Posted by Jason K.
We had a fun and productive field day this month. The day was spent practicing trailing skills, partly in preparation for upcoming Trailing Evaluations taking place in October. Trailing is the art of following tracks, often with the goal of catching up with the animal.
The morning was spent following elk tracks throughout the forests near Mount Si. Elk populations have significantly increased in this area, creating places that have numerous elk trails, beds/lays, and feeding zones. Following elk tracks can be a lot of fun since they are such large animals and leave a distinctive track. Here's a photo of an elk track (a six inch rule is in the frame):
The small marks behind the primary part of the foot are dew claws, which are smaller digits found further up the foot. They usually only register when the animal is running or walking through deep substrate (such as the soft sand in the photo).
We discovered black bear tracks in the afternoon and chose to spend the rest of the day back-tracking the bear through the swamp to learn about where it had been. It was amazing to discover that it had crossed a small log (maybe four inches diameter) over a swamp.
We finished the day up the day by going over some of my slides on small desert rodents (pocket mouse, kangaroo rat, woodrat, pocket gopher, etc...) in preparation for next month's class which will be in the Columbia Basin desert of Central Washington.