Friday, December 5, 2008

Mountain Tracking

In the Nelson area I've been getting in some great tracking time. No need to come into town when you can stay on the mountain and trail such animals as cougars and wolverines!

I've had three days of epic tracking and I'll try to give you a very brief synopsis of the highlights. Two days ago after hiking to the top of a 6,000 + mountain we came across some fresh cougar tracks. On our walk we passed the tracks of many animals including marten, deer, elk, snowshoe hare, red squirrels and grouse. We decided to continue looking for some fresher sign and that's when we crossed the trail of a cougar! We followed this animal which we believed to be a female as she moved through the timber in search of her number one prey -- deer. By her movements we suspected she was hunting as she moved in a walk through the mature forests pausing every now and again to look around. In the snow this cat left some perfect impressions and we were very excited to see the detail in the tracks and move behind his silent and powerful predator. We trailed her for over a mile as she moved through this mountain wilderness. What a great tracking experience. The next day we went to a different area and came across a set of wolverine tracks crossing the road. There were some good tracks on the road, but it was quite hard to follow this animal into the forest, where the snow was quite solid and icy and the tracks became very hard to see. I have never had the opportunity to follow these animals before and it was a great chance to learn a little more about this elusive and fiesty animal known as the wolverine. I was amazed at the size of the paws and very curious to learn more about how this animal relates and utilizes the landscape. Wolverines have very large home ranges and tend to cover an incredibly amount of ground in thier travels.

This mountain paradise affords some amazing tracking and equally stunning scenery. We had clear views of the west arm of Kootenay lake and could see the Purcell mountains in the distance. Every time I come back to the Kootenays it makes me remember why I loved living here so much. It's going to be hard to leave, but eventually the wintery Algonquin woods ill be calling me home.

Rocky Mountain Roadtrip

Once leaving Smithers I headed east to Prince George and decided to continue go to Jasper and then head south through the National Parks. It was quite a spectacular drive through the Rockies. The roads were quite slippery and there was quite a bit of snow in the mountains. I travelled through Mount Robson park, Jasper, Banff, Yoho and Glacier national parks as well as Mt. Relvelstoke park. What an amazing landscape these parks entail. Since the weather was pretty overcast I couldn't see too many of the peaks, but you could really feel the rugged beauty of this wilderness landscape. I saw a Bighorn sheep as well as a herd of elk on the drive past countless peaks over the 10,000 ft. range. The columbia icefields was also an amazig area containing the largest glacial deposits south of the arctic circle. The wide and diverse river valley's were perfect wolf habitat with plenty of prey including caribou, deer and elk, while the highlands support healthy populations of bighorn sheep and mountain goat. Rogers pass ws quite the drive as you climb to the top where the highway is protected with a series of 'shelter/barriers' from the ever present threat of avalanches in the winter time. There was a lot of snow up there and very steep drop-offs to the valleys below. There is a huge expanse of wilderness here in this part of the Rocky mountains and I hope to one day return to explore this beautiful area. From Revelstoke I continued south and across the galena bay ferry to the Nakusp area. As I headed over to New Denver and into the Slocan Valley I began to feel at home in an area that I have spent much time in in the past. Soon I was in Nelson and another tracking adventure was about to begin!

Lynx Tracking

While tracking the other day on my friends property near Smithers I came upon some great tracks in the snow. There was a Canada Lynx moving through the firs and aspens in search of its prey -- snowshoe hares. There were many hares located in this area and the lynx, who specificaly targets these animals was on the hunt. It was great to follow the tracks as it stealthily moved through the thick brush in search of it's next meal. I found a lay where the animal had rested briefly as well as a fresh scat containing fur and bones of a hare. The trail that I was on was fresh and this lynx was not too far ahead of me. After a good while trailing this animal I 'let the trail go' and was thankful for the things that I had learned from this cat. The next day I actually got to see a lynx as it crossed the road in front of me. What a beautiful animal, such long legs and super-sized paws that enable it to stay on top of the deep snow.

On my tracking wander I also came across many other animals including coyotes, short-tail weasels, moose, deer and voles. I even found an old moose kill that was pretty well 'picked-clean'. There were a couple sets of coyote and raven tracks around the carcass, but not much left to feed on at this point. It was great day of tracking with the Babine mountains in the background and a great view of the glacier cradled on top of Hudson Bay mountain. It was hard to leave this beautiful place after spending two weeks tracking, hiking, snowboarding and socializing. But eventually I left and headed south via the Rocky mountains.