Monday, December 10, 2007

Trailing Bobbie

It snowed a bit at the beginning of the month here. It worked out nicely for the first day of the tracking intensive weekend, though not so well for the second day as it had snowed all that night so covering up all the tracks. Then it started to rain and flooded the valley a bit, but that is for another post perhaps.

We went back on the logging roads behind the school's land with the intention of doing some sign tracking. My subgroup decided to head down toward the creek and check out aplodontia sign along the way. There certainly was plenty of that, and while exploring the holes and tunnels we came upon the trail of a bobcat. It's hard to turn down the chance to follow a fresh bobcat trail even if we were supposed to be sign tracking, so off we went. (And hey - we could look for bobcat sign along the trail!)

It's interesting to see how much a bobcat can splay its foot. The above picture shows that this is a relatively small bobcat, but when it walked out on some ice (and apparently decided that perhaps the ice wasn't as solid as it would like) its track splayed out to almost twice the width.

Before we even found these bobcat tracks, one of the goals for the day was to find some bobcat scent marking. So we were keeping our eyes out for that sort of thing. Whenever we found the tracks stop we would look (and smell) around to see if it had marked there. Not too long after we started on the trail there was a place where it had stopped, we smelled around and some in the group decided that a section of a nearby tree smelled of "asparagus pee", but it did not seem connected to the bobcat. However just 10 feet away there was another quick stop where the cat had turned its butt towards a dead fern. Jackpot. It smelled strongly of cat piss.

I've been told that animals like to scent mark things that will hold the smell for a long time. Punky wood was given as a good example because the smell will be able to soak in. So I'm curious about using the fern, perhaps the dead vegetation will hold the smell well until it completely decays, so would be good for a season or two. As far as I can tell, this was done primarily for marking rather than to empty the bladder as I didn't see any particular yellow marking or dripping on the snow around the fern.

Apparently both males and females can spray urine behind them - I'm not really sure how that works - so the marking doesn't really help me out with gender id. However given the size I would think it was either a female or a young male. There are track features that can be used to determine sex and hopefully I will be able to use those at some point, but at the moment I'm not very knowledgeable about using those.

No comments: