Little Man and I traversed the trail along the Davidson River before his class started. Birds were chirping and the wind lightly rustled the leaves as we hiked. We stopped and looked into the clear, mountain water to spot several large trout.
We also walked the nature path with friends before class. It is too early for the wildflowers in the area. Another month and we should be greeted by mountain laurel and rhododendrons. Squirrels busily jumped from limb to limb high above our heads, as we walked.
Ranger Matt conducted the class on animal tracking. He told the class why wildlife biologist track animals and what types of data is collected by tracking animals. Some animals they track using radio collars. Others they track using GPS collars. In other areas they may use infrared or thermal imaging to keep track of herds. He even told us they use bio-luminescence to track trout they put into rivers.
Ranger Matt explained that animal tracks are also a way they keep tabs on wildlife in the area. Whether the tracks are footprints, hair, fur, or scat it tells wildlife biologist about the animals in the area.
The students made plaster molds of different animals. While the molds hardened, Ranger Matt took the class on a hike to discover animal tracks. So, down to the river we went. We ended up on a fairly sandy area of riverbank and the hunt to find animal tracks began. Fairly fast, the students spotted a track and then another. Both tracks were of a black bear. Of course, this thrilled the class.
Finally, we made it back to the classroom and the students were instructed on the use of a field guide for identifying animals by their tracks. A table in the classroom held various clues, mainly scat and paw prints, for the students to identify. (The scat was not real. Just a mold like the paw prints.) They worked through the field guide and jotted down their answers. Then Ranger Matt showed them a Power-Point to see if they answered correctly.
We always enjoy our learning opportunities at Pisgah.