Nature Conservancy field technicians this winter are doing wildlife detective work in New York’s Southern Lake Champlain Valley. This in-between zone characterized by farms and forests and crisscrossed with roads may provide a vital “land bridge” for bobcats and other critters to travel to and from large forest blocks in the Adirondacks and Vermont.
Outdoor guide and writer Elizabeth Lee, of Westport, and University of Vermont graduate student Gus Goodwin are working with the Conservancy’s Alissa Rafferty, who is based in Keene Valley. They are collecting records of animal activity that would be impossible to witness in real time. Good old-fashioned tracking skills—finding animal prints left in the snow, measuring their size, assessing the critter’s gait, and piecing together other clues—help them determine if a print belongs to a bobcat or a coyote, a fisher or a fox, a moose or a deer. They also use trail cameras to supplement these records, helping to confirm animal identification, and snapping photos 24/7 no matter the snow conditions. » Continue Reading.