Methow Conservancy Track and Sign Certification, Northcentral Washington

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In mid March, the Methow Conservancy, a land trust serving Okanogan County, hosted a Track and Sign Certification event in the Methow Valley. With the battle between winter and spring conditions in full swing, we picked our way through the melting snowpack on the eastern edge of the North Cascades, spending most of the weekend in a lovely part of the Methow called Big Valley. Signs of mountain lion were abundant along with their primary prey species in much of the Cascades, deer and beaver. Participants also had to sort out tracks and signs of squirrels, deer mice, woodrats, mink, bobcat, and other mammals as well as the tracks of flickers, geese and other bird species. Though no fresh sign of black bears having awoken from their winter torpor were apparent, historic climbing and marking signs on trees along the river were also covered during the evaluation.

 Solid snowpack still lingered in the valley bottom and on north facing slopes in the Methow for the evaluation.

Solid snowpack still lingered in the valley bottom and on north facing slopes in the Methow for the evaluation.

 All four feet of a mountain lion where it landed in soft mud after leaping off of a rock and over a lead of water on the edge of the river.

All four feet of a mountain lion where it landed in soft mud after leaping off of a rock and over a lead of water on the edge of the river.

 A family of beavers had been busy through the winter on a side channel of the Methow River, leaving a wide variety of interesting signs behind including this small dam.

A family of beavers had been busy through the winter on a side channel of the Methow River, leaving a wide variety of interesting signs behind including this small dam.

 Inspecting a scent mound created by beavers along the shore of a pond they had created on the edge of the river. Beavers drag mud up onto the bank and deposit a secretion called castorum on these mounds which are an important way that resident animals communicate that an area is occupied to other beavers in the area.

Inspecting a scent mound created by beavers along the shore of a pond they had created on the edge of the river. Beavers drag mud up onto the bank and deposit a secretion called castorum on these mounds which are an important way that resident animals communicate that an area is occupied to other beavers in the area.

 Scientist and educator Kim Romain-Bondi and Heidi Anderson inspect the remains of a deer found in the woods by a small excavation as they attempt to determine who made the excavation. The size and distance between the clawmarks in the bottom of the dig, along with the size and shape of the hole were indicative of a coyote’s caching behavior. Kim is the owner and proprietor of the  North Cascades Basecamp  which provides lodging as well as educational and recreational opportunities in Mazama Washington. Heidi is the Stewardship Director for the  Methow Conservancy  and came out to help record peoples answers during the certification event!

Scientist and educator Kim Romain-Bondi and Heidi Anderson inspect the remains of a deer found in the woods by a small excavation as they attempt to determine who made the excavation. The size and distance between the clawmarks in the bottom of the dig, along with the size and shape of the hole were indicative of a coyote’s caching behavior. Kim is the owner and proprietor of the North Cascades Basecamp which provides lodging as well as educational and recreational opportunities in Mazama Washington. Heidi is the Stewardship Director for the Methow Conservancy and came out to help record peoples answers during the certification event!

Congratulations to the folks that earned Track and Sign Certificates. (For a complete list of certified trackers visit trackercertification.com)

Level 1: Susan Ballinger, Danny Nora Moloney, Gayle Grything

Level 2: Sarah Wilkinson, Mary E. Kiesau

Level 3: Nate Bacon, Kim Romain-Bondi

North Cascades National Park Wildlife Tracking Certification

 The right front foot of a mink (Neovison vison) in fine glacial silt found close to the mouth of Thunder Creek.

The right front foot of a mink (Neovison vison) in fine glacial silt found close to the mouth of Thunder Creek.

In mid-June North Cascades Institute hosted the first Wildlife Tracking Certification Event in North Cascades National Park. Besides a diversity of tracks and signs some challenging field conditions including some classic North Cascades rain and multi-element bushwacking/wading added to the experience for myself as the evaluator and for participants! Here are a few of the highlights from the Evaluation.

 These tracks of a Douglas squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii) were found just down the shore from the mink.

These tracks of a Douglas squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii) were found just down the shore from the mink.

 This unusual sign of a beaver (Castor canadensis) in the riparian forest along Thunder Creek stumped many.

This unusual sign of a beaver (Castor canadensis) in the riparian forest along Thunder Creek stumped many.

 Roger Bean, who earned a Level III Track and Sign Certification contemplates the beaver feeding sign during the evaluation.

Roger Bean, who earned a Level III Track and Sign Certification contemplates the beaver feeding sign during the evaluation.

 The weathered track of a black bear (Ursus americanus).

The weathered track of a black bear (Ursus americanus).

 Terry Kem, founder of Deerdance, earned a Level III Cerftication as well on the evaluation, seen here photographing a sign post tree well used by black bears along Thunder Creek.

Terry Kem, founder of Deerdance, earned a Level III Cerftication as well on the evaluation, seen here photographing a sign post tree well used by black bears along Thunder Creek.

 Moose (Alces alces) are rarely sighted in western portion of the North Cascades, but these pellets indicate one had passed by the Easy Pass Trailhead along the North Cascades Scenic Highway.

Moose (Alces alces) are rarely sighted in western portion of the North Cascades, but these pellets indicate one had passed by the Easy Pass Trailhead along the North Cascades Scenic Highway.

 Scat from a bushytailed woodrat (left, Neotoma cinerea) and a pika (Ochotona princeps) were both discovered in a large talus field.

Scat from a bushytailed woodrat (left, Neotoma cinerea) and a pika (Ochotona princeps) were both discovered in a large talus field.

 Susan Brown, a graduate student in the North Cascades Institutes Masters of Education program, assisted with the evaluation. Pictured here by a powerline pole that had been bitten and rubbed on by black bears.   

Susan Brown, a graduate student in the North Cascades Institutes Masters of Education program, assisted with the evaluation. Pictured here by a powerline pole that had been bitten and rubbed on by black bears.

 

Congratulations to everyone who participated in the Evaluation. Of 10 participants, 3 Level III , 3 Level II , and one Level I certificates were awarded. For a list of certified trackers in North America click here.