Snow Tracking Field Essentials

Event Summary
Date: Nothing scheduled at this time
Location: Elk Island National Park
Instructor: Joseph Litke
Maximum Participants: 8
Registration: Not available at this time

A socially distanced, fully outdoor, immersive experience – show up, get tracking

learn about our COVID-19 measures for courses and workshops

Instructor: Joseph Litke

Snow Tracking Field Essentials is a one-day, field-based practical workshop on identifying tracks in snow. Suitable as a crash course for beginners, this course is frequently a “breakthrough” experience even for experienced trackers. Ideal for ecology students, wildlife researchers, and environmental consultants with any level of tracking knowledge or experience. Our Snow Tracking Field Essentials workshop is perfect as a pre season primer for your snow-tracking project crew.

Learning on your own to identify wildlife tracks in snow can be frustrating. While its plain to see the stories of wildlife written across a landscape of recently fallen snow, low or flat light, loose and deep snow, and a lack of footprint detail all contribute to uncertainty. Our favourite tracking field guides tell us to look for claws, count toes, and assess the shape of heel pads, but so often in mid-winter snow conditions, these details are not apparent. Learn to recognize key characteristics in the overall track pattern, and apply your knowledge of the character and physical attributes of each species to hypothesize about the species of the track-maker. Then investigate further to find evidence that supports or contradicts your hypothesis. Confirmation of the tracker’s initial hypothesis builds confidence, while contradictory evidence is an opportunity to adjust the hypothesis, and facilitates advanced learning and a deepened understanding of the tracks and the track-maker. Confidence comes with experience, and this workshop can be a breakthrough experience for any tracker. Spend the day with a certified wildlife tracker with more than 20 years of professional snow tracking experience, and advance your skills. 

Learn to identify “featureless” footprints in deep loose snow. Photo credit: Joseph Litke

“I wish that I had taken this course years ago, it would have eliminated so much uncertainty”

A long-time Alberta hunter, 2017 Snow Tracking Field Essentials workshop participant

Duration: 1-day (6 to 8 hours of field-based learning)

Prerequisites: None. Participants of Snow Tracking Field Essentials are typically ecology students, wildlife researchers, environmental consultants, or otherwise employed or aspiring to work in a nature-focussed profession. However, any wildlife-track enthusiast of any experience is welcome to register.

**Note: at this time, participants must be adults of 18 years or older on the date of the event**

Preparation: This is a snow-tracking focused, field-based course consisting of a long day outside during winter. Warm boots and clothes are a must to enable bouts of inactivity while receiving instruction. Equally important is a reasonable level of physical fitness, because the further we hike, the more opportunities we will have to see and learn. Snowshoes may be required depending on the conditions (please supply your own if reccomended).

Fees for scheduled courses: $200 per participant, 8-participant minimum

Custom Courses: Custom, on-location Snow Tracking Field Essentials workshops are available by request from December 1 to March 31 (depending on local snow conditions). These workshops are perfect for consulting firms and research groups engaging in snow-tracking projects and seeking to ensure their trackers meet a minimum standard. Learn More.

Outcomes: by the end of this course, participants should:

  • understand the concept of baseline gaits and be able to identify the baseline gait for most winter-active species
  • have investigated a number of “non”-baseline gaits of a variety of species, and gained confidence in track-maker identification
  • have learned techniques for assessing direction of travel
  • have practiced assessing behaviour of the track-maker based on its tracks.
  • have increased their ability to identify to species tracks that have very little detail
  • be able to identify to species or species group using trail pattern
  • have reviewed basic techniques for aging tracks
  • have practiced the consideration relative-weight in the assessment of track identification
  • have learned techniques for assessing the gender of individuals by their tracks and sign
  • have experienced identification of a variety of ungulate tracks and scats
  • have comparatively discussed the difference between coyote, red fox, and domestic dog tracks
  • have learned proper techniques for documenting tracks, including taking measurements, and photographs for confirmation purposes
  • have reviewed the importance of broader ecological knowledge in wildlife tracking and continued improvement
  • be aware of the influence of substrate on track appearance
  • know the rules of speed interpretation from track patterns
  • have practiced interpreting speed from a single track
Striped skunk tracks in snow. Wildlife tracking, Snowtracking, tracks & sign, track identification, tracking.
Striped Skunk. Photo Credit: Joseph Litke

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