Even though the wind doth blow and heat did roast, Casey managed to find some incredible wildlife tracks and sign for us to identify on our two day oddesy from the Rio Grande to the East Mountains. Ten participants hung in there through the incessant winds of late May. Coupled with the drying heat, the envrironmental factors were not that enjoyable, but the recent sign and wildlife tracks were worth the effort. We saw plenty of recent beaver sign along the Rio Grande, including beaver scat, rare to see on land, and lots of other animals as well: long-tailed weasel, raccoon, skunk, pheasant, coyote, geese and egret. Bullfrog sign was plentiful as well, as these invasive species have taken over many waterways in NM. Porcupine and muskrat were in evidence as well as some of the more common rodents, mice, pack rats, and (not a rodent) cottontail rabbit. Finding a coyote scat full of mulberry seeds indicated the seasonal fruit was already here and gone, a short season in this year of severe drought.
The next day, May 29th, we went up to the higher elevation, cooler temps., and less wind of the forested East Mountains. The participants did really well at identifying some challenging deer tracks which not well defined at all in the loose sand of the arroyo bottom. Casey also found some nice bobcat tracks, along with feral house cat tracks for comparison, and coyote, ground squirrel, mice, insect, and snake tracks as well!
We went over the gaits, walking, trot, lope and gallop of the deer, as well as coyote and other relatively large animals as we came across them. We found deer antler rubs and scat as well, and with every animal, Casey went over the other animals that they could be confused with, comparing rabbit to deer scat, elk rubs with deer rubs, etc. We found the evidence of many small animals and rodents up here as well, and then got into bear territory and found some trails, scratching posts, and beds of these large mammals.
Several of the participants received certification in track and sign through CyberTracker an international certifying organization of which Casey is a part. These certifications help us at Pathways by giving our data that we gather that added bit of credibility so necessary for scientific acceptance. Everyone had a great time regardless, there was so much to learn, so much new information, that I know from personal experience, it takes while for it all to sink in!