opportunity to travel to northern Arizona to deliver a Trailing workshop and a Track and Sign Certification around Flagstaff and Sedona for a group of local naturalists, hosted by Earth Encounters LLC. While I was in Arizona, I also gave a slideshow on Wolves in the Pacific Northwest hosted by the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project.
During the two day trailing workshop, participants practiced various component skills which are required to effectively and efficiently follow the trail of an animal over challenging terrain. These include detecting tracks in grass, leaf litter and other challenging substrates, anticipating how an animal will likely move across the landscape, and stealth in movement so as not to alert the animal being trailed to your presence. After a morning of exercises we spent the afternoon trailing a group of mule deer for several hours, finally getting to observe them foraging as an afternoon thunderstorm rolled in. On the second day we spent the day trailing a small herd of elk through a forested landscape.
Track and Sign Certification
Day 1 of the Track and Sign certification took place outside of Sedona, in a desert landcape and along the riparian corridor of a stream. Species whose tracks we encountered included kit fox, bobcat, kangaroo rat, striped skunk, black bear, river otter, beaver, coyote, cottontail rabbit, and lizard among many others.
On the second day of the evaluation we spent the day in a forested area outside of Flagstaff where we encountered a wide variety of signs of wildlife including acorn woodpeckers, elk, deer, bobcat, coyote, deer mice, and jackrabbits.
9 people received certificates from the evaluation:
Level 1: John Behrman, Adam Bailey, Rayne Zhaughsome