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When a person goes out for a morning hike, a snowshoe or ski trek, or a leisurely afternoon walk along the trails of Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, it's a rare thing to spot wildlife of the four-legged, furry variety.
"Unlike birds, which are relatively easy to see (during the day), mammals are largely nocturnal," explains Dr. Steven Dahlberg, a science and math instructor at White Earth Tribal & Community College, who teaches a naturalist training program as part of WETCC's environmental sciences curriculum (which he helped to develop).
In addition to preferring night to daytime, Dahlberg says, mammals in the wild tend to be very situationally aware and cautious around humans.
"They usually hide or leave when humans are moving around in the neighborhood," he said — but that doesn't mean you can't find any evidence of their presence or figure out how and where to find them from the signs they leave behind.
Dahlberg will be offering a free workshop on "Animal Tracking" at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge this Saturday, Feb. 25 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Tracking animals can have a variety of uses, says Dahlberg, from hunting and trapping them to researching their habitat, feeding and migration habits — and it can be a fun and interesting hobby as well.
"We think this is one of the neatest workshops we offer during the year," says Kelly Blackledge, visitor services manager at Tamarac. "Steve is a great instructor and it's a really fun class...I think people will be amazed how much they don't know about wildlife tracks."
For instance, Dahlberg said, the tracks of mammals in the dog family (coyotes, wolves, foxes) look very different from those in the cat family (bobcats, lynxes, etc.).
Tracking also involves much more than interpreting the size and shape of the tracks, Blackledge added.
"I'm excited about taking the class for a second time because there's so much more that you don't realize you need to be looking for," she added. "There's a lot of other components to consider." The workshop will begin with a training session inside Tamarac's Discovery Center. Then, after a light lunch — "participants will need to bring a lunch or snack," Blackledge said — Dahlberg will take them out into the field, visiting some of his favorite spots at Tamarac for spotting wildlife and/or wildlife tracks.
"People will need to dress for the weather, and bring along some water," Blackledge added.
Please sign up for the free workshop by calling 218-844-1756 by this Wednesday, Feb. 22.
For more information on other winter events coming up at Tamarac, contact the Refuge staff at 218-847-2641. For other Refuge information, please visit the website at www.fws.gov/refuge/tamarac.
Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.