April 17, 2013

Tracking Apprenticeship in Juniper Dunes Wilderness

The Wildlife Tracking Apprenticeship students visited a arid wilderness area known as the Juniper Dunes.  This beautiful location is a set of sand dunes which has the northern most stand of western juniper (Juniper occidentalis) trees in the world.  This landscape is home to a variety of mammals including badgers, coyote, kangaroo rats and many other creatures.

Here are some of our photographic highlights.

Here, student Andrew A. walks up a sand dune in the early morning light and looks closely for tracks.

A small scat composed of the shiny, metallic-looking parts from tiger beetles.

The armor-like remains of an adult mormon cricket (Anabrus simplex).  This invertebrate is actually a member of the group known as katydids, and is an abundant insect that feeds many other kinds of animals.

Students spend a few hours trailing mule deer through the varied terrain.  Some parts of the dunes were barren, while others were well vegetated as you can see here.  It was challenging following the deer through a variety of substrates.

The perfect hind track of a porcupine.  Look close and you will see the claws as well as the pebbly texture of the foot pad.

Here students Chadd, Andrew J. and Rob discuss the evidence of feeding on this skull with instructor Michelle.  There were signs of both coyotes and porcupine chewing on the antlers of this mule deer skull.

Much of the life in this semi-arid region is small.  One example is this little, harmless scorpion (Vaejovis confusus) which was found under a piece of plywood.

It was a wonderful place, and we look forward to returning there in the future!

Watch for more posts from Alderleaf very soon!

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