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Friday, March 7, 2014

Tracking with the Trekkers!

Nature has a way of surprising us when we least expect it, revealing mysteries and inspiring awe in everyday occurrences that often go unnoticed.  It could be a flock of robins that converge upon some late season crab apples or a beaver gnawing on a tree under a bridge in town.  At NBNC, we call these "teachable moments" and a few days ago North Branch Nature Center was blessed with something that will provide teachable moments for weeks to come.  That something is a dead white-tailed deer.

The deer was first reported this past Tuesday, near the same location as the Bald Eagle sighting last week during our winter vacation camp (perhaps the eagle was feeding on the carcass).  When first seen, the deer was already more than half eaten but was surrounded in fresh tracks.

Yesterday, the deer provided its first of many lessons when we visited it with the North Branch Trekkers after school program.  We set out with the goal of finding as many different animal tracks as we possibly could near the carcass and in the surrounding area.  We also set up the "Trekkers Cam", which is a motion sensing game camera that will take photos and video of any animal visiting the carcass in between our visits.  After the first night, we captured this footage of our first visitor.

The camera was set to take a 20 second video every time the motion sensor was triggered and then rest for 5 minutes.  This Gray Fox triggered the camera 3 times that night, all between 10:07 and 10:19 p.m.  We could tell that it was the same fox due to the oddly misshapen ears.  This fox will be easily identified if it returns due to this abnormality.  In this next video, you can see what we believe to be a burdock attached to its tail as it walks away from the camera.


In addition to the gray fox footage, we also captured multiple recordings of Common Ravens feeding at the carcass throughout the day.  More interesting than the actual video footage of the ravens was the wing and tail impressions that the birds left in the snow.

American Crow wing print

Primary feathers... crow or raven?

We have started a list of animal tracks found near the carcass and the surrounding area.  So far we have gray fox, coyote, bobcat, mink, ermine, otter, long-tailed weasel, red squirrel, mouse, crow, raven, chickadee, and house cat. Below are photos of both the mink and bobcat tracks.

Mink tracks

Bobcat trail

As the weeks roll on, the Trekkers will continue to monitor the carcass, checking the camera and looking for new tracks once a week.  So expect an update a week from today.  Who knows what else will show up!

P.S. -  If this sounds like something your children would enjoy, it is not too late to sign up for Trekkers!  Both boys and girls are welcome to join!

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