Walnut Hill Tracking & Nature Center

Upcoming Programs Animal Tracks & Sign Quabbin Nature Journal

What is tracking?

2015 marks our twelfth year of offering nature-based programs as Walnut Hill Tracking & Nature Center. The world has changed in a great many ways since we embarked on this journey. We have changed too - I am a little older, not necessarily wiser. I recently came across this piece that I wrote in advance of Valerie and Me conducting a tracking workshop at the 2004 Eastern Cougar Foundation Conference in Morgantown, West Virginia. It still reflects what tracking means to us. Here it is:

What Tracking Is

By Nick Wisniewski

Tracking is a means of learning about, and connecting to, the environment. Through tracking, we learn about animals. We learn about where they live, how they live, what they do, how they relate with each other, with members of their own species and of other species. We learn about the complex relationships between animals and the world they live in, and the delicate balances that exist in nature.

As you learn about an animal through its track and sign, you learn about where it lives. You learn about the forest and its history, and the different layers in its composition, from the herbs on the forest floor to the trees that make up the canopy. As a tracker you learn about the different kinds of plants in the forest, because animals depend on the plants. By knowing what plants the animals prefer to eat, you learn what animals live in an area, or even what animals are absent from an area! By understanding the plant-eaters, you begin to understand that the carnivores are ultimately just as dependent on the plants. The web of life begins to reveal itself to us.

In other words, tracking is the ultimate in “Ecology,” the study of living things. It ties together many different pursuits, whether learning to identify animals by sight, sound, or smell, or by the type of nest they build or tree cavity they use, by their scat or the food particles they leave behind, by what they eat or by what eats them. The important thing to us is not just identifying what kind of animal it is, but understanding the day-to-day life of that animal.

For those so inclined, tracking can also become a pursuit for self-awareness. Understanding the natural world can lead to a greater appreciation of life, its complexities, and its fragility. It can also lead to a better understanding of our place as a human being on this planet. In this day and age, we often feel disconnected – from the world around us, from each other, and even from our selves. Through tracking we can begin to rediscover the connections we have with all living things and gain a new appreciation, and sense of wonder, for life.

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Walnut Hill Tracking & Nature Center
325 Walnut Hill Rd, Orange MA 01364Phone: 978-544-6083
E-mail: walnuthilltracking@verizon.net