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Yellowstones Northern Forest

Tracking some unusual animals
by Dan Hartman

March 26, 2013

This article written by Donna Onstott who was a participant in the Yellowstone Associations Northern Forest Class

The 12 participants in the Yellowstone’s Northern Forest field seminar (3/9/13-3/11/13), led by the inimitable Dan Hartman, were treated to 3 days of beautiful weather. On our snowshoe hikes, we encountered tracks of numerous animals including squirrels, snowshoe hares, foxes, coyotes, ermine, a bobcat, moose and pine martens and learned about their behavior and inter relationships. We examined a rock cave containing an old jawbone where bears or cougars had lain and a squirrel midden previously used as a bed by a marten. We followed the tracks of what appeared to be a very large pine marten that exhibited a rare gallop stride for long distances, suggesting the tracks of a fisher and found evidence that it may have been hunting an ermine. Seven bachelor rams posed for us at Wrecker Pullout and we came upon a cow moose while tracking the bobcat into a ravine near Phantom Lake. Birds we encountered included Steller’s Jays, Clark’s Nutcrackers, a Three Toed Woodpecker, American Dippers and a Great Horned Owl probably injured, who sat for a day in a bush near the Buffalo Ranch. At Dan’s we watched flying squirrels and a resident mountain fox as well as birds such as Pine Grosbeaks, Black Rosy Finches, Gray-Crowned Finches, Mountain Chickadees and Hairy Woodpeckers. In the rocky slopes above Dan’s house, while learning about pika behavior, we found several of their hay piles and entrances to their holes, one of which contained the resident’s tracks. The night of the first day was clear and calm and we were treated to a spectacular sky and the call of a boreal owl, which was for many a highlight of our northern forest trip.


View slide show

Getting ready for our snowshoe hike

Author is fifth in line

Carolyn inspects strange tracks

A huge marten or a fishers tracks