A ‘Cliffy’ Tracking Adventure
Sunday, January 17, 2016
Beaver Valley, ON
Weather: snowing: thick, fluffy; winds constant, ranging velocities, -10 (-14)
We started our day with further investigation of one of yesterday’s highlight, inspecting the bone marrow of a deer we had found that had appeared to have died of causes other than predation. The marrow was fairly pinkish, indicating the animal had not been in top health.
We checked out some squirrel trails, going over how to distinguish red squirrel from gray squirrel, looking closely at sizing and the morphology of the tracks. We climbed up through the forest, checking out various trails and signs along the way and sharing knowledge each had to offer. We came across a fox trail that taught us a bit more about gaits, helping us learn to differentiate between lopes and gallops.
It had been snowing quite a bit, so much of the creatures’ recent activity was quickly being covered by a fluffy veil of fresh snow. At some point on our wander, I noticed bright red blood appear in the track of the tracker ahead of me. I wondered if
he had been hurt, but in looking closer, I realized the blood was underneath of a thin layer of snow. The force of the person’s track had melted the fresh layer of snow enough for what was underneath to peak through. Digging into the snow uncovered more fresh blood, small chunks of hair, a stomach and entrails, and some other fragments of a small creature. (Analyzing the stomach contents revealed the creature had been eating apples recently.) A tell-tale bit of tail indicated this has been a red squirrel, we wondered who the predator was…
The day was full of many good nature mysteries, new discoveries and memorable moments. We came down the meet a powerful Spring, where a phoebe had chosen to nest u
p in a crevice of the rock near the loud, gushing flow. We saw lots recent of lagomorph activity, and found out how to tell what that yellow snow is: deer pee, or “tree pee”? This sparked us to really use our olfactory senses, learning experientially, the scent of sap vs deer urine, but also the differences in the scent of different individual deer’s urine. I had thought all deer pee would smell pretty much the same, but the quality and character of the three examples we sampled that day really showed how distinct scents can get and that we are capable of picking up on that.
It got me wondering about what each individual deer is eating, that may account for the differences in scent, as well as if deer have individual preferences for foods? Do they just eat what is around them, or will some d
eer seek out a particular food, while another would instead seek out another type of food? Once again, I come back learning that I have a lot more to learn! Another day full of new lessons to let sink in, a reignited spark to learn and uncover more mysteries, and a deep sense of gratitude and satisfaction.
Written by: Lianna Vargas – 2nd Year Earth Tracks Tracking Apprentice