By Robert Lucke
This time of year whenever there is a new snow, there is a no better family Saturday or Sunday activity than to go tracking in Beaver Creek Park.
Most of the year, Beaver Creek Park wildlife is as illusive as the famed Glacier Park grizzlies. However, with new snows, while you may not see the animals themselves, you, with the aid of a good tracking book, can identify a whole myriad of woodland animals, not to mention the birds and waterfowl that seem to congregate in certain places this time of year.
Most important is a guide for identifying what you could be looking at when seeing the hundreds of tracks in new snow in the park.
There are several sort of field guides to tracking in area bookstores. When looking for just the right one, make sure that the one you choose has large foot patterns of wildlife and that the guide talks of wildlife that can be found in the prairie mountain ranges. Guides that are written specifically for the Rocky Mountain front are fine to use as well. The Internet has several sites for tracking that are helpful and area libraries have books as well on the subject. Get a book that you can take with you and will not get harmed by a tumble in the snow every so often.
Where to go is always a question.
Remember that as winter time gets closer, wildlife tend to hang near the creek for at least a part of the day and that is the best place to really find tracks. They may all live very different lives and haunt very different regions, but they all must have water and Beaver Creek provides that very constant source of water needed.
As winter temperatures drop, it is even easier to get to spots that are water holes for lots of wildlife because the creek freezes over in many areas making it easier to identify wildlife in open water areas.
Remember, chances are you will never see what you are tracking and trying to identify, but by comparing tracks with your guide, you will surely begin to know of the scores of animals that share Beaver Creek Park with us all.
The lower Beaver Creek areas of the creek itself are home to whole colonies of ducks most of the winter. While most are mallards, there are a few more exotic varieties there every so often.
In cold weather those ducks will not fly off very quickly, giving the quiet photographer a great opportunity of ducks leaving the water with showers of water dripping from the sky behind them.
About those animals. You will see plenty of deer tracks, lots of raccoon and porcupine because they are plentiful this year, but it is not unheard of to spot plenty of beaver slides, mink, weasel, otter, and coyote tracks. And not unheard of is to spot the large paw prints of mountain lions.
One caution, this time of year. If you take your dog with you, keep him on a leash in the park. Not only is that the regulation, but with winter trapping beginning, you would not like to get your dog caught in a trap to mar a Saturday family sojourn.