Our adventure really began the moment we landed in Bozeman, our Ecology Project International team met us under the grizzly statue and we circled up and played a mean game of the name game complete with personalized movements. From there we loaded up in two suburbans and headed for the wilds of Yellowstone National Park.
We headed into the park first thing Wednesday morning to learn how to snowshoe since much of the data collection is done via snowshoe. Cougars are elusive and shy animals, Colby (our lead scientist) has been studying them for years and has never actually seen one in the wild. So the research is done via tracking and the snow pack makes it much easier to spot and follow tracks to locate kill sites, scat, hair samples and dens. All of this data is recorded in a database for the researchers to analyze.
We hit the Lamar Valley of YNP to practice snowshoeing – this area is known as the American Serengetti because of the number of animals present. We saw elk, mulies, big horn sheep, bison, and coyote while out on the snow pack. We practiced our snow shoe skills while learning how to recognize tracks by analyzing straddle, stride and print size along with characteristics of ungulate, canids and cat tracks.
For another great blog about this expedition written by the students on the course, visit the: Ecology Project Blog.