At a glance, Lowenwood may appear still and calm during winter months. Yet, with a closer awareness we can witness the thoughts and actions of the Northwoods animals. The winter season provides us with an opportunity to closely follow the activity of wildlife by observing their tracks, tunnels, feathers and scat left behind in the snow. The tracks and signs tell a story of critters enduring the challenges of winter.
This week in Field Instruction, the students learned how to identify different animal tracks by observing gait patterns and track characteristics. In a single track, an expert tracker cannot only identify the animal and but also discover its size, age, how long ago it passed through, the direction it was going and many other details! Signs surrounding the tracks such as scat or feathers can provide additional evidence for the tracker.
The students practiced varying movement patterns of gallopers, bounders, diagonal walkers, and pacers to get an idea of how different animals travel. They were then given an opportunity to practice finding and identifying tracks while exploring the beautiful snow covered forest. Students discovered the tracks of a deer, many red squirrels, a cotton tail rabbit and even a porcupine!
Through observation and identification of critter tracks and signs, we are able to discover and speculate their survival adaptation. Using our imaginations we create a story of what this animal was doing, feeling, and thinking on a cold, blustery day. Another example of what makes Lowenwood a perfect winter outdoor classroom!
Rebecca Rand, Graduate Fellow