Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Empty Handed

I received an e-mail a few days back from someone who owns a cabin near Ely who had captured a collared wolf on his neighbor's game camera.  In the picture the wolf is clearly wearing a radio collar and is walking away into the woods.  He offered to let me head up and take a look in the area for recent wolf sign.  I couldn't resist.

We could not determine what collared wolf it was in the photo as multiple packs visit the area at any given time.  The date of the photo also doesn't seem to line up with the most likely candidates actually being in the area.

Almost a month has passed since the photo was taken, but I was hopeful that I might still find some sign.  Then, it started snowing.  While I am excited about the addition of at least five inches of snow, it did not increase my chances of seeing anything.  The tracks and sign from the previous wolf activity would almost certainly be covered up.  After nearly getting my truck stuck on the extremely steep road into the property, I parked along the road and hiked in.

Almost immediately I found tracks:  but they were deer tracks.  They looked really fresh and headed along the driveway where the deer were browsing on low plants as they walked.  I topped a small hill and two deer bounded into the woods before I could get the camera up for a picture.  I would not catch another glimpse, though I would intersect with their paths numerous times.

The possibility of seeing wolf tracks in snow that was still falling was very low, but hope springs eternal, right?  So I hiked the trail marked in the woods with my ears open and my eyes peeled.  It was a beautiful day in the woods, with very little noise.

I stopped for a moment to listen and consider my path.  I was rewarded not with a wolf howl or a deer sighting, but with a pileated woodpecker tapping away at a large Aspen.  I know that woodpeckers are all around this area, but like most people I don't spend nearly enough time quietly in the woods to hear and see them.  It was a real treat.

I followed the trail a bit further and then turned around and headed back.  No wolf sign in the fresh snow, but just in case, I'll check back tomorrow.

Enjoy a few of the pictures from my hike.
A number of deer had passed right by this tree.  There were signs of browsing on the small twigs sticking out of the snow.

Fresh deer tracks.  Could those be old wolf tracks just to the left?