Snow-tracking for Professionals
***Note: We have temporarily suspended this course offering due to social distancing requirements and risks of contagion during the current pandemic*** learn about our COVID-19 measures for courses and workshops
Instructor: Joseph Litke
This Snow-tracking for Professionals course is focussed on building track identification skills to identify winter-occurring wildlife tracks and sign accurately and efficiently.
The coming of winter in Canada brings lasting snowfalls that create landscape-sized track-traps, where all the movements of the various species of wildlife over a period of time are recorded in tracks cast in recent snowfalls. This has long been a powerful tool used by wildlife managers and researchers to assess the occurrence, distribution, abundance, and behaviour of a wide range of species. While seeing that an animal has made a track in snow is relatively simple, identifying exactly what species made the tracks can be more difficult. Its common for books on the matter to teach us to count toes, look for claws, and assess foot symmetry, but that is easier to read about than it is to actually do. When you peer into the track left by an animal in deep, loose, Canadian snow, it is common to just see a hole in the snowpack– no toes, no claws, not even the vague shape of a foot. Join us to learn how to identify and interpret wildlife tracks in even the most challenging conditions during this intense and comprehensive course designed for ecology students, wildlife researchers, and environmental consultants.
Duration: 2-days (~8 hours of classroom & 8 hours of field)
Prerequisites: None. Participants 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 or want-to-be is welcome to register. Beginner level trackers would benefit from taking one of our 1-day workshops before registering for this course, but its not required.
Preparation: The field portion of this course is comprised 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.
Scheduled Courses & Locations: Consult the Tracking Course Schedule for a list of course dates and locations. ***Note: We have temporarily suspended this course offering due to social distancing requirements and risks of contagion during the current pandemic***
Edmonton Courses: When offered in the Edmonton region, field portions of this course are usually held at Elk Island National Park (to be confirmed on a course by course basis). This venue offers the potential for a challenging range of species, including up to 5 species of ungulates, 5 species of mustelids, 4 canid species, and 2 felid species, among others.
Fees for scheduled courses: $500 per participant, 8-participant minimum
Custom Courses: Custom, on-location Snow-tracking for Professionals courses are available by request from December 1 to March 31 (depending on local snow conditions). This service is perfect for consulting firms and research groups engaging in snow-tracking projects and seeking to ensure their trackers meet a minimum standard. Contact us for a quote! ***Note: We have temporarily suspended this course offering due to social distancing requirements and risks of contagion during the current pandemic***
Outcomes: by the end of this course, participants should:
- be familiar with foundational theories related to the tracking of winter-active species
- have a basic understanding of the many ways that professionals use tracking
- be able to calculate relative abundance
- understand the importance of days-since-snow in determining relative abundance
- know the key features to aid in track-maker identification for similar looking tracks
- understand the concept of baseline gaits and be able to identify the baseline gait for most winter-active species occurring in Alberta and Saskatchewan
- be able to identify to species or species group using trail pattern and deductive reasoning
- be aware of some of the pitfalls inherent from learning only from field-guides
- have developed a toolset for aging tracks
- have learned to consider weight in the assessment of track identification
- have learned techniques for assessing the gender of individuals by their tracks and sign
- have experience identifying ungulate scats
- understand proper techniques for documenting tracks, including taking measurements, and photographs for confirmation purposes
- understand the importance of broader ecological knowledge in wildlife tracking and continued improvement
- be aware of the influence of substrate on track appearance
Other Tracking Courses and Workshops:
Snow Tracking Field Essentials: This worksop consists of a single field-based day of learning and practice. It’s open to anyone, but is ideal for ecology students, wildlife researchers, and environmental consultants with some tracking knowledge or experience. Perfect as a pre season primer for your snow-tracking project crew. Learn more.
A Day in the Wilderness with a Tracker: This worksop consists of a single field-based day of learning and practice. The pages and pictures in your favourite field guides are a wealth of information, but nothing compares to a walk in the woods with a knowledgeable teacher. Spend the day with a small group of like-minded nature-curious individuals on a day hike in a local wilderness park or natural area. When we see something interesting, we will stop, watch, investigate, and learn together. Learn the key questions to ask while viewing wildlife or encountering wildlife tracks and sign. Nature will set the syllabus, and learning will only be limited by the endurance of our curiosity (and the available daylight). This workshop can be conducted at any time of year, though the focus and curriculum may change from season to season. Learn more.
A Stroll in the Park with a Tracker: This is a 3 to 4-hour walking workshop, and is the shorter/tamer version of our Day in the Wilderness with a Tracker workshop. It will consist of a half day stroll in an easily accessible area talking about wildlife tracks and signs. Its a perfect entry level tracking workshop for beginners or individuals looking for a shorter day in an easily accessed and less rugged area. Learn more.
Fun with Tracks: This 1 to 2-hour walking workshop is designed to inspire and spark curiosity and is suitable for kids and adults from 12 years old and up who want to learn about tracks. It’s ideal as an extra-curricular class activity, as part of youth organization programming such as that of Scouts, Jr Forest Wardens, Boys & Girls Clubs, and 4H. Try it as a team building corporate activity or even a corporate Christmas party primer. Learn more.