Volunteers Piece Together Clues at the Winter Tracks Program Kickoff

FSPW kicked off 2014-15 winter educational programming this past Saturday at the Community Center in Heron MT.  Faced with the challenges of a warm beginning to winter, Naturalist Brian Baxter easily perservered, bringing his wildlife knowledge, tracking ‘tricks of the trade,’ and a lot of fun energy to a great group of volunteers and instructors who will be participating in FSPW’s Winter Tracks program this season.

Brian engages the group as we identify forest habitat details and wildlife activity signs

8 FSPW Volunteer Trip Leaders attended this kickoff event in order to gain understanding of the layout of the course our youth participants will be engaging in beginning this January, their roles as trip leaders, and to refine their skills in wildlife tracking and ID, sign interpretation and camera recording station set-up.

Class began with a 2-hour classroom review of animals common in North Idaho, their family groupings and their track features.  Brian introduced terminology commonly used when discussing animal signs/tracks and entertained participants with animated discussions regarding the how and why of track patterns wildlife create.

hole scent
Brian created several attracting displays to lure in animals, utilizing organic sources in this ground display.

Participants then headed to field sites outside of Heron to conduct a tracking hike

camera setup
Name this camera setup detail: Motion Camera, Visual Lure, Local Lure, Reference Material….

through the woods to the class’s winter wildlife recording site. The class discussed the habitat features they identified, and these features’ implications for wildlife.  Eventually the class congregated around a small secondary drainage feature on a NE hillside, at a small bench in the topography, all around us a mature stand of Hemlock carpeted with soft, light green layers of feathery step-moss.  At this spot, Brian unloaded his gear bag and described to us some (but not all!) of the tricks in his kit for deploying wildlife study sites.  A variety of olfactory lures and visual attractants were discussed with the class as well, then temporarily installed around the site in strategic manners.  Participants set up motion-activated cameras at the right angles around the site to capture potential wildlife activity over the next few weeks.

clrk frk
Volunteers Mary and Elisa track along the sandy Clark Fork riverbank.

Satisfied with the set-up, the class moved on to a site near the Clark Fork river to search for animal activity along the wetland/upland forest transition zone.  Tracks, feeding evidence, scat, and other animal sign were identified by the

Curiosity killed the cat, but volunteering only gets folks a little wet and muddy.

astute group.  This group was so into seeking out sign, that they occasionally immersed themselves in their environment.  Like, about thigh deep, right Suz?

Overall, the weather stayed clear and made for a great day with good discussions and questions, and the group’s continuing spirit of discovery has prepped these talented volunteers for our school group field trips coming up in January and February.  THANK YOU TO OUR OUTSTANDING VOLUNTEERS!!!  Your generosity and commitment to this project positively impacts our hometowns, our greater community of wilderness stewards, and our future.

Thank you to everyone who helped us with this series kickoff event!  The FSPW Winter Tracks program is a youth-focused outdoor education field trip mini series.  Students grades 5th-12th will visit public land sites and be given the opportunity to perform winter experiential activities including wildlife tracking and recording with professional educators and knowledgeable volunteers.  Public, private, and general public youth audiences are welcomed and encouraged to attend!  If anyone is interested in assisting this project as a volunteer or a participant, please contact me! Kristen@scotchmanpeaks.org .  We would love to get you involved in giving back this winter!

Last years’ FSPW Volunteer Group of seventh graders are planning to attend our winter educational programming again this year. Look at those smiles!

Happy Holidays, Everyone!!





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