Monday, April 23, 2012

Cybertracker Conservation Track and Sign Certification Event in the Swan Valley, Montana

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 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 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, 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 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 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.

Who made this hole? A foraging badger.

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 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!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Pulling Down At Frenchman Coulee

Thanks to Erin Smart and Forest McBrian for putting up with a lens in their direction during a beautiful couple of days  of climbing in Frenchman Coulee in Eastern Washington.

Mountain guide and photographer Erin Smart clips them on "Clip Em or Skip Em", 5.8 on Sunshine Wall.

Soaring with the cliff swallows.

IFMGA certified Mountain guide Forest McBrian racks up for his next climb

Forest Mcbrian getting started on the Vantage classic "Air Guitar", 5.10a, on Sunshine Wall.