This spring I spent a week out in the field with several colleagues from Cybertracker Conservation honing our tracking and trailing skills following the trails of black bears on the western slope of the North Cascades. I put together a brief video describing the art of trailing and documenting some of what we discovered on our adventures in the temperate rainforest.
This fall Casey McFarland, Mark Elbroch and myself delivered wildlife tracking workshops and certifications in the United Kingdom, Slovakia, Germany and the Netherlands.
Wildlife Around Mount St. Helens
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.
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
Level 2: Chris Dawkins, Emily Nelson
Level 3: Jill Cooper, Micaela Pomatto, Rebecca Fitzpatrick, Liz Snair
For a complete list of certified trackers in North America visit trackercertification.com.
Northwest Connections is an innovative organization which runs a variety of biological monitoring, conservation, and educational programs all revolving around the unique and wild landscape of the Swan Valley in northwestern Montana where they are based. In April, I delivered a Cybertracker Conservation Track and Sign Certification Event for them. A very talented group endured challenging field conditions (including about 5 inches of fresh snow Saturday night and Sunday!) and everyone in the group earned a Certificate. My friend and colleague Emily Gibson came along to take some photographs and I am grateful to her for sharing a number of the images for this post!
Level 2 Certificates Awarded: Jim Quinn, Trenton Harper, Scott Tomson, Andrea Stephens
Level 3 Certificates Awarded: Cassie March, Luke Lamar, Lara Arvidson, Mike Stevenson, Alissa Anderson, Rebekah Rafferty
For a complete list of certified trackers in North America visit trackercertification.com
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.
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
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to run a Track and Sign certification event in beautiful Humboldt County, California. We visited a variety of field locations including coastal dunes, redwood forest, and riparian habitats. Participants included students from Humboldt State University's Wildlife program as well as professional biologists and naturalists from elsewhere in northern California. Here are a few highlights from the evaluation.
Track and Sign Certificates Awarded:
LEVEL 1: Jim Ladio
LEVEL 2: Emily Culhane, Mathew Luedtke, Andria Bietz, Jessica Nikolai, Andrew Underwood, Alison Osgood, Wes Gibbs, Anthony Fisher
LEVEL 3: Natasha Dvorak, Kim Cabrera, Shane Brown, Preston Taylor.
For a complete list of certified trackers in North America visit trackercertification.com
In mid January, I made my first trip ever to Texas where I joined Texas State Wildlife Biologist and Cybertracker Evaluator Jonah Evans to deliver a Track and Sign Certification event for Urban Biologists from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) in southern Texas. Jonah is also the author of an excellent Iphone App Tracking Guide and manages a website with a large collection of well organized track and sign photographs.
The wetlands and thickets of this part of Texas are a birding mecca, with over half of all the species of birds which can be found in the continental United States making their way through the region over the course of the year. Besides bird life, the area is home to a wide variety of mammal species including oceolots, a very rare species in the United States as well as feral pigs and a variety of other introduced exotic species.
This past weekend the Mount St. Helens Institute, in collaboration with the Mount Adams Institute, hosted a Cybertracker Conservation Track and Sign Certification Event close to the town of Trout Lake in the southern Washington Cascades, a landscape with a diversity of plant communities, striking geography, and bountiful wildlife.
Congratulations to everyone who earned a Track and Sign Certification through the Event! For a complete list of certified Trackers in North America click here.
Hanna D. Gomes
Daniel P. Daly
This past weekend the Jefferson Land Trust hosted a Track and Sign Evaluation in the northeastern section of Washington's Olympic Peninsula. Jason Lake, instructor for Ceder Root Folk School, volunteered four days of his time to assist in setting up and delivering the Evaluation. The evaluation was held on a combination of Lands owned or under conservation easements managed by the Land Trust and public lands in the area.
Thanks to everyone who participated in the Evaluation and...
Congratulations to the folks who earned certificates:
- Level 1: Peter Craig, Sarah Spaeth, Isabelle Luna, Rachel Webber
- Level 2: Lee Corum, Heather Harding, Dustin Ryerson, Nicole Larson
- Level 3: Erik Kingfisher
For a list of all of the certified trackers in North America click here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!