Saturday, August 29, 2015
Written by Tamara Anderson – 2nd Year Tracking Apprentice
There are forty seven species of mammals that call Algonquin Park “home”. The world-renowned park includes 7,725 square km of mixed coniferous and deciduous forest. On our latest tracking weekend, we observed the tracks and sign of Algonquin wildlife living along the shores of Lake Sasejewun near the Wildlife Research Centre.
Saturday morning was overcast as we made our way to the canoe launch. A stop near the dam revealed Northern Flicker tracks in pursuit of ants along the dusty road. A pile of black bear scat presented our first mystery. There were large seeds in the bear scat. What was the bear eating? The answer would reveal itself (with Alexis’ help) the next day.
We followed the bear’s trail to the edge of the lake and noted that the bear had grazed on sedges along the course of his/her travels. Being the Park’s largest mammal, male black bears generally weigh between 70 and 150kg and females weigh between 45 and 70kg.
We boarded the canoes and headed west across the lake. The group paused along the opposite shore as Tamara and Rhonda made a quick dash across the lake to return a leaky vessel. These sink-chronistic circumstances proved serendipitous as the shoreline revealed a formidable bear bite on a pine tree, a bear trail through soft moss, grouse scat (fibrous and cecal), snowshoe hare sign and a myriad of moose and white-tailed deer trails.
After lunch in the boats, we journeyed to the Northwest corner of the lake where Luke and Sue had seen a moose named “Misty” the night before. Along this shoreline, we discovered wolf tracks and a beaver lodge that had been marked with skunky urine by a fox. Nearby, Lianna and Tamara noticed that a red squirrel had cached piles of balsam fir cones beside purple mushrooms. Prepare yourself for a challenging tongue twister; Did the squirrel purposefully place the purple-coloured cones beside the purple mushroom? Did she intend to camouflage the cones or perhaps organize a “balanced mushroom and cone on the cob” meal for another day?
Other highlights of the afternoon included seeing a bear cub track beside a beaver-chewed birch tree. A mama bear track was nearby. Everyone had a chance to jump on a fresh bear or moose trail or take time for a sit spot. Alexis pointed out Rattlesnake plantain, one of Ontario’s orchids. Rhonda found the bottom of a beaver skull. A mystery brown snake appeared and went down a hole. What are the ID characteristics of a red-bellied snake versus a brown snake without seeing the belly? Or could it be a young Garter Snake?
On the paddle back to the station, we found the bones of a moose calf on the shore and signs of wolf feeding and rolling. We learned that the wolves took five days to find the dead moose calf and two days to eat it. This led to questions about how many wolves are in the park and where is the nearest rendezvous site?
The next day, Alexis showed us a chokecherry tree near the bear scat that had been pulled down. Bear claw marks were evident on the bark. Most of the chokecherries had been eaten, except for a few left on the branches. We opened one up and found the matching mystery seed that had been in the bear scat. It was a berry good find. Bear with me as I close this story of the day with one more pun; I hope that you found this write-up amoosing