How awesome is this? We took an animal tracking class at Oxbow Regional Park. We’ve done a couple classes with the Metro Naturalists now, and have found them to be so informative and fun! The basic structure seems to be:
1. 30 minutes of information – in this case the basics of identifying animal tracks.
Our instructor, Terry, breaking down the basic differences in animal tracks.
During the instruction period, the kids got to hold castings of animal tracks, and use the information provided to identify each.
2. About an hour of hands-on activity – trekking through the woods looking for signs of animals and identifying them together as a group.
Claw marks from a bear who climbed this tree
Raccoon prints along the bank of the Sandy River
3. Lunch break somewhere pretty
4. 30 more minutes of trekking and exploring
The “shelters & survival” class we took in March at Oxbow followed the same basic structure.
We learned to watch for signs of anomaly in the environment, then from there what signs to look for to identify which animal it was, what direction it was heading, and even if it was running or walking. So cool!
After attending two of these classes now, I have a bit of advice for the newbie.
1. Wear trekking shoes. This isn’t the time for cutesy sandals. If it’s hot, river sandals are great. The classes at Oxbow meet at the Floodplain, and there are several paths down to the river. I wore running shoes to this class, and I’m still dealing with sand in my shoes. I should have worn my Chaco river sandals. However, back in March, I was wearing my Chacos and my feet were super cold when we were in the forest part. Hiking boots would have been best then!
2. Wear layers. It’s much more chilly in the forest than it is in the open by the river.
3. Pack a good lunch in a backpack or easy to carry bag, along with plenty of water. Many of these classes involve eating lunch along the way, so you want something portable.
4. Bring a camera and binoculars! We were mostly looking at the ground during this class, but there is so much fun wildlife to be seen.
I think the best part of the class was finding mama & baby deer tracks together. We had seen several babies while we camped that weekend, and on our way to class there was a mama with two fawns right by the side of the road. We felt so honored to see them, and so it was extra special to find their tracks in the woods!
If you’d like more information on Metro’s nature programs, you can check Metro’s website, and the classes are always listed on Oregon Zoo’s calendar (which is how I found them).
Disclosure: I work at the zoo, a service of Metro, which is how I initially found out about these nature programs. I paid to attend the class, just as anyone else would. I was not asked to write about this program, and all opinions are strictly my own. Ok, maybe sometimes my kids’ as well.