Creeping Voles Exposed

While scouting for teaching locations for the Wildlife Tracking Intensive at the end of April, Alexia Allen and I spotted a small rodent moving through the leaf litter in a riparian forest close to the Hoh River on the west side of the Olympic Peninsula. I quickly reached down and captured the little grey creature who was kind enough to pose for a few photographs!

mg_4522.jpg?w=200 Creeping voles are a relatively small species of Microtus, typically found in forests here in the Northwest.
mg_4637.jpg?w=300 Field marks which identify this as a creeping vole include its small size, short tail, and small ears which blend into it fur as well as its forest habitat.
mg_4588.jpg?w=300 Creeping vole (Microtus oregoni)
mg_4519.jpg?w=300 Alexia Allen carefully handles the vole by its ruff.

 

Cybertracker Conservation Track and Sign Certification Event in the Swan Valley, Montana

Senior Tracker and Evaluator Mark Elbroch points out some of the finer details of a track during a discussion of one of the questions on the Evaluation.

Congratulations to all 11 folks who participated in the Track and Sign Certification Event in wild Swan Valley of northwestern Montana this past weekend, all of whom earned a certificate through Cybertracker Conservation!The event was hosted by Northwest Connections in the very quiet town of Condon. It was great getting to know more about this creative and inspiring organizaiton whose mission to “Integrate Science, Education and Community in the Conservation of Rural Working Landscapes”. I highly recommend any and all of the various educational opportunities they have to offer and hope to be back there soon! A special thanks also to Nick Sharp, Wildlife Conservation Society Biologist, and Doctoral student at the University of Montana, who organized the event (and put in a stellar performance on the Evaluation!)Over the course of the two days of the Evaluation, participants were given 70 different questions about tracks and signs discovered in the field. Species varied from voles to grizzly bears and the handiwork of everything from a bushytailed woodrat to a backhoe. Along with covering as diverse a set of tracks and signs as is possible over two days, the evaluation includes questions ranging from very simple (such as a clear deer track) to very challenging (such as interpreting the behavior of an elk which had scraped bark off of the trunk of an aspen with its incisors). For more information on Cybertracker Conservation Wildlife Tracking Evaluation methods click here.

mg_4329.jpg?w=200 Senior Tracker Brian McConnell, who assisted in delivering the evaluation, points out one of the questions, marks on an aspen tree to Adam Lieberg, Conservation Program Program Coordinator at Northwest Connections. Adam correctly interpreted them to be made by a black bear which had climbed the tree.

Here are photos of some of the things that were on the Evaluation and the questions about them. All questions are based on actual tracks and signs discovered in the field by evaluators during the Evaluation. After all of the participants have the opportunity to answer each question, the track or sign is discussed as a group and the evaluators carefully explain the correct answer and discuss why it could or could not be various other species, often using illustrations and other resources to help illustrate key features.

mg_41811.jpg?w=200 What species and which foot? Front and hind tracks of a red fox.
mg_4212.jpg?w=200 What species, which foot, and what was the sex of this animal? The left hind foot of a female mountain lion
mg_4248.jpg?w=200 What species (in regards to the lower tracks)? The front and hind foot of a wolf (above are the track of a whitetailed deer).
mg_4267.jpg?w=200 What happened to these shrubs? Tim Nelson inspects the work of a buck deer which left these marks on a serviceberry shrub with its antlers the previous fall, a marking behavior associated with courtship and breeding activities.
mg_4276.jpg?w=300 Who removed the bark from this burl on a lodgepole pine? From left to right, Track and Sign Specialist Matt Nelson, Mark Elbroch, Preston Taylor and Adam Lieberg discuss a contentious question, a burl on a lodgepole pine which had been debarked by a red squirrel.mg_4289.jpg?w=200
mg_4289.jpg?w=200 Who left this track? The weathered footprint of a grizzly bear.
mg_4325.jpg?w=200 Mark and Jenn Wolfe discuss one of the harder questions on the evaluation, the identity of a jawbone found in the field–in this case a wolf! Mandibles were not in short supply, and the striped skunk and black bear jawbone were also questions on the Evaluation.
mg_4349.jpg?w=300 Who made this hole? A foraging badger.
img_0838.jpg?w=300 Congratulations to everyone who participated and earned a certificate at the event!

Interested in participating in a Certification Event or hosting one? Find a list of future events I am running at davidmoskowitz.net. Our North American website for all Tracking Certification events is currently underconstruction. Send me an email if you want to discuss details on hosting an event or links to Certification Events in other parts of the country!

Pulling Down At Frenchman Coulee

Thanks to Erin Smart and Forest McBrian for putting up with a lens in their direction during a beautiful couple of days  of climbing in Frenchman Coulee in Eastern Washington.

mg_39841.jpg?w=200 Mountain guide and photographer Erin Smart clips them on “Clip Em or Skip Em”, 5.8 on Sunshine Wall.
mg_39931.jpg?w=200 Soaring with the cliff swallows.

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mg_4034.jpg?w=200 IFMGA certified Mountain guide Forest McBrian racks up for his next climb
mg_40462.jpg?w=200 Forest Mcbrian getting started on the Vantage classic “Air Guitar”, 5.10a, on Sunshine Wall.

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Wolf Tracking In Wisconsin

mg_33912.jpg?w=200 Front track of an adult Wisconsin wolf.

Just home from a week and a half of adventuring in northern Wisconsin where I participated in a collaboration between Teaching Drum Outdoor School and Wilderness Awareness School on Wisconsin Wolf Tracking Expedition, joined by former Wilderness Awareness School Instructor and founder of the Earth Native Wilderness School, David Scott. Teaching Drum hosted the program which was held very close to the School’s home base near the town of Three Lakes, Wisconsin.Despite unseasonably warm conditions on several of the days and a lack of fresh snow for the first half of the class, snow conditions allowed us to peice together some amazing stories about the wolves of the region and the other wildlife that share the North Woods with them.

mg_3410.jpg?w=300 My coinstructor, and founder of the Earth Native Wilderness School, David Scott, inspects the recent scent marking activity of a wolf under a large hemlock tree just off of a forest service road in the Nicolet National Forest.

 

img_00082.jpg?w=300 David Scott and Teaching Drum staff member Chris Bean discuss the home range of the Giant Pine Pack which the class spent several days tracking.
mg_3430.jpg?w=300 Prior to the start of the program, Teaching Drum founder Tamarack Song took David Scott and I out to visit the folks participating in the rigorous 11 month long Wilderness Guides Program.
mg_34402.jpg?w=300 The participants in the Wilderness Guides Program invited us into their sleeping shelter, where they are weathering the snow and subzero temperatures of northern Wisconsin in relative comfort.
mg_3448.jpg?w=300 The outside of their winter quarters.
mg_3480.jpg?w=300 Tamarack Song looks on as one of the Guides in training works an elk hide on the frozen lake by their winter camp.
mg_3548.jpg?w=200 Tracks of a fisher bounding into the forest. Fisher sign was relatively common in many of the locations I visited while in the area.
mg_3584.jpg?w=300 Participants in the Wolf Tracking Expedition inspect the scat left behind by a large fisher.
mg_3663.jpg?w=200 Front track of a wolf found on the program.
mg_3641.jpg?w=200 Conservation Biologist and wolf researcher Ron Schultz shared tracking tips and stories from his years of field work capturing and collaring wolves in the area.
mg_3653.jpg?w=200 Teaching Drum staff member Leah Moss inspects a set of fisher tracks.
mg_3596.jpg?w=300 Tracker Randell Westfall inspects the cavity created by an excavated cache of deer meat made by a wolf.
img_0497.jpg?w=300 Wilderness Awareness School meets Teaching Drum in the North Woods.

 

A Winter Day in Eastern Okanogan County

Went exploring in eastern Okanogan County a couple of days ago. A beautiful landscape and one hard to reconcile with Washington’s tag line-“the Evergreen State”.

mg_3176.jpg?w=300 Arid valley south of the town of Conconully.
mg_3369.jpg?w=300 Abandoned building close to the former town of Nighthawk on the Similkameen River.
mg_3200.jpg?w=300 Conconully Cemetery
mg_3190.jpg?w=300 Tattered flag flying in the Conconully Cemetery

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mg_3226.jpg?w=300 Blue Lake, Sinlahekin Wildlife Area.

 

mg_3254.jpg?w=300 Sinlahekin Valley, Sinlahekin Wildlife Area.
mg_3280.jpg?w=300 Valley north of the town of Loomis, Washington.
mg_3286.jpg?w=300 Palmer Lake
mg_3298.jpg?w=300 Palmer Lake
mg_3308.jpg?w=300 Similkameen River and Chopaka Mountains.
mg_3318.jpg?w=200 Similkameen River.
mg_3344.jpg?w=300 Entertainment in the Similkameen River Valley.
mg_3360.jpg?w=300 Abandoned mine rigging and tailings pile close to the former town of Nighthawk, Washington.

 

Conservation Northwest Ocotober Newsletter

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The October edition of the Conservation Northwest newsletter is available online and features a number of images from my wolf project along with excellent articles on related topics! Downloaded it at: http://www.conservationnw.org/library/newsletter/newsletter-pdfs/Fall2011-CNWQuarterly.pdf

newslettercover-springsummer112.jpg?w=11

View all of Conservation Northwest’s Newsletters at: http://www.conservationnw.org/library/newsletter. The September edition also features a number of my images and excellent related articles.

16-20: The aroma of rotting salmon

mg_2052.jpg?w=300 A black bear carries its prize back to shore for a late afternoon meal.

Spent 4 of the last 5 nights out in the field, attaining a sense of oneness with the river, the tides, the migrating salmon, the moss and lichen cloaked trees of the rainforest, the bloodthirsty blackflies, and the ever present aroma of rotting fish carcasses–the good life. Several interesting encounters with wolves  which I’m sure will make it into the book.Flying south tomorrow and home the day after. Now that all the field work is completed, I reckon I’ll be chained to my computer for the next month and half writing. Don’t think I’ll be posting daily updates.

15: Getting teased like a raven swooping on a wolf

mg_2505.jpg?w=300 The remains of a very recent meal of some rainforest wolves on the British Columbia coast.
mg_1851.jpg?w=300 A raven taunts a wolf in morning fog.

Heavy fog slowed our arrival at field sight. We likely scared them out of the stream when we showed up. Found a ton of headless salmon and a couple laying the grass still flopping. Got a few images of one animal. Heading back out this evening to camp for a few nights in an attempt to be out there at first light without disturbing them! Wish me luck! May be a few days before my next post.A raven taunts a wolf in morning fog.

Day 14: They come in the night

Well, we were right to be hopeful. The wolves came. And the wolves caught and ate salmon. Right in the stream in front of the blind were we were set up to photograph. During the night between when we left at sundown and before we arrived at first light. We did watch one wolf skirt the edge of the meadow we are set up on later in the morning but didn’t take any photographs.When we left the pink salmon were literally streaming into the mouth of the creek on the rising tide so we will see what tomorrow holds!

12/13: Go for the eyes

Rain, wind and looming deadline for three chapters of writing kept me in yesterday. Today Doug and I spent most of the day in the location we photographed the pups a week ago. Tons of pinks in the river and we heard howling just as we were packing up to leave at dark. Optimistic about tomorrow!Find out more about my project on Wolves in the Pacific Northwest!

mg_16772.jpg?w=300 A raven pecks out the eye of a recently expired pink salmon in a shallow stream on the British Columbia coast.
mg_2422.jpg?w=300 mg_2422.jpg?w=300Two men dwarfed by the rainforest they are about to enter. They were out counting fish carcasses along the stream to determine the number of salmon returned thus far for the Heiltsuk Nation’s Fisheries Program.

 

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