I’ve had a love of tracking ever since being introduced to it during my years doing Search and Rescue. In those days, we were largely looking for human sign to get a sense of direction or perhaps a location to start a dog.
These days the tracks I look for are of animals, and often I’m just as excited to find an indication that an animal has passed by as I am to see the animal itself. The mountain lion above was photographed in captivity, I have yet to see one in its natural habitat. It’s one of the animals that I am content to see only the tracks of! These powerful predators are the fourth largest of the cat species and can take down moose, elk, bighorn sheep and other large prey. While in their territory you’d be well-advised to look up as they are known to ambush.
My husband and I have found fresh tracks of the mountain lion on at least two occasions and spotting them never fails to send that little shiver of excitement through me.
The cat track above was located in a creek bed alongside those of a grizzly. The area had dense brush on both sides, and we left shortly after photographing them.
Tracks are but one indication that an animal has passed by. In future posts I’ll share some other signs.
In our travels yesterday we passed a man toting a camera and lens longer in length than my arm. When my husband asked me if I’d like a lens of that size I could truthfully answer no.
While I do love macro photography and images that could be described as intimate landscapes—tiny sections of a larger scene—I’m more passionate about the story. I’m just as excited about seeing signs that an animal has passed as I am seeing the animal itself.
The light covering of snow softened the harsh landscape winter left behind and as we got out of my Jeep, the rattling bugle-like call of a Sandhill Crane echoed through the mountains.
A hike towards the marshland uncovered fox tracks, wolf tracks, and winged impressions left behind by perhaps a large hawk. Striding along the snowy landscape was the source of those melodic calls.
Nature is all around us. It lives in transient moments not always captured by a camera.
Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Years ago while involved in Search and Rescue I was introduced to tracking by a man named Jim Marshall. He cultivated in me an appreciation for awareness and personal space and the second nature to be always looking for indicators.
Today, one of my greatest joys is to find signs of animals passing through the wilderness and letting my imagination run wild with the back stories.
The discovery pictured above, along with a huge pile of hair laden scat, was heart rate elevating!
I searched for the perfect track to photograph and my mind raced with thoughts.
As a former bloodhound handler and instructor of scent theory, I’m well versed in the abilities of certain animals because of physiological makeup to be scenting machines.
Here I was in close proximity to one of the animals at the apex of this description…the grizzly bear. An animal purported to be able to scent 300 times more than a bloodhound.
This is the beauty of photography. Each time I look at this photograph I will remember the cold, the heightened awareness, the silence, and the joy that we felt when we saw it.
I had hoped to see elusive bear number TEN of the year but I’m okay with it not being this particular bear.