Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

What Goes There? Part One

I ask, “How do you track and what do you track?”

“You track by sign. The easiest sign is a print, whether it’s a bird on the ground or a coyote or bobcat. A lot of track training is spent teaching people how to tell the difference between a house cat and a bobcat or a dog and a coyote track, because they’re similar.”

I’ve got Mike Kelly, 64, on the phone. He’s volunteer coordinator and conservation chair at Friends of Los Peñasquitos Canyon Reserve, located on Black Mountain Road.

“Another way you track is by a ‘browse,’ looking at what’s being eaten along an animal path, see whether a deer or a rabbit chewed it. They eat differently. One chops so you get a clean break in the plant stem, and the other bites and pulls, so you tend to get some shredding.

“You can also tell by scat,” Kelly says. “Quite a bit of attention is paid to scat. Each animal has a different size and shape. You can tell, pretty readily, a coyote from a bobcat from a fox. Sometimes it can be tough to tell a large bobcat from a small mountain lion; they’re similar, but that’s part of the training.”

Kelly has been volunteering at Friends since 1985. The outfit does Peñasquitos Canyon do-good stuff: they lead interpretive walks, replant native plants, provide owl boxes, restore trails, and more. But, what got my attention is tracking. They’ve had a tracking team since 1993. The club offers tracking classes from beginner to intermediate to advanced to “Tracking Intensive.” Free or dirt cheap. I ask if a tracker can tell how many deer range in one area.

“Not by track and sign,” Kelly says. “We just finished helping out a San Diego State study to see how many different deer there were in a particular area and what wildlife corridors they were using. They used DNA analysis of scat. They’ve gotten good enough now that not only can you say it’s a deer versus a mountain goat, but you can say it’s deer #141 versus deer #125.”

Just a little bit creepy. “How would a civilian learn to track?”

Kelly says, “Well, this morning there is a training going on. It’s open to the public. It’s free. People come for five or six hours on a Saturday, get an introduction, some classroom time, some dirt time, and then they pair up with an experienced tracker on a survey. They go into the field using a standardized form and protocols.”

“Okay, I take the class, now I’m on a survey. What can I expect?”

“You would be going to a particular transect [a specific path trackers walk]. It might be a half mile long, it might be a mile. If it’s in Peñasquitos Canyon it could be one of the truck trails. Wildlife, like you and I, often take the easiest trail. We pair an experienced tracker with new people. It’s pretty slow. There are certain protocols. For instance, you don’t record every step the deer takes. You might have to discuss it — whether it’s a coyote versus a dog, for instance. That can take some time to tease out the difference.”

I say, “I’m walking along the trail for a mile. How many deer signs could I expect to find?”

“Each time is different. These roads are also used by people. You have to get there before the early bikers and joggers. You might follow the same deer for a quarter mile, but you record it just once. Or, it might be one deer crossing the trail. Eight feet of trail and it’s off into the bushes and then you go another 100 yards and there’s another trail. You would record that. You don’t know if it’s the same deer or not, but you record it.

“You’re not getting a count; you’re getting the presence or absence of certain species. For instance, we don’t find weasel tracks very much — they’re fairly rare, especially in coastal areas. We may only find one set of tracks in a year. Mountain lions are the same way. They’re so small in number and they have such a big territory — maybe 100 square miles — you may go two or three years without finding tracks or sign of a mountain lion.

“Whereas you’re going to find a lot of deer track, a lot of skunk track, a lot of raccoon track. Possum tracks are very common. Mice and rats, of course. We don’t record all of them. Bobcat, they’re fairly common. Coyote are even more common. Mule deer. Badger. I don’t think anybody has found track or sign of badger for at least ten or twelve years.”

More next week. Friends of Los Peñasquitos Canyon Reserve can be found at penasquitos.org or call Mike Kelly at 858-342-8856.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

North River Farms foes face lawsuit heat

If activists take Measure L off ballot, they would no longer face mounting legal fees
Next Article

Ocean Beach trash altruist

Cameron Reid covers Niagara and Narragansett, Sunset Cliffs to Abbott.

I ask, “How do you track and what do you track?”

“You track by sign. The easiest sign is a print, whether it’s a bird on the ground or a coyote or bobcat. A lot of track training is spent teaching people how to tell the difference between a house cat and a bobcat or a dog and a coyote track, because they’re similar.”

I’ve got Mike Kelly, 64, on the phone. He’s volunteer coordinator and conservation chair at Friends of Los Peñasquitos Canyon Reserve, located on Black Mountain Road.

“Another way you track is by a ‘browse,’ looking at what’s being eaten along an animal path, see whether a deer or a rabbit chewed it. They eat differently. One chops so you get a clean break in the plant stem, and the other bites and pulls, so you tend to get some shredding.

“You can also tell by scat,” Kelly says. “Quite a bit of attention is paid to scat. Each animal has a different size and shape. You can tell, pretty readily, a coyote from a bobcat from a fox. Sometimes it can be tough to tell a large bobcat from a small mountain lion; they’re similar, but that’s part of the training.”

Kelly has been volunteering at Friends since 1985. The outfit does Peñasquitos Canyon do-good stuff: they lead interpretive walks, replant native plants, provide owl boxes, restore trails, and more. But, what got my attention is tracking. They’ve had a tracking team since 1993. The club offers tracking classes from beginner to intermediate to advanced to “Tracking Intensive.” Free or dirt cheap. I ask if a tracker can tell how many deer range in one area.

“Not by track and sign,” Kelly says. “We just finished helping out a San Diego State study to see how many different deer there were in a particular area and what wildlife corridors they were using. They used DNA analysis of scat. They’ve gotten good enough now that not only can you say it’s a deer versus a mountain goat, but you can say it’s deer #141 versus deer #125.”

Just a little bit creepy. “How would a civilian learn to track?”

Kelly says, “Well, this morning there is a training going on. It’s open to the public. It’s free. People come for five or six hours on a Saturday, get an introduction, some classroom time, some dirt time, and then they pair up with an experienced tracker on a survey. They go into the field using a standardized form and protocols.”

“Okay, I take the class, now I’m on a survey. What can I expect?”

“You would be going to a particular transect [a specific path trackers walk]. It might be a half mile long, it might be a mile. If it’s in Peñasquitos Canyon it could be one of the truck trails. Wildlife, like you and I, often take the easiest trail. We pair an experienced tracker with new people. It’s pretty slow. There are certain protocols. For instance, you don’t record every step the deer takes. You might have to discuss it — whether it’s a coyote versus a dog, for instance. That can take some time to tease out the difference.”

I say, “I’m walking along the trail for a mile. How many deer signs could I expect to find?”

“Each time is different. These roads are also used by people. You have to get there before the early bikers and joggers. You might follow the same deer for a quarter mile, but you record it just once. Or, it might be one deer crossing the trail. Eight feet of trail and it’s off into the bushes and then you go another 100 yards and there’s another trail. You would record that. You don’t know if it’s the same deer or not, but you record it.

“You’re not getting a count; you’re getting the presence or absence of certain species. For instance, we don’t find weasel tracks very much — they’re fairly rare, especially in coastal areas. We may only find one set of tracks in a year. Mountain lions are the same way. They’re so small in number and they have such a big territory — maybe 100 square miles — you may go two or three years without finding tracks or sign of a mountain lion.

“Whereas you’re going to find a lot of deer track, a lot of skunk track, a lot of raccoon track. Possum tracks are very common. Mice and rats, of course. We don’t record all of them. Bobcat, they’re fairly common. Coyote are even more common. Mule deer. Badger. I don’t think anybody has found track or sign of badger for at least ten or twelve years.”

More next week. Friends of Los Peñasquitos Canyon Reserve can be found at penasquitos.org or call Mike Kelly at 858-342-8856.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Imagine a pedestrian-friendly Kearny Mesa

Hard to consider history in 30-year plan
Next Article

Tahona Bar takes it to the street

Perks include cemetery view dining, and cocktails out of a VW bus
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close