Local nature lovers received wildlife tracking training on May 26-28 from esteemed biologist and photographer David Moskowitz.
Hosted by the Raincoast Education Society, the three-day workshop taught participants how to find, interpret and follow the tracks and signs of wildlife.
Moskowitz opened the tracking weekend up with a public talk and slideshow at Darwin’s Café on Friday evening.
“Tracking is intimately connected to conservation. It brings animals into the light and inspires curiosity,” he said. “I think curiosity is my first instinct with tracks when you find them. Paying attention to tracks and signs can really enrich your experience.”
He encouraged people exploring the trails to take a moment to look at what’s around.
“I was on a really popular trail in the Olympics and I literally watched dozens of people walk past these mountain lion tracks on the side of the trail and they didn’t notice them. They were missing out on this opportunity to have an experience of this really cool creature,” Moskowitz recalled.
More than tracks, Moskowitz said to keep an eye out for signs, like claw marks on a tree or wild berries in scat, to identify the tracks of an animal.
“It’s not rocket science. You don’t need to be a genius. What basic observations can you make about the tracks? Are there multiple tracks? Where do they go?” he said.
Nowadays, Moskowitz noted that animal tracking is used for hunting and research projects.
“There is a lot of other research where the data that you use in the end of the project doesn’t come from tracking and signs, but you need tracking skills to get the data that you are after,” he said, providing an example of a mountain lion project he was part of in Colorado.
“We followed the tracks of a mountain lion until we found a carcass of an animal he was feeding on. We were actually trying to radio collar that animal so in finding that carcass we then put the carcass inside of the trap and then were able to trap and collar the animal.”
Moskowitz is the author and photographer of Wildlife of the Pacific Northwest and Wolves in the Land of Salmon.
His latest project is documentary called Last Stand: The Vanishing Caribou Rainforest. Anyone interested in learning more can visit: laststandfilm.org.
The next Raincoast Education Society workshop will run from June 9 -11 and delve into the world of west coast seaweeds. For more information visit: raincoasteducation.org.