- This event has passed.
Winter Wildlife Tracking Institute
January 21 @ 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM$315
In-person sessions: Jan 21, Feb 18, Mar 25 | 9 am – 4 pm
(in-person sessions may be rescheduled to the following day in the event of poor weather)
Virtual sessions (Zoom): Feb 1, March 8 | 6 – 7:30 pm
$315 | Financial support available (email us to inquire)
Group Size: 14 max | Ages: 16 and up
Join our three-month wildlife track and sign immersion taught by some of the finest trackers and teachers in New England. Participants will grow their tracking and trailing skills through field instruction and independent study in a shared community of practice. Students will leave with a richer understanding of our local wildlife and expanded skills in identifying and interpreting animal tracks and trails. Topics of study may include North Woods winter ecology and life histories of our animal residents; clear animal print identification; animal anatomy and body mechanics; animal gaits and track patterns; track journaling; routines to grow your tracking skillset; and practices to continue your personal growth as a tracker throughout the seasons.
NBNC Teacher-Naturalist Dave Muska will be the primary instructor and institute coordinator, to be joined by Jonathan Shapiro on January 21 and Sophie Mazowita on March 25. All trackers approach (and teach) the art and science of tracking differently— this institute is designed to present students with a range of tracking methods and philosophies.
This winter-long intensive will meet in-person monthly for full-day field sessions in January, February, and March, plus two virtual gatherings between field days.
This program involves indoor components in a well-ventilated classroom that has a dedicated air purifier. Please see our COVID-19 page for our most recent policies.
Continuing Education and Professional Development: This course qualifies for 30 hours of Professional Development credit and/or CEUs. Certificates available upon request.
About the Instructors
Jonathan is a dedicated teacher and mentor. He believes that a deep and accurate understanding of the more-than-human world is necessary for us to be healthy, both culturally and individually. The Fox Paw School is his small effort towards reconnecting himself and others with the rest of our wild kin. When he’s not teaching, you’ll find him poking around beaver wetlands, watching the clouds and listening to birds. He is a Wilderness First Responder, and holds a Level III certificate in both Track & Sign and Trailing from Tracker Certification North America. His other interests include hunting, fishing, running, reading books by the woodstove, and making crafts.
Sophie is a naturalist, educator, and wildlife guide based in Jeffersonville, Vermont. She offers online and in-person tracking workshops through her website, Tracking Connection, and also guides week-long wildlife trips to Yellowstone and to Canada’s polar bear country with Natural Habitat Adventures/WWF. At home in Vermont, her work focuses on identifying wildlife corridors and monitoring forest connectivity at a town and regional scale, and she manages the community science program for the nonprofit Cold Hollow to Canada. She also manages Tracker Certification, the nonprofit that offers CyberTracker wildlife tracking certifications across North America and hosts the biannual online North American Wildlife Tracker Conference.
Dave ‘Muskrat’ Muska is a naturalist and educator with the North Branch Nature Center as well as the founder of Ondatra Adventures, a business devoted to providing meaningful connections to the natural world through guided excursions, naturalist study, and wilderness living skills. Dave studied Environmental Biology at the College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, NY where he focused much of his efforts & attention on Mycology/Mycorrhizal Ecology. He is a wildlife tracker, guide, musician, wildcrafter, and forager of wild foods including wild mushrooms for both food & medicine. Dave offers courses and apprenticeships in Fungal Ecology, Mushroom Identification, Wildlife Tracking, wilderness living skills, and more throughout the Northeastern US. He has studied with many talented individuals and professionals in the fields of his expertise and following his curiosity and passions continues to learn, believing that a true educator must also be a student. Dave believes that developing a personal relationship with the natural world is a fundamental component of a healthy life and a global community.
Sample Course Topics
The Wildlife: We will discuss the winter ecology of the North Woods and what role landscape and habitat have on wildlife presence and activity. We’ll ask the question, ‘Who’s here?’ to determine the possibilities of track and sign we may encounter in our exploration along with the fundamentals of clear print identification. Finally we’ll turn our attention to the ‘process’ of tracking and how we can utilize this process for accuracy and deeper questioning.
Animal Gaits & Movement: Understanding how animals move (their gaits) is essential for reading their behavior from a trail. After introducing some key biomechanical concepts in the classroom, we’ll head out into the field to search for examples of what we’ve talked about. When we find them, we’ll interpret the tracks we see in order to come up with hypotheses of animal behavior.
Vertebrate Anatomy & Function: An animal’s anatomy and body plan are intimately linked to how it survives out on the landscape. We will focus on the morphological adaptations that allow animals to inhabit their ecological niches. To put this another way, why is a coyote’s foot shaped the way that it is, and what does that have to do with how it hunts and travels? We’ll talk technical details in the classroom, and our field time will focus on track interpretation and concept review.
Cancellation Policy: We cannot guarantee refunds if cancellations occur within one month of this program. If your space can be filled from our waitlist, we will provide you a refund minus a small processing fee.