The secret to tracking wildlife

Feb 25, 2014
Nature Night presenter Dave Moskowitz wowed audiences with stunning photography and great stories. Here's one take on the evening.

This week the Deschutes Land Trust brought author and tracker Dave Moskowitz to town as part of our winter Nature Night series. Dave's presentation, Wolves in the Land of Salmon, focused on these charismatic carnivores that are so loved and hated in the West. Those who attended the presentation were treated to stunning photography and stories about wolf biology and ecology.

One of my favorite stories from the evening included a series of photos showing some young wolves on the beach playing with kelp. Dave told of watching them chase each other with the kelp, in and out of the surf, over and over again. The scene, of course, also played out by human children on beaches around the northwest. (Watch a clip from the evening where David speaks about wolves on the beach below.)

He also talked about the habitat needs of wolves noting that they liked to rear their young near wet meadows where food was plentiful. Camp Polk Meadow Preserve instantly came to mind. We have wet meadows! In fact, we just helped restore some wet meadows! Will wolves one day call them home?

Dave's humor peppered the presentation including one delightful shot of a wolf rolling in an otter latrine ..."you know, those guilty pleasures we all like to enjoy." Visions of my dog flashed before my eyes and likely 3/4 of the crowd. And, that was Dave's point: wolves, like children or our dogs, are simply another animal trying to make it in nature. (Watch a clip from the evening where Dave explains how wolves have adapted to life on the coast.)

My guess is that most of us spent the presentation enamored with the idea of tracking wolves and getting so close to such magnificent creatures. I was! But, after spending more time with Dave, I think my real take-away was how much an understanding of a place and its natural history feeds into tracking wildlife. If we learn the biology and ecology of wildlife, it is much easier to really see and read a landscape and then hear the stories it has to tell. It's a good reminder that it's the small details--divots under a pine tree--that tell of the cougars that walked the trail before me. 

Learn more about Dave Moskowitz or read about his upcoming adventures to retrace the path of famed wolf OR-7.