FSPW Winter Tracks

 tracks board

On Education Trail in the Outdoor Classroom!
Photo by: Fiona Hicks

Winter can start to feel pretty long in a classroom. Between the cold temperatures, inclimate weather, and short days, it can be pretty difficult to find time to go enjoy the great outdoors. The Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness know this as well as anyone, and so we think it’s a good idea to get students out in the field during the winter months to educate them about our local ecology.

Recap of 2015/2016 Season


Photo by Amen Photography

On January 14th, students from Sandpoint High School arrived at Round Lake State park for a day of fun and education. The next day, a middle school class from the Spokane Montessori School came out to enjoy the program, and on February 11th, two classes from Forrest M Bird Charter School participated in the program. Once at Round Lake, the students split into groups, which rotated through four stations. At each station, students are taught a variety of skills, facts, and ideas pertaining to the ecology of the Inland Northwest. Teachers at each station have years, if not decades of experience in their subject matter, and are able to impart a great deal of knowledge to the students, while still having a lot of fun.

The first station, from which the program gets its name, is focused on tracking wildlife. Students go out into the forest to find signs of wildlife, and interpret the animal sign that they find. The students from Forrest M Bird Charter School found one of the most interesting tracks when they found a bobcat paw print on a log, which the bobcat made while peering over the log, possibly when stalking prey. At the second station, students learn to identify some of the major tree species that are most commonly found in our local forests. At the third station, students are shown pelts, skulls, and antler sheds from some of the most interesting mammals found in this area. They are typically fascinated by the enormity of an elk antler and loved to feel the softness of Fisher and Ermine pelts. Finally, the students learn about the seven Leave No Trace Principles, talk about the various habitats that can be found in our local forests, and learn about the importance of preserving those habitats though interactive exercises.

Besides learning about the importance of our local forests, and why we should preserve places like the Scotchman Peaks, students also seem to have a lot of fun. In one of the more lighthearted moments from the three events, a student from Forrest M Bird remarked “Yeah, I’ve had a lot of fun. When we were on the way here, I didn’t think it would be that fun, but it was actually a lot of fun!”

The students, however, weren’t the only ones having fun. FSPW Programs Coordinator and tracking class teacher Sandy Compton said that “it’s always so rewarding to see these kids, many of whom spend the majority of their time indoors, light up when they find a track and figure out what the animal was doing when they made it. It reminds me of the magic that wild places can provide.”

If you would like to volunteer for the 2017 Winter Tracks season, or if you are a teacher/school administrator and want to get some of your students out into the field, please email britta@scotchmanpeaks.org!

Recap of 2014/2015 Season

The 2014-2015 winter season saw FSPW’s kickoff of our annual FSPW Winter Tracks program. Working with areas schools such as Sandpoint High School, Pioneer Elementary School, and Forrest M. Bird Charter School, as well as open-public classes, our Naturalist Educators conducted a series of “Winter Tracks Field Trips.” These youth-orientated field trips encourage participants to get hands-on, outdoor experience while being given the tools to fine tune their senses in a wilderness environment, fostering discoveries of the world around them from their first-hand observations and questioning.

class at the lake

Tracking detectives, discuss…
Photo by: Fiona Hicks

Our Educators embrace fun and unique styles to engage students in winter wildlife and ecology interpretation.  Discovering the wilderness in the winter offers an unparalleled experience as the seemingly quiet and frozen landscape comes alive right before the observer’s eyes. FSPW supports equal-opportunity learning for our youth through no-cost class participation and free snowshoe rentals to beginner snowshoers.  These hikes will also highlight wildlife camera deployment, retrieval, and analysis to capture some images of the wildlife students will be learning to track.

chris's kids

Pioneer School is nurturing conscience Wilderness Stewards. This is one amazing group of kids!

These educational presentations are free for interested participants.  We work with general public as well as local schools to match desired curriculum outcomes, accessibility needs, and any other considerations that will be most beneficial for YOU!  No previous winter hiking or tracking skills needed!

Join us as we make discoveries about the wilderness next winter!  Contact tyler@scotchmanpeaks.org for further information regarding these opportunities.

Follow these links and check out our press about FSPW Winter Tracks past!


mbi class 6

Forrest M Bird Eighth Graders setup a wildlife camera.
Photo by: Kristen Nowicki





(In) winter and fall… you feel the bone structure of the landscape. Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn’t show.

-Andrew Wyeth

Historical Winter Stewardship with FSPW:

From 2010-2014, Friends of Scotchman Peaks volunteers participated in a region-wide presence-and-abundance winter carnivore study in cooperation with state wildlife resource management under ID Fish and Game.  Below you can enjoy our historical data and project details.  Thank you so much to everyone who participated in these studies.


FSPW helped Idaho Department of Fish and Game look for this critter over the winter thanks to a grant from Zoo Boise Conservation Fund

FSPW helped Idaho Department of Fish and Game look for this critter and its mustelid cousins for four seasons

All things Wolverine:  The history of our Wolverine Project

In recent years, The Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness  put a strong emphasis on stewardship projects in the proposed wilderness, such as maintaining sustainable trail systems, educational materials to reduced human-wildlife conflicts and habitat restoration efforts such as planting trees. We were also excited to extend our stewardship and volunteer involvement to the Multispecies Baseline Initiative, which included a rare forest carnivore study, which FSPW volunteers took part in for four winters.

A Brief History

Beginning in 2010, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and  partner agencies conducted extensive regional biodiversity monitoring surveys as part of the Multispecies Baseline Initiative. This initiative provided biologists with baseline population data for the management of many different species in the Idaho Panhandle and surrounding area. Rare forest carnivores, such as wolverine, fisher, marten and lynx, were an important part of this initiative, as their elusive natures leaves much unknown about their presence in the region.

One of the "captured" fishers from the 2011-12 effort

One of the “captured” fishers from the 2011-12 effort

To study these elusive creatures, wildlife cameras stations were deployed to strategic locations throughout the wilderness of the Idaho Panhandle and western Montana by IDFG biologists, FSPW volunteers and other organizations, including Idaho Conservation League and Selkirk Outdoor Leadership and Education. These camera stations provided a simple, effective, and non-invasive way to gather population data on multiple species at the same time. Throughout all four seasons, these cameras  documented fisher, marten, ermine, lynx, wolverine, and many other creatures. In documenting the occurrence of these animals over a broad geographic area, the rare forest carnivore study provided  baseline population data necessary for informed and effective agency decisions on proper land use and management in the region.

In the winter of 2009-2010 IDFG focused their rare forest carnivore study on the Selkirk Mountains, documenting the presence of wolverine, fisher and marten.

This group snowshoed into the East Fork of Blue Creek in the Scotchman Peaks to set up a wolverine bait station

This group snowshoed into the East Fork of Blue Creek in the Scotchman Peaks to set up a wolverine bait station

In the winter of 2010-2011, IDFG choose to shift their main focus on the West Cabinet / Scotchman Peaks area while maintaining some high value study locations in the Selkirks. This required additional hours of manpower, so IDFG invited FSPW volunteers to assist in setting up and monitoring approximately 5 study locations. Wolverines were photographed for the second year in a row in the Selkirks and tracks were found in the West Cabinets. A photograph of a Lynx in the Purcells was exciting and 18 unique Fishers were found in the West Cabinet Mountains!

In the winter of 2011-2012, IDFG wanted to expand our partnership to cover both the Selkirks and the West Cabinets in the same season. With guidance from IDFG, and support from community partners including ICL, FSPW applied for (and was awarded) a $27,000 grant from the Zoo Boise Conservation Fund. Funding from this grant allowed FSPW to purchase cameras and other gear and hire a part time project coordinator.

In the winter of 2012-2013, the Zoo Boise grant was not forthcoming, but we were committed to continuing this important research, and our community and volunteers helped make it happen by donating  money and time.  With all the support that was given, we were able to set up 17 monitoring stations.

Some of our duties as citizen scientists were not as pleasant as others.

Kelsie Brasseur ran the wolverine project during the 2011-12 season. She demonstrates here that some of our duties as citizen scientists were not as pleasant as others.

In the 2013-14 season, we faced the same funding hurdles, but still maintained a field presence. Although FSPW serviced just eight stations,  these eight were some of the most challenging that volunteers set up for the entire four years, as most of the “low hanging fruit” had already been sampled in previous years. In fact, the last data was not retrieved until well into spring because of very dangerous avalanche conditions and the inaccessibility of the last few stations.

Overall, the study was a great success, engaging scores of volunteers and garnering thousands upon thousands of photographs and other evidence of the mustelid presence in Northern Idaho and Western Montana. A big thanks is due to all of our volunteers, as well as to the three young women who ran the larger programs, Kelsie Brasseur (2011-12); Lauren Mitchell (2012-13); and Kristen Nowicki (2013-14). Kristen is also our current Project Coordinator.

A good introduction to our project would be to view this short (2 minute) video clip which can be found on our You Tube Channel. It’s an exciting series of photos from several early reporting stations showing some of the critters that come to visit:

Click HERE to view the video


A Bit About Wolverines

Of all Idaho’s native wildlife, the wolverine and its cousins in the mustelid family are among the most elusive, secretive and shy. The wolverine itself is the size of a small dog and related to weasels, polecats, ferrets, minks, fishers, otters, badgers, skunks and martens. These far-ranging scavengers are commonly associated with rugged, snowy terrain of the Selkirks and Cabinet Mountains. From Idaho to the Arctic Circle, wolverines thrive in places few other species can even survive.

Click on the link below to go to a very interesting webpage for Wolverine tracks and more go to Wild Things Unlimited at:

Tracking hints for wolverines (and more)