We organized another wildlife track and sign identification course with renown wildlife specialist Casey McFarland on April 9th and 10th. He will be in the area this summer and would like to do more courses, so get on our wait list and I’ll keep you posted.
Here is some feedback from a couple of the latest participants:
From Michael Cox ~ The weekend was terrific! Casey taught me a new way of looking at the natural world. It was like suddenly realizing that you’ve been living in the dark and having the light turned on. It was intimidating and challenging but I’d do it again next weekend if I could, and I hope that Casey does another session sometime soon.
I am interested in your project, but I should tel you that I only received a 68 in the course, and reached some astoundingly stupid conclusions, so I’m not sure how much help I could be. So please alert me when you go out next time.
PS- Thanks for the heads up on the course, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
and from Sarah and Matt Fontaine ~Hi Peter,
Matt and I both thoroughly enjoyed the weekend, and got so much out of it! I have been looking at tracks, and books of tracks, for a while… it was so satisfying to have someone with extensive knowledge to give hard facts to what had previously been questionable deduction. And Casey showed us animal sign that I would have walked right past, not knowing what to look for. We also appreciate the style of teaching: having us try to figure out what a track/sign is using whatever knowledge and common sense we have, before just telling us. That really gets one looking around, analyzing the surroundings, asking questions like ‘who would live here?’ or ‘what size animal would make that scat?’
We are interested in volunteering for the Pathways monitoring program, do keep us posted!
First day beginning
We started out with a calm day on the West Mesa, finding beautifully preserved tracks on the sand dunes. Eight people took this rigorously designed course of wildlife track and sign identification, in which everyone makes their best effort at identifying the “questions” presented by the animals we find: “who made this track?”, “which foot is this?”, “what gait is this animal in, walk, trot, run?”. Then, after each person has the time to write their answers and give them privately, the space is then created to receive all the information Casey has to give on who this animal is, and why it is not another animal, details on foot structure, natural history, and the mechanics and physical dynamics of gait and speed. So much information comes pouring out from just these little marks in the sand that you wonder at the richness of the story at your feet, and your eyes open wider.
If all this information can be gathered from just a few minutes on the sand, what could we learn from a day, a week, a month of reading these stories? A fascinating world is opening up for those of us who are learning to read track and sign, for it is not like reading, but more like seeing live action ~ the size, height, length and movement of the animal as it stops, sits, turns, breaks into a trot, starts to hunt or forage, or gives chase.
Our second day was cooler, windier, up in the Tijeras area where Mule Deer and Bobcat tracks, beds and scrapes were found. These common animals and the traces of their lives help connect us to the real world, the world where we live, where animals live; and help us to begin to see how we are a part of their daily lives.
This weekend Pathways will be helping with another wildlife track and sign course with professional tracker,
Casey McFarland. Read some of the history of this course here: History | Tracker Certification.
There is still room for a couple more people, so contact Casey directly; email: firstname.lastname@example.org and take advantage of this great opportunity to see another side of animal, bird and insect life here in NM.
Head up, following the deer trail
In January we had the fortune to receive several tracking and trailing classes with professional tracker Casey McFarland. Some of our volunteers and several other interested parties came out to learn good trailing basics from an excellent teacher. After finding a good, solid, lone mule deer trail, we followed it for the better part of the day, learning to keep our heads up, looking out in front of us as far as we could see visible tracks. Beyond where we could actually see the tracks, 10, 20, sometimes 30 ft. away, we would then look for the next track “trap”, usually an open, silty area that would for sure show a track if the animal came that way. After identifying traps, we would then look for “gateways”, possible routes the deer could take across the land. Combining all 3 of these techniques, head up, traps, and gateways, we would be able to “flow” across the land, checking the tracks often to make sure we were still following the same deer, and it was still going the same direction.
Bobcat track, showing tri-lobed heel pad, visible from a distance
Comparing Elk, Deer, and Cottontail scat.
Fred shows Casey that he sees the tracks out ahead, after crossing bare rock
deer tracks headed for a "gateway", a saddle in the ridge
Trailing class, two people take turns in the lead position.
Trailing class, re-grouping at the end of the day, sharing lessons learned.