Ensuring that youth have their own places to explore—whether they live in a city, a rural community, or the edge of the wilderness—should be among the highest priorities for conservationists.
Want to go tracking? It’s really quite easy.
The great thing about looking for tracks is you don’t need any specialized equipment. Any slightly wild place — the edge of a suburb, a city park, abandoned lots — likely have various critters passing through.
Waterways like creeks, ponds and rivers are highways for all kinds of wild animals, and they often leave signs of their movements in the mud.
A good field guide helps, especially if you aren’t familiar with tracks. My old standby — which I wore out when I was a kid looking for my own tracks — is the Peterson Field Guide to Animal Tracks by Olaus J. Murie. It includes not only tracks of every animal you’re likely to encounter, but also their scat and other signs they leave behind.
As we stared at the raccoon tracks, ice floated down the river, softly tinkling as it rubbed against rocks. An occasional eagle soared overhead. We stopped for a moment on this crisp holiday morning and Jacob pronounced it “a perfect day.” No argument here.
My nieces and nephews have a future with nearly unimaginable (to me, at least) technology and modes of communication. I hope they embrace it all and use it to their advantage.
I also hope they continue to have the time and interest in the wild things and wild places around them. I hope that their paths continue to cross, quite literally, with those of the deer and rabbit and the big old raccoon.
Matt Miller is director of communications for The Nature Conservancy’s Idaho program. A freelance outdoor writer and naturalist, Matt has traveled around the world in search of wildlife and stories. Opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Nature Conservancy.
(Image: Raccoon tracks along a river in northeastern Iowa. Source: Jennifer Miller)