Tracking in the Krug Forest
Saturday, January 16, 2016 – Written by Lianna Vargas – 2nd Year Earth Tracks Tracking Apprentice
We began our day at the Krug Brother’s Forest, an amazing expanse of wild land open to the public thanks to two brothers with a vision and a whole lot of integrity.
We didn’t have to go far before we found our first focus, some fairly fresh deer trails. Even though most of the tracks were already fairly snowed-in, obscuring the clarity of the characteristic heart shape of this ungulate‘s toes, we discussed features that would support our thoughts that it was indeed a deer trail we were looking at. We noted the hour-glass shape left by the feet entering and exiting the layer of snow.
We talked about how you can tell which direction the animal was travelling, even without seeing clearly defined toes, based on the angles of the track walls. We followed the deer trails up a hill, and eventually found there were more than one set of tracks, heading in opposite directions. They looked fairly similar in size and we questioned whether what we were looking at was actually two individuals, or perhaps the same deer. Only following the trails would tell us for sure, so as the rest of the group moved ahead, I followed the trail heading in the other direction, which led me down the side of the hill, around the edge of a wetland, into a cedar forest, back out and then down to the trail we originally started on, go figure!
Coming down along near the water, we saw some mysterious tracks on the partially frozen surface. Sue followed them back to a log, where it seemed there were some small impressions that looked like lays or beds of some creature. Investigating further revealed a tell-tale clue to the mystery creature – some clear tracks! When we got down to belly-level, we found bits of hair, but more drawing was the crimson color of blood in some tracks near the back of the log.
Looking over on the other side of the log revealed another layer to this exciting tracking mystery, the carcass of a doe with only skin, bones and it’s head.
We investigated the scene, which told that our mystery creature had been feeding on it but it was not large enough to take out a deer that size so we wondered whether the deer had been killed by a larger predator like coyotes or perhaps just died naturally at this spot. No recent signs of a struggle were present in the surrounding area that we could note, and the way the bones and skin were all still intact led us to believe a group of canines hadn’t killed this deer – they would have torn it apart, scattering parts, crushing and chewing on bones (as we had previously seen before). Here, there was a sense of stillness and peacefulness that one should find in a place a wild animal chooses to lay down and return to the Earth.
Being close to an animal carcass can be a new and somewhat uncomfortable experience, but it is an incredible opportunity for full-on sensory learning, and something to be truly grateful for. Not only do you get to know the facts about these animals from learning about them, you can see it in front of you, you can reach out a touch it, you can hold it, and sit with it. You can even smell the scent of death on it. There are many little nuances that you can pick up on that really help build your knowledge base and understanding of the natural world. An incredible way to blend academic information and experiential learning.
Thanks to this beautiful creature, we were able to get a really close look at the anatomy of deer feet, the positioning of their dew claws, and how that relates to what we see in their tracks.
The day was filled with many more memorable moments and lessons – it is really an amazing experience, to realize just how much we are able to read into the stories from the book of life, from the clues and hints left behind, hidden in the intricacies of the surrounding environment.
Written by Lianna Vargas – 2nd Year Earth Tracks Tracking Apprentice