|To find a raccoon, be a raccoon|
Recently Mr. B, one of our co-workers, got a fisheries grant to pull all the loose sediment out of the failed crossing and restore the creek banks to natural conditions. I offered to show Naiad the erosion control project and how well it had stood up to the past winter's storms. "Hardly anyone goes back here anymore," I added. "At least not people."
I led her farther back into the forest with stories about grizzly bear bones, a smashed Studebaker, and other local legends. We were checking the wildlife cameras for the first time in weeks. It's not easy to find people who will walk miles on hilly terrain with me, and ever since mountain lions started showing up on the cameras, I've promised to not travel back there alone. So I have been coaxing family and friends to go hiking with me by showing them photos from the wildlife cameras and interpreting them with wildly speculative stories.
|Where's that track app? Oh wait, I don't have one.|
Anyone have a good recommendation for a smartphone app for tracking?
|Three muddy raccoon tracks on a rock in a stream.|
I assured Naiad that the mountain lions had probably moved on to another part of their territory. They were probably just passing through the Dipper Ranch earlier this spring on the way to some place more rugged and more mountain lion-y. Or not, she pointed out, since as a plant gal my interpretation of animal behavior could be all wrong.
|Scrambling at the confluence of two streams. |
Large boulders indicate these are flashy streams in the winter.
|Cattle trigger the wildlife cameras. The cattle aren't supposed to be back here but the irresistible pull of an open road brought them wandering down a steep hill.|
|The long heel often doesn't show on a raccoon's fore print, but the horseshoe pattern below the toes is a good clue.|
|Small track with long straight claws in front - my best guess is squirrel.|
|At the side of a pool, a large round track (~ 3"x3") on top of an oval track with nail marks.|
Sorry, Flycatcher, I keep losing the penny you gave me to show scale in track photos.
"There used to be a rail track here."
"Way back here? Are you kidding? Why would there be a railroad in the middle of nowhere?"
"Mr. B found it when they were restoring the stream. No-one knew it was here. It might have been some type of jerry-rigged crossing while they were logging."
|Multiple culverts pulled out of the creek. If you look carefully, you can see the contorted rail sticking out over the leftmost culvert and tangled near the center of the pile.|
|Probably mountain lion tracks.|
|Digging sediment and failed culverts out of the creek.|
|The restored stream with clear water, pools and stable banks.|
At the end of the afternoon at the end of the road, we collected the memory card from the Recon camera and chose to go back the way we came to rejoin our families. Besides, that way was civilization where we could download the cameras' memory cards and see what wildlife had passed this way in the last few weeks. We were in for a surprise.
. . . to be continued soon as Tracks Upon Tracks.