Archive for October, 2013

Hiked into a kill site yesterday of a cat with two eleven month old kittens.  Saw about a thousand perfect cougar tracks and found a “play” area where the kittens leaped, rolled around and tackled each other.  Something I’ve learned about animals is that they play WAY more than people expect.  Play is one of the most common behaviors, especially of course in the young animals.  There is a great book called Walking with Bears by Terry DeBruyn where the author followed around a family of black bears and recorded everything they did.  It was amazing how much they played.


These were the first tracks we came across. Aging tracks in snow can be tricky but these look very fresh.


We found a cougar bed with this great scratch post. They seem to like scratching rotten old logs. This one had big pieces ripped off. It is believed that they do this for scent marking purposes as well as to sharpen their claws. It makes much more sense to me that they scratch to sharpen their claws and stretch because I’ve only found these scratch posts next to a bed rather than along main travel routes or on the edges of their territory.


Entering the play zone. This cougar jumped off the log and then made a big leap towards the top of the picture.


Great cougar hind track. Their hind tracks are much more symmetrical than their fronts.


Here is the cougar “playground”. There are tracks everywhere, body impressions, tail swipes, etc. Looks like they had a good time!


Great set of tracks from a bounding cougar kitten. The front tracks are the lower ones. You can probably picture a house cat bounding in the exact same way.


Zoomed out view of the bounding tracks above. If only we could have caught all of this action on film.


Body impressions and tail swipes.


We also came across this giant bear scat with a smaller scat right on top. Must be from a big grizzly bear.


Here’s a zoomed out view of the cougar playground. It might be worth noting that we found this next to where the mother killed a mule deer. I imagine that the amount of play time goes up significantly when the cats are happy and well fed. Another great day of tracking with the Teton Cougar Project.

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Well I’ve been busy lately.  We took a trip to Oregon for another tracking evaluation.  We had some great questions and intense rain.  Now I’m back in Wyoming looking for work and a place to live so I can stay here through the winter.  I’m getting very excited for the snow tracking season.  Wolves, cougars, foxes, elk, moose, and easy trailing… its going to be fun!


River otter tracks in some sweet mud.


Faint tracks with the culprit in view.


Cool beetle trail.


Awesome shrew tracks. These are actually easy to identify when they are clear. All mammals evolved from a creature with five toes on their front feet and five on their hind feet and shrews are one of the oldest mammals. So if you find a super tiny set of tracks and all feet show five toes, you’ve got a shrew.


Rough skinned newt.


Wasps eating a pear. They were a little slow-moving, I think from all the sugar.


I believe these are pheasant scats. We found them in an open hay barn and they were totally full of ants.


Some great nutria tracks. One cool thing I learned about nutrias is that they don’t have any webbing on their pinky toes of their hind feet.


Snail tracks on the beach.


This was a fun eval question. This is an injured coyote. One of his tracks just shows up as a couple dots. Somehow he is able to make a living in this harsh world.


Nice mink trail walking towards the water.


Mystery bone. Found this on the shore of a lake in Idaho. Haven’t been able to figure out what it is… some kind of fish I think. If you have ideas let me know! *Update: with the help of some folks I’ve learned that this is the spiney fin bone from a catfish!  Pretty cool.


A recent visitor to the office…


Here’s Michelle pointing to a grizzly bear bite. This was a big bear – the bite was about 6 and a half feet high!


Grizzly bear hairs.


We had an amazing day of trailing yesterday. There is a brief window where there is snow on the ground and the bears haven’t started hibernating yet. We followed this female black bear for miles.


The fall colors and the mountains are spectacular here. I think this is one of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever been in.

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