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 left this track? The weathered footprint of a grizzly bear.|
|Who made this hole? A foraging badger.|
|Congratulations to everyone who participated and earned a certificate at the event!|