On Sunday, Dec. 9th, six Den One Bear Scouts of Cub Scout Pack 4104 joined four parent chaperones for an introduction to tracking and winter ecology at MPG. Scouts learned the basics of track identification, gait, and register. Scouts also made walking sticks, and slid down every hill they could find.
As we hiked onto the floodplain, we discussed the winter habits of the animals that live there. The scouts listened to the traditional uses of various plants by indigenous peoples. The scouts expressed excitement to see deer and coyote tracks as we made way down the cut bank and set out towards the river.
Geese fled from the river as our chatty party approached. We spooked a Great Blue Heron and a group of whitetail deer in turn. What the scouts lacked in stealth, they more than made up for in enthusiasm. We investigated every mark in the snow to be sure we knew what passed by before us.
The scouts consulted the tracking guides and complied a wish list of animal tracks they would like to see.
After a brief snack, we followed deer tracks through the thick cottonwood grove. We observed that the deer use the more sheltered water holes in the thick cover of the trees rather than venture onto the exposed point bar. We discussed winter shelters and dens, and the scouts pretended to be animals and hid beneath the upturned root balls of fallen trees.
The scouts also identified various trees by their bark and then tried to climb them with moderate success.
Bonnie, the leader of this wonderful group of children, contacted me several weeks ago. She wanted the scouts to learn about the natural world, and gain some skills in a fun way. I am glad that MPG was able to offer an opportunity to connect youth to the natural world, and provide a fun and educational experience.
The day’s light began to fade behind the Bitterroot Mountains as we made our way back to the vehicles. The exhausted scouts all wanted to come back to the ranch. We made plans for them to visit again in the spring to see how different seasons change the landscape and patterns of animals.
Joshua graduated from the University of Montana, Missoula, in 2009 with an M.A. in Intercultural Youth and Family Development. Joshua has designed and implemented wilderness and experiential-based education programs for various agencies since 2001. He has worked in Missoula since 2005 predominately with disadvantaged populations providing challenging and empowering programming for youth and adults alike.
At MPG, Joshua works to coordinate with local agencies and school districts as well as the university to connect students and members of the community to MPG’s work. He also recruits and mobilizes volunteers to accomplish various projects for the ranch. In his free time, Joshua enjoys exploring Montana’s wild places. As an avid outdoorsman, he enjoys any pursuit that keeps him connected to the natural world.