November 2, 2009

Alderleaf jaunt to NW TREK

On Friday, Oct. 30 the Alderleaf crew headed down to NW Trek for a visit. We broke up into several groups and cruised around looking at the diversity of wildlife found in the park. All of the animals found there are native to the greater Northwest bio-region. This was an opportunity for students and staff alike to observe animals closely and learn how they move through the landscape, how they interact with each other, what types of sounds they make, how they smell and much more.

From Northwest Trek with Alderleaf

It was wonderful to get to watch such elusive animals as wolverines up close and personal. This beautiful animal was a great surprise to see, as it was a new cub born to the mating pair of wolverines found at the park. This species is known to cover vast tracts of wilderness in its search for food.

In this same section of the park, there is also a pair of fishers. Fishers were recently reintroduced to Olympic National Park. These animals are, like the wolverine, members of the weasel family (Mustelidae) and are very capable predators.

From Northwest Trek with Alderleaf

Similar in size to river otters, fishers - despite their name - are not generally fishing for food. Instead, these creatures hunt in forests on the ground and are also incredibly skilled and fast in the trees. Fishers have ankles that can rotate backwards, allowing them to climb down trees head first. They are also one of the only animals known to regularly prey on porcupines.

The park also has a several hundred acre enclosure that includes many ungulate species such bison, elk, moose and bighorn sheep. Also, they house a variety of native birds of prey including several types of owls, as well as bald eagle and golden eagles.

From Northwest Trek with Alderleaf

We were informed by one of the keepers that the pair of golden eagles are some of the oldest animals housed at the park. They were acquired some 30+ years ago and already at that time the birds were mature. This would put them some were between 35 and 40 years old!

The park staff also did some animal displays outside of enclosures and allowed us to view several species including a western screech owl, great horned owl, spotted owl and beaver at very close range.

The day left us inspired and wanting to know more. We look forward to another visit to NW Trek in the future!

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