Searching for clues left behind

Residents learn different way of seeing at tracking event
by Yoko Minoura

Bend siblings Jules Ginsparg, 9, and Leah Ginsparg, 7, flopped down on their bellies to peer into the hollow under a boulder Saturday morning at Shevlin Park. The remains of manzanita buds left under the rock, they learned, suggested that a rodent might have sheltered there recently. Jules and Leah also examined burrows in the grass, looked at animal scat and even studied a paw print most likely left by a pet dog to learn about tracking animals.

 

Roughly two dozen residents showed up at the park in northwest Bend for the event, part of an effort to kick-start a tracking club in Bend. Instructors from wilderness education organizations Coyote Trails School of Nature and TrackersNW acted as guides. The event was also supported by Tulen Center for Martial Arts & Wellness.

Jules said he likes being outside in general, but said the tracking event helped him learn more about animals from what they leave behind. He said his favorite thing was finding an animal skeleton left under a large boulder. "The skeleton thing was pretty interesting, because it was almost intact," he said. "(It was) probably some small rodent, maybe a rabbit." Instructors talked about how a rodent skeleton or bird feathers could point to the presence of a predator, and bite marks on the remains can provide further clues about the predator itself. Even droppings left under rocks or on game trails were part of the tracking lesson. "It was surprisingly interesting, because you could find out what the animal was and what it ate just by looking at (scat)," Jules said.

Bend resident Mary Louise Vidas said she attended the tracking event Saturday because she was at a similar gathering last month and enjoyed it. "It just reminds me to broaden my view of things and awaken my other senses," she said. Vidas said she was surprised by how much could be gleaned from tiny details. Broken pine cones, and a nearby pile of pine nut husks, for instance, could point to the feeding habits of squirrels or chipmunks. She said learning about tracking allows her to see more, by finding the connections that exist between animals and their habitat. "For me, it's more of a broad sense of things," she said. "(A) heightened awareness of your immediate surroundings."

Lincoln City resident Gary Meyers, who was visiting Bend, said he joined the tracking event partly for professional reasons. "I'm a park ranger, and I'm trying to incorporate tracking and animal uses of the land into programs," he said. Meyers said he was impressed by both the knowledge of the instructors and their obvious appreciation of nature. The instructors not only encouraged questions but coaxed participants to kneel or even lie down to examine details that could provide clues about an animal's habits. "I think if anybody has just an appreciation of nature and waking on trails, this is a great experience to get your eyes and ears tuned to nature," he said.

From bendbulletin.com - published daily in Bend, Oregon, by Western Communications, Inc. Copyright 2005.