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Carlos Avery Fall Survey: Sat, Oct 3

posted Sep 15, 2020, 3:50 PM by Jonathan Poppele   [ updated Sep 17, 2020, 10:31 AM ]

We are excited to announce our Fall Wildlife Tracking Survey

In-person at Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area

Our Fall Survey will be an all day affair. We will start the day by gathering (socially distanced) at Tolzmann Park in the nearby City of Wyoming. We will then head out in (masked) teams to survey for animal tracks & sign before returning to Tolzmann Park to share our discoveries. We will have several experienced trackers, certified in Track & Sign interpretation, available to join teams.

Carlos Avery has provided us with rich tracking this year. During the Spring and Summer surveys, we identified the tracks and sign of 14 species of mammals in addition to observing scores of reptiles, amphibians, birds and insects. You can read all about our Spring Survey here and our Summer Survey here. Through these surveys, we have also gotten to know some wonderful spots to track and we look forward to what we might find this fall. Here is the schedule for the day:

9:00am    Gathering at Tolzmann Park
9:30am    Tracking teams leave for the field
~3:00pm  Return from the field for sharing, mapping and debriefing
4:30pm    Complete

To support everyone's safety and well-being, we ask that you both wear a mask while we are together and practice physical distancing. We know this can be challenging at times, but feel it is a small sacrifice for the opportunity to get out on the landscape and track together again.

Bring your own lunches and snacks. Weather permitting, teams usually eat lunch in the field (without masks--but with a little extra distance).

Here are all the details:

Tolzmann Park

We will gather at Tolzmann Park in the City of Wyoming, which has ample parking and a picnic pavilion we should be able to use in case of rain. The park does not have a street address. The City of Wyoming website says it is at the corner of 274th Street and Finland Avenue. Google maps lists the park as being in East Bethel (it's not), but appears to have the location correct.

RSVP is Encouraged

Since we will not be at Cedar Creek, we do not need formal registration for this survey. And, it would be great to know if you are coming. To RSVP, either:

About Carlos Avery

The Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area covers roughly 24,000 acres to the south and east of Cedar Creek. It is about 2/3 wetland and 1/3 upland and is managed primarily for Deer, Waterfowl and Turkey. Carlos Avery is near Cedar Creek, and offers similar habitat and diversity of species--but with no restrictions about where we can explore.

Interior roads at Carlos Avery are now open to motor vehicle traffic, and there are parking areas located throughout the property. You can download a PDF map that shows parking locations here.

Hazards, Considerations & Conditions on the Ground

Carlos Avery has minimal facilities. There are no lavatories, benches or shelters in the areas we will be tracking.

Carlos Avery is open to hunting. Archery season for deer and firearm season for a number of waterfowl and game birds will be open.

Ticks are still out and Anoka county is considered high-risk areas for tick-born diseases. Please come prepared and plan to do a thorough tick-check when you get home. Most experts now recommend permethrin treated clothing and a DEET based insect repellent, in addition to daily tick-checks. For more information on protecting yourself from Lyme disease and other tick-born illnesses check out this page from the Minnesota Department of Health.

It has been half-a-year since we began making large adjustments to our lives in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In that time, we have learned that outdoor transmission of the novel coronavirus is extremely rare, as discussed in these articles from the New York Times and Washington Post. Meanwhile, masks are proving to be effective in reducing transmission. With this growing understanding of potential risks, we believe it is safe to resume small outdoor gatherings such as tracking club. These gatherings allow for easy spatial distancing and offer connection to people and to nature in one of the safest ways possible. But we still want to take reasonable precautions and look out for eachother's well-being. Please wear a mask and practice physical distancing.


As most of you know, we use iNaturalist as a tool for recording and sharing our observations. This platform will be even more valuable for surveys where we are practicing physical distancing, making it easier for us to share and discuss what we see. If you do not already have an iNaturalist account, you can get one here.

Here are a few tips for documenting what you and your team finds:
  • When we track, we use clues at multiple spatial scales to help us identify and interpret what we find. Make sure to document multiple scales. A good observation of tracks will include multiple, clear, in-focus photographs of:
    • Individual tracks with a ruler for scale
    • Groups of tracks, showing enough to clearly interpret the track pattern.
    • Context photos showing the habitat and how the animal is using that habitat
    • For an excellent example of documenting tracks, see this Facebook post by German naturalist Simone Roters.
    • These examples of bobcat, toad and chipmunk tracks on iNaturalist show how to document tracks and trails--but remember to add habitat shots as well.
  • When documenting sign, also take multiple, in-focus photographs of the sign at multiple scales, including the habitat. Context is often even more important for sign.
    • These examples of squirrel and mouse feeding sing on iNaturalist are great examples of how to document sign.
  • In addition to your photographs, include notes about your observation to help others interpret what they see in your photographs. You may want to include measurements of tracks and trail parameters or notes about behavior.
  • When photographing tracks, remember these basic tips:
    • Make sure the outline of the track is clearly visible. In full sunshine, you may need to shade the track. In flat light, you may need to side-light the track with a flashlight.
    • Try different exposures and lighting conditions. You can delete the poor photos later, once you see how things look on a full-sized screen.
    • Take photos straight down. Even a slight angle can distort features and apparent size.
    • Include a ruler. Even then, your hand won't be the same distance from your lens as the track, distorting the apparent size of the track.
    • Use popsicle sticks, sticks, or arrows in the dirt to help point out track patterns if tracks are small or faint in the frame.
  • Remember that you can take photographs with any camera and add them to iNaturalist once you are back home. I often take a placeholder observation on my phone and additional photos with a camera to show added detail.

Updates on Cedar Creek

As of mid-September, Cedar Creek remains open only to essential research activity. We had hoped that the research station would be able to resume volunteer programs like ours by the end of the summer--but it turns out that this is a really difficult time to be in charge of a university with tens-of-thousands of students returning to campus from all across the country. Sensibly, the University is taking a cautious approach to the start of fall semester, keeping classes online and minimizing other programming for a few weeks to see how everything goes. As real information comes in about the spread--or lack of spread--of COVID on campus, we will learn more about when various programs will get up and running at Cedar Creek.

RSVPs are encouraged.

For a map & directions click here

Tolzmann Park