‘Signs of life’ in a Montana winter

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  • Seventh-grader Kael Brown sights in a compass during the Winter Tracks Festival at the North Shore Campground. (Carolyn Hidy photos/Clark Fork Valley Press)

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    Noxon and Thompson Falls seventh-graders learned how to track such animals as coyotes during the Winter Tracks Festival. Participants are pictured with a coyote pelt.

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    Tracks! A herd of humans must have passed through here! That’s what students at the Winter Tracks Festival must have thought.

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    Thompson Falls and Noxon seventh-grade students and their teachers and instructors are pictured during the Winter Tracks Festival held at the North Shore Campground.

  • Seventh-grader Kael Brown sights in a compass during the Winter Tracks Festival at the North Shore Campground. (Carolyn Hidy photos/Clark Fork Valley Press)

  • 1

    Noxon and Thompson Falls seventh-graders learned how to track such animals as coyotes during the Winter Tracks Festival. Participants are pictured with a coyote pelt.

  • 2

    Tracks! A herd of humans must have passed through here! That’s what students at the Winter Tracks Festival must have thought.

  • 3

    Thompson Falls and Noxon seventh-grade students and their teachers and instructors are pictured during the Winter Tracks Festival held at the North Shore Campground.

Friends of Scotchman’s Peak Wilderness (FSPW) brought together 46 kids from Thompson Falls and Noxon seventh grades for their annual Winter Tracks festival. There was lots to be learned, and lots of fun to be had at North Shore Campground with stations featuring orienteering; bird behavior and identification; track identification; and mammal furs, skulls and other sundry parts.

Great laughs broke out at the birding station, led by Dave Kretzschmar, director of education for Kaniksu Land Trust. One game involved pairs making up their own bird calls and then finding each other in a crowd while their eyes were closed. Another challenged them to get the “food” in the middle of the circle without getting touched by another. They learned to use their minds “like a camera” to remember details of a bird, since you often only catch a glimpse of them or hear their songs.

Sandy Compton, FSPW program coordinator, taught the difference between straddle and stride, some of the measurements that can help identify tracks and how fast a critter is moving.

Historian and living piece of history himself, Glenn Garrison gave an interesting account of how crews of trappers moved through this area in a “brigade system” in the 1700s and early 1800s, efficiently trapping beaver to dry and ship out the pelts until the market for silk hats replaced those made of fur.

The fourth station challenged students to use compasses to find a course between pegs by following given azimuth settings. Some got mixed up and some were right on, but the game was afoot as teachers and students tried to best each other.

“Getting kids outside” was one of the main motivations behind developing this annual event, which is presented to several different schools in the area surrounding the proposed Scotchmans Peak Wilderness on the Idaho/Montana border. With the warming fires, hot chocolate, and fun events, getting outside this day appeared be a great idea.

This year’s presentation of Winter Tracks was organized by Ray Brown who doubles as a behavioral specialist in Thompson Falls and as Sanders County Outreach Coordinator for FSPW, with help from Mindy Ferrell, AVISTA, Sanders County Road Department, Green Mountain Conservation District, and even the Wild Coyote Saloon for providing the fire pit barrels.

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