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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Exploring for wildlife

It was dark day here on the Front Range, with gray skies dimming our world.  This morning, K and I wandered the forest near our house. I watched her body language closely, to try to guess which of my wildlife cameras had been visited recently based on her interest in scents.
K did not signal that the mule deer buck, shown below, had passed through a gully near our house. However, his visit was almost 24 hours earlier.
She did tell me that these two visitors had come close to our house. The cryptic coyote trotting briskly past the camera...
 A young buck who walking carefully past the camera...
As we wandered, I noticed that K was gravitating toward all the boulders. With her new boot, I think that her paw doesn't bother her at all while we hike so she loves standing on the boulders.
I decided to try letting her off-leash for a little while, for the first time a few months. As I expected, she simply walked along next to me. Before the bone infection in her paw, K would have been running to and fro, checking every tiny smell along the sides of the trail. I didn't expect that she was ready for that kind of frenzy so I'm glad that she walked calmly next to me.
After our walk, I did a long and quiet mountain bike ride. Although it's winter and the world is sleeping, the hues of gold, red, green, and gray are stunning. I think that most people were at the ski area on the horizon - they weren't on the trails!
I made a brief foray into a region where a friend and I tracked a bear a couple of weeks ago. I never wrote about that tracking experience but it was fascinating. We followed the bear's movements for a couple of hours, following day-old tracks.

In the photo below, the bear had walked through the snow toward where I was standing. He used a "direct registering" walk, where each hind paw fell exactly onto the track left by the front paw on the same side.
This bear was undoubtedly searching for a den. He climbed down into mining pits. Those pits are holes in the ground dug by miners searching for precious metals many years ago. After realizing that a mining pit didn't provide a good den, the bear plowed straight up huge boulder piles, nosing around in every nook and cranny.

In one place, the bear tried to enlarge an opening among a jumble of boulders by digging out dirt. His long claws ran into rock under the dirt, and he gave up, meandering deeper into the forest in search of his winter home.
Eventually, we ran out of daylight and headed back to our car. It was hard to drag ourselves away from the story of the bear, as told by his tracks in the snow.
Today, I returned to that area to scan for new tracks. I found an area where the bear left tell-tale tracks since my last visit. In one patch of snow, he'd come and gone, back and forth, many times. I marked the spot with my GPS and plan to visit later in the winter, when he's deeply asleep, to look around for his den.

I love tracking, seeing the story of a wild bear's travels in our forest unfold in the snow.

I can't wait until K can join me on these explorations in the forest again (although I'd never take her near a bear den - bears are very afraid of dogs). She was my tracking buddy last winter, and I hope that she can be again!


  1. Every time I read about you tracking bears, I have a giggle when I think about that abandoned creepy campsite you found and the Thundering Herd's comment about it! I will be looking forward to the pictures I'm betting will be coming after the bear finally settles down to sleep.

    It really is grey at your house! I almost didn't reconize K -- she seems to be reflecting the grey skies right back up.

  2. So love seeing K looking majestic on those boulders.

  3. K looks so happy to be regaining her post and perch!

  4. Kia ora KB,
    So pleased to pop in for a catch up and read of the news K's infection is clearing up. That 1st photo in your Colourful Winter post says it all.
    I love the winter best in the mountains for the solitude it offers and the micro beauty you so eloquently observe.
    I am heading out a week before Christmas with my oldest son who even suggested it! Can't refuse that offer.
    Kia kaha KB. It is nice to think that so much outpouring of thought and prayer from around the world found its way to you and K. Amazing really. Rave on my friend!

  5. Gosh, I can't imagine following bear footprints. That must be exciting and scary at the same time.

    I am so glad K is feeling better! Such happy news just in time for the holidays.

    Your pal, Pip

  6. K and KB and R
    Maybe you could use dennis the vizsla for your bear mystery. OH and by the way.. U go K!

    PS- No worries about my running. Mom thinks it was due an hour of zoomies outside earlier that morning and I should've just went running first. Surprisingly I do have limits

  7. K is Queen of the Mountain once again! I'm so glad. I like that trail photo with all its muted colors.

  8. I hope to be able to read of K tracking with you soon! She looks beautiful, as always.

  9. K ia looking so magestic as she stand so gorgeously with mountains in the distance. It is so good to see her with a sparkle in her eye,,,
    I am a good sniffer pug, and I could help you find the bear,, I just know it!

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  11. Whoopee for K and her better walking around! Hoping each day gets better for her and that her new boot keeps the baddies away.



  12. It's good to see K regaining her independence. We're sure she never lost her confidence. Is the bag balm working?

    Jed & Abby

  13. It's so good to see K doing better with each day!

    How interesting it must be to shadow the bear in its meanderings. What a fun purpose for a hike :)

    Waggin at ya,

  14. I'm so glad that K is feeling more like herself! It is a tribute to your care and love for her! Like everyone, I hope that the paw continues to improve and all of this is behind you both very soon!

  15. Hi Y'all!

    I'm so glad K's paw has improved so much!

    My Humans like to hike when we are all alone. My Human Momma doesn't like crowds. We prefer the beach and the shore in the winter and even these mountains in the winter. We enjoy summers here, but try to avoid heavily walked trails.

    We'd enjoy the Rockies where y'all walk and least I would...Momma's too much of a wimp when it comes to cold weather!

    Hawk aka BrownDog

  16. I didn't realize bears were scared of dogs - they are so alike in their mannerisms and strengths. I try and track the coyotes near our house by their clues in the mud. Sadly, I haven't seen many lately, but maybe as the weather gets colder, they'll wander farther for food...K has a fantastic body condition, by the way. Both of your kids do! We're so used to seeing chubby Labs, it's refreshing to see fit ones!!

  17. It fills my heart wif the joy to see K up there on that boulder!!! I'm so happy to hear that she's doin better and better!

    And as all ways, I love the wildlife and the trackin tales. I am totally fascinated!

    wif love from the Luke

  18. Reading this makes me wonder what Fred would be like smelling the scents of wildlife, heck I would probably be one miserable bloodhound owner having him around wooded area like that!
    K looks awesome and very majestic

  19. Fun read. I love tracking animals in the snow. (So much easier to follow snow tracks than dirt tracks!) I, too, love the stories the tracks tell and the things I learn.

  20. How wonderful to see K on top of her world again:) It won't be long and she will on the bear hunt with you too.

  21. You guys sure are brave being in amongst all those wild things
    Benny & Lily

  22. I look forward to following your bear tracking too, and hope to find K right there by your side!


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