leadwithnature.com

20 years ago I followed Dan Gardoqui on my hands and knees through brambles and mountain laurel in the snows of the White Mountains tracking Coyotes and Fischers.

Thankfully this trip, no crawling. Not sure my aging body could have kept up. But scat sniffing and dissecting was still on.

Per Dan’s recommendation I stayed at the Cozy Cabins in Jackman, Maine.

View from my cabin. 10 degrees in the morning.

There were six of us. From varying backgrounds, but all lovers of winter and wildlife. For some, repeat adventures with Dan.

Dan, whose energy level is daunting, had scouted early and was seen running later in the day, while we tucked in to rest.

We set off to our first covert.

Fresh snow the night before, while beautiful, and beneficial for tracking, was not so appreciated driving through snow squalls, in the dark, on the mountain roads the night before.

Day One: Lynx!

The name Lynx is derived from the Greek meaning to shine. Probably referencing their reflective eyes. They can live up to 17 years old in the wild.

Our intrepid leader discussing movement.

And with Lynx, Snowshoe Hare.

Snow shoe nibbling.
No trip with Dan complete without pee sniffing. Here Steve tries his olfactory senses. No Covid loss of smell detected.

Opinion, smells a lot like cat pee.

An incredible find: Lynx Scat!

Opinion, smells like a litter box.

And one must always dissect. Hot tea first to soften.

We teased about adding chopsticks to our packs.

My phone chose to die so ended my first day of photos.

Day Two:

Fisher and Moose.

While Lynx and Snowshoe were a new adventure for me, Fisher, Moose and Partridge are not. But oh so much more to be learned!

We started with Fisher.

Looked as if the Fisher might be checking out a Red Squirrel dig.

We saw a lot of Red Squirrel tracks and got proficient at telling them apart from the flops of the flying squirrels.

Fisher print on a log.
Note slightly yellow pee stain. If you see a stump or stick in a Fisher trail, you can bet they have rubbed or peed there.

One often concentrates on larger critters. This trip taught me how fascinating Red Squirrels, Flying Squirrels, and my new favorite, the tiny, smelly shrews can be to track.

They are prolific. And while sometimes hunted, apparently they taste terrible and are left uneaten.

The second half of the second day was Moose. And, while familiar to me, I always enjoy imagining the large, funny looking, beast traveling nearby. We saw an amazingly long bark pull. Over 5 ft. Much wandering, without a lot of browsing, and the obligatory moose poop.

We learned how the weight of the moose affects the track.

Front legs carry more weight.
Front ergots (not sure if same term as for horses) are squished down from weight, while back retain shape.

We saw a moose highway, not enough moose in Mason to warrant. It was impressive. Had time allowed would have been fun to see where it lead. Fascinating following predators and their food focused routes, vs herbivores and their amblings.

Was a truly amazing two days. I hope it won’t be another 20 years before I join Dan again. At my age, that might prove too long. Thanks again to Dan Gardoqui and my fellow companions. Check out Leadwithnature.com and perhaps I’ll see you in the woods.

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