Trailing Black Bears in the North Cascades

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. 

Interested in learning to trail bears and other wildlife? I offer custom classes in a wide variety of tracking subjects, including wildlife trailing.

Wildlife Tracking Certifications In Europe

This fall Casey McFarland, Mark Elbroch and myself delivered wildlife tracking workshops and certifications in the United Kingdom, Slovakia, Germany and the Netherlands.

Casey McFarland discusses the sign left by a wild boar rubbing on the base of a tree in the Saxony region of Germany during a Track and Sign Certification event.

Casey McFarland discusses the sign left by a wild boar rubbing on the base of a tree in the Saxony region of Germany during a Track and Sign Certification event.

Footprint of a wild boar (Sus scrofa). Eastern Germany.

Footprint of a wild boar (Sus scrofa). Eastern Germany.

Participants in a Track and Sign Certification Event in the Liptovsky region of Slovakia inspect sign left by a brown bear (Ursus arctos) climbing a large tree.

Participants in a Track and Sign Certification Event in the Liptovsky region of Slovakia inspect sign left by a brown bear (Ursus arctos) climbing a large tree.

Tracks of a Great cormorant from the shore of a reservoir in the Liptovsky region of Slovakia.

Tracks of a Great cormorant from the shore of a reservoir in the Liptovsky region of Slovakia.

Tracks of two young wolves (Canis lupus, left and middle) and a large European badger (Meles meles) in sand. Saxony, Germany.

Tracks of two young wolves (Canis lupus, left and middle) and a large European badger (Meles meles) in sand. Saxony, Germany.

Footprints from a stone marten (Martes foina) found under a bridge in eastern Germany. Note that a Euro 2 cent peice is the same size as a US penny.

Footprints from a stone marten (Martes foina) found under a bridge in eastern Germany. Note that a Euro 2 cent peice is the same size as a US penny.

While Europe and North America share many similar species, there are a number of behaviors typical in Animals in each location which are not common in similar species in the other. The Great Spotted woodpecker, similar to the North American Hairy woodpecker, collects and breaks open pine and other conifer cones for the seeds within, in a mannor not typically observed in North America.

While Europe and North America share many similar species, there are a number of behaviors typical in Animals in each location which are not common in similar species in the other. The Great Spotted woodpecker, similar to the North American Hairy woodpecker, collects and breaks open pine and other conifer cones for the seeds within, in a mannor not typically observed in North America.

Front (below) and hind (above) tracks of a wood mouse (Apodemus species). Saxony, Germany.

Front (below) and hind (above) tracks of a wood mouse (Apodemus species). Saxony, Germany.

Numerous certificates where awarded in all 4 countries we visited including everyone who participated in the evaluation in Germany, pictured here. Congratulations to everyone. We will be finding an online home for the names and certification levels of folks certified in Europe through Cybertracker Conservation shortly. Stay tuned!   

Numerous certificates where awarded in all 4 countries we visited including everyone who participated in the evaluation in Germany, pictured here. Congratulations to everyone. We will be finding an online home for the names and certification levels of folks certified in Europe through Cybertracker Conservation shortly. Stay tuned!

 

Wildlife Track and Sign Certification: Southern Washington Cascades

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.

While the mountain itself is a protected National Monument, outside of its boundaries the timber industry is very active in the southern Washington Cascades. Here huge clearcuts cover entire hillsides above the Swift Reservoir on the Lewis River. The swath of trees along the water’s edge is a mandated setback from fish bearing waters required by Washington State environmental regulations.

While the mountain itself is a protected National Monument, outside of its boundaries the timber industry is very active in the southern Washington Cascades. Here huge clearcuts cover entire hillsides above the Swift Reservoir on the Lewis River. The swath of trees along the water’s edge is a mandated setback from fish bearing waters required by Washington State environmental regulations.

Tracks of a cow elk (above) and her young calf (below) found on a forest road during the evaluation.

Tracks of a cow elk (above) and her young calf (below) found on a forest road during the evaluation.

The lush forests along the upper Lewis River are home to a large herd of elk and numerous other species of wildlife.

The lush forests along the upper Lewis River are home to a large herd of elk and numerous other species of wildlife.

Left hind track of a bush-tailed woodrat (Neatomoa cinerea) in fine dust under a bridge along Pine Creek.

Left hind track of a bush-tailed woodrat (Neatomoa cinerea) in fine dust under a bridge along Pine Creek.

Laura Belson inspects an elk antler rub on a red alder on the edge of a wetland.

Laura Belson inspects an elk antler rub on a red alder on the edge of a wetland.

Justin Miller inspects the sign left behind by a woodpecker foraging on mountain pine bark beetles on a lodgepole pine.

Justin Miller inspects the sign left behind by a woodpecker foraging on mountain pine bark beetles on a lodgepole pine.

Participant Lloyd Murray inspects wildlife sign on the edge of the Muddy River.

Participant Lloyd Murray inspects wildlife sign on the edge of the Muddy River.

Certificates Earned

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.

Trailing Workshop and Track and Sign Certification: Northern Arizona

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.

Trailing Workshop

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.

Rayne Zhaughsome on the trail of a herd of elk during a trailing workshop held north of Flagstaff Arizona.

Rayne Zhaughsome on the trail of a herd of elk during a trailing workshop held north of Flagstaff Arizona.

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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.

Jill Cooper and Rebecca Fitzpatrick inspect the trail of a turtle under a rock overhang.

Jill Cooper and Rebecca Fitzpatrick inspect the trail of a turtle under a rock overhang.

These tracks of a kit fox in dust where one of the first questions during the evaluation. Their small size, very slender shape of the hind foot and diminutive size of the metatarsal pads differentiate these tracks from those of a grey fox.

These tracks of a kit fox in dust where one of the first questions during the evaluation. Their small size, very slender shape of the hind foot and diminutive size of the metatarsal pads differentiate these tracks from those of a grey fox.

Local expert Matt Monjello, seen here discussing sapsucker feeding sign left on a juniper tree, organized and assisted with the evaluation.

Local expert Matt Monjello, seen here discussing sapsucker feeding sign left on a juniper tree, organized and assisted with the evaluation.

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.

Rayne inspects the remains of a mule deer during the evaluation. It can be hard or impossible to definitively say how an animal such as this one died but several clues indicated that this deer may have been consumed by a mountain lion and scavenged by coyotes.

Rayne inspects the remains of a mule deer during the evaluation. It can be hard or impossible to definitively say how an animal such as this one died but several clues indicated that this deer may have been consumed by a mountain lion and scavenged by coyotes.

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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.

Track and Sign Certification in the Swan Valley, Montana with Northwest Connections

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!

We started the evaluation on the Northwest Connections campus on the Swan River. Here I am explaining how the evaluation process works at the start of the first day.

We started the evaluation on the Northwest Connections campus on the Swan River. Here I am explaining how the evaluation process works at the start of the first day.

The evaluation included a number of questions about the remains of a white-tailed deer which had been consumed by wolves.

The evaluation included a number of questions about the remains of a white-tailed deer which had been consumed by wolves.

Inspecting a leg bone from the deer which had been partially consumed by the wolves revealed the bone marrow which offers clues to the health of the deer at the time it died.

Inspecting a leg bone from the deer which had been partially consumed by the wolves revealed the bone marrow which offers clues to the health of the deer at the time it died.

Mike Mayernik taking an answer from participant Andrea Stephens about the elk antler rub on the tree between them.

Mike Mayernik taking an answer from participant Andrea Stephens about the elk antler rub on the tree between them.

Heavy snow Saturday night and Sunday morning called for desperate measures. Here Adam Lieberg, Conservation Program Coordinator for Northwest Connections, uses a broom to brush snow off of sign we had found during our scouting for the evaluation.

Heavy snow Saturday night and Sunday morning called for desperate measures. Here Adam Lieberg, Conservation Program Coordinator for Northwest Connections, uses a broom to brush snow off of sign we had found during our scouting for the evaluation.

The scratch marks left by a mountain lion on a leaning tree along a well used game trail above the Swan River.

The scratch marks left by a mountain lion on a leaning tree along a well used game trail above the Swan River.

Mike points out one of the questions on the evaluation about a mountain lion scat and scrape, created by a scent marking behavior of the large cat, found along the same game trail as the claw marks from the previous photo.

Mike points out one of the questions on the evaluation about a mountain lion scat and scrape, created by a scent marking behavior of the large cat, found along the same game trail as the claw marks from the previous photo.

We took refuge under a bridge for a few questions on the snowy Sunday.

We took refuge under a bridge for a few questions on the snowy Sunday.

A blade of grass points to the tip of a mink track found under the bridge.

A blade of grass points to the tip of a mink track found under the bridge.

Every question on the evaluation is discussed thoroughly after all the participants have submitted their answers. Here we are discussing the sign left behind by an elk which used its incisors to peel bark on a small tree and then rub its head against the tree, a common scent marking behavior of elk.

Every question on the evaluation is discussed thoroughly after all the participants have submitted their answers. Here we are discussing the sign left behind by an elk which used its incisors to peel bark on a small tree and then rub its head against the tree, a common scent marking behavior of elk.

The shredded bark has all been peeled upwards due to the fact that elk only have lower incisors. Numerous hairs from the elk got stuck in the ragged bark and sticky pitch of the tree.

The shredded bark has all been peeled upwards due to the fact that elk only have lower incisors. Numerous hairs from the elk got stuck in the ragged bark and sticky pitch of the tree.

Congratulations to everyone who participated in the evaluation. In this particularly talented group of wildlife trackers, everyone earned a Level 2 certificate or higher!

Congratulations to everyone who participated in the evaluation. In this particularly talented group of wildlife trackers, everyone earned a Level 2 certificate or higher!

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

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

Humboldt County California Track and Sign Certification

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.

Inspecting the tracks of a bounding long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata) in the coastal dunes close to Arcata California.

Inspecting the tracks of a bounding long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata) in the coastal dunes close to Arcata California.

Long-tailed weasel tracks. Photo by Kim Cabrera. Kim has an amazing collection of track and sign photos posted online at her website: bear-tracker.com. Click on the image to check it out!

Long-tailed weasel tracks. Photo by Kim Cabrera. Kim has an amazing collection of track and sign photos posted online at her website: bear-tracker.com. Click on the image to check it out!

Alison Osgood inspects a redwood tree. Participants in the evaluation had to determine what removed the bark from this young redwood tree and why. The answer: A black bear removed the outer bark so it could feed on the cambium layer.

Alison Osgood inspects a redwood tree. Participants in the evaluation had to determine what removed the bark from this young redwood tree and why. The answer: A black bear removed the outer bark so it could feed on the cambium layer.

Track and Sign Specialist Matt Nelson leads a conversation about the trail of a black-tailed jackrabbit. Click on the image to find out more about Matt Nelson and his work at redwoodcoastanimaltracking.com.

Track and Sign Specialist Matt Nelson leads a conversation about the trail of a black-tailed jackrabbit. Click on the image to find out more about Matt Nelson and his work at redwoodcoastanimaltracking.com.

Andrew Underwood carefully inspects the mandible of a Virginia opposum (Didelphis virginianus). Identifying this bone was the last question on the evaluation. All questions on evaluations are about things which the Evaluator has found in the field. photo by Matt Nelson

Andrew Underwood carefully inspects the mandible of a Virginia opposum (Didelphis virginianus). Identifying this bone was the last question on the evaluation. All questions on evaluations are about things which the Evaluator has found in the field. photo by Matt Nelson

Front (below) and hind track of a bobcat. There were a number of questions about bobcat tracks on the evalation. photo by Matt Nelson.

Front (below) and hind track of a bobcat. There were a number of questions about bobcat tracks on the evalation. photo by Matt Nelson.

Congratulations to everyone who participated in the Evaluation, all of whom earned a Certification!

Congratulations to everyone who participated in the Evaluation, all of whom earned a Certification!

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

Track and Sign Certification in southern Texas

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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.

Track and Sign Evaluator and Texas Parks and Wildlife Biologist Jonah Evans leads a discussion about the tracks left by several coyotes traveling on the shore of Laguna Atascosa in southern Texas.

Track and Sign Evaluator and Texas Parks and Wildlife Biologist Jonah Evans leads a discussion about the tracks left by several coyotes traveling on the shore of Laguna Atascosa in southern Texas.

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.

Tracks of a bounding Hispid cotton rat (Sigmodon hispidus) in mud.

Tracks of a bounding Hispid cotton rat (Sigmodon hispidus) in mud.

Front and hind tracks of an oceolot (Leopardus pardalis). The Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge contains one of the only breeding populations of this wild feline in the United States.

Front and hind tracks of an oceolot (Leopardus pardalis). The Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge contains one of the only breeding populations of this wild feline in the United States.

Congratulations to everyone who earned a Certification during this event. Click on the image for a complete list of certified wildlife trackers in North America.   

Congratulations to everyone who earned a Certification during this event. Click on the image for a complete list of certified wildlife trackers in North America.

 

Mount St. Helens Institute Track and Sign Certification

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.

Matt Nelson, Track and Sign Specialist, assisted me in the delivery of the evaluation. Here Matt is leading a discussion around the remains of a mule deer which was killed and butchered by a human hunter and subsequently scavenged by coyotes. Questions around this carcass led to a lengthy and detailed discussion on how to differentiate the patterns of sign left behind around carcasses by other large carnivores such as mountain lions, black bears, and wolves.

Matt Nelson, Track and Sign Specialist, assisted me in the delivery of the evaluation. Here Matt is leading a discussion around the remains of a mule deer which was killed and butchered by a human hunter and subsequently scavenged by coyotes. Questions around this carcass led to a lengthy and detailed discussion on how to differentiate the patterns of sign left behind around carcasses by other large carnivores such as mountain lions, black bears, and wolves.

Naturalist Dan Daly inspecting a beaver chewed stick along the banks of the Klickitat River. Dan performed impressively and with a score of 98.5, earned his second Level 3 Certification. Nice work Dan!

Naturalist Dan Daly inspecting a beaver chewed stick along the banks of the Klickitat River. Dan performed impressively and with a score of 98.5, earned his second Level 3 Certification. Nice work Dan!

Matt Nelson photographed me leading a discussion on the identification of a collection of feathers from a Ruffed grouse found on the side of a forest road. David Scott (Track and Sign Specialist) and Casey McFarland (Specialist and Evaluator for Cybertracker Conservation) are the authors of the excellent resource pictured here,  Bird Feathers: A Guide to North American Species.

Matt Nelson photographed me leading a discussion on the identification of a collection of feathers from a Ruffed grouse found on the side of a forest road. David Scott (Track and Sign Specialist) and Casey McFarland (Specialist and Evaluator for Cybertracker Conservation) are the authors of the excellent resource pictured here, Bird Feathers: A Guide to North American Species.

The camber of this primary wing feather is an important clue about the original owner of it. The heavy downward curve in wing weathers is typical for game birds such as Ruffed grouse. This curve helps give them explosive take off power, an important survival trait for ground birds trying to escape terrestrial predators.

The camber of this primary wing feather is an important clue about the original owner of it. The heavy downward curve in wing weathers is typical for game birds such as Ruffed grouse. This curve helps give them explosive take off power, an important survival trait for ground birds trying to escape terrestrial predators.

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.

Level 1

Corwin Scott

Hanna D. Gomes

Fred Engelfried

Level 2

Heather Harding

Levi Old

Level 3

Maureen Corlas

Ashley Conley

Daniel P. Daly

Jefferson Land Trust Track and Sign Certification

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.

Jonathan Goff takes answers from Evaluation participant Heather Harding. Heather earned a Level 2 Track and Sign Certificate.

Jonathan Goff takes answers from Evaluation participant Heather Harding. Heather earned a Level 2 Track and Sign Certificate.

An aplodontia cut these stinging nettle stalks and dragged them back to the mouth of its burrow. Olympic Peninsula, Washington.

An aplodontia cut these stinging nettle stalks and dragged them back to the mouth of its burrow. Olympic Peninsula, Washington.

Erik Kingfisher, seen here inspecting the tracks of a Great Blue Heron, earned a Level 3 Track and Sign Certification.

Erik Kingfisher, seen here inspecting the tracks of a Great Blue Heron, earned a Level 3 Track and Sign Certification.

   Naturalist Justin Lake, who assisted me in delivering the evaluation, inspects tracks along the beach on the edge of the Strait of Juan De Fuca, Washington.

 

Naturalist Justin Lake, who assisted me in delivering the evaluation, inspects tracks along the beach on the edge of the Strait of Juan De Fuca, Washington.

   Naturalist Nicole Larson records her answers to track and sign questions along the Dosewallips River. Olympic Peninsula, Washington. Nicole earned a Level 2 Track and Sign Certificate.

 

Naturalist Nicole Larson records her answers to track and sign questions along the Dosewallips River. Olympic Peninsula, Washington. Nicole earned a Level 2 Track and Sign Certificate.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

What species and which foot? Front and hind tracks of a red fox.

What species and which foot? Front and hind tracks of a red fox.

What species, which foot, and what was the sex of this animal? The left hind foot of a female mountain lion

What species, which foot, and what was the sex of this animal? The left hind foot of a female mountain lion

What species (in regards to the lower tracks)? The front and hind foot of a wolf (above are the track of a whitetailed deer).

What species (in regards to the lower tracks)? The front and hind foot of a wolf (above are the track of a whitetailed deer).

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.

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.

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

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

Who left this track? The weathered footprint of a grizzly bear.

Who left this track? The weathered footprint of a grizzly bear.

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.

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.

Who made this hole? A foraging badger.

Who made this hole? A foraging badger.

Congratulations to everyone who participated and earned a certificate at the event!

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!