Bear Tracking with a Butterfly Break


Which might be as good or better than a coffee break. (Butterflies rarely induce that jittery feeling.) Yesterday while tracking a bear hubby and I ran into butterflies once again. So I’ll discuss a few bear tracking tips and post the photos we took of one butterfly and a caterpillar then, I’ll tell you what little I know of them.

Next spring I intend to collect and raise butterflies and moths with the kiddos. This should be a lot of fun as well as a really neat excuse to become more butterfly savvy. Both of my daughters just turned twelve yesterday so I’d better get these “scientific at home studies” in before they get too old and refer to me as a square. (Which would be a truthful insult on their part, because it’s honest the punishment really has to be light. Something that says, “you’d better tell the truth or else,” combined with, “whatever you do don’t be so darned honest.”)


Here are my personal bear tracking tips and if any of you who’ve also tracked a bear to two would like to add something I’d love to hear it! Here is where we went hiking. As any good bear tracker will tell you – you start big and go small. First, look for deep thick woods right next to an area that had recently burned or had been logged. Then look for scat in the road or torn up stumps – some small rodents will do this however, if it really is a huge mess it may be a bear. (As for the scat in the road I’m guessing maybe they don’t like weeds up the bum anymore than we do?) In our area bear scat looks (and you can look away from this commentary part if you have a weak tummy) like poo the size of the bottom of a coke can. It’s color is primarily a blackish purple and yep, upon close examination there are seeds. The darker it is the more fresh and indicates that he or she’s been hanging out being cool in that area. If you find logs ripped apart, stumps dug under, “holes” in the forest foliage. Rule number one? Everything on the forest floor can be explained. In my experience it is difficult to see bear footprints unless you hit a creek. I think it’s because they walk flat footed and just squish things under their feet. This is unlike other animal where weight is distributed to different parts of their hooves, paws etc.. To cite a visual example it would be the difference between rolling your thumb to get a thumb print or just squishing it down flat. Both will leave a print but the second would be hard to distinguish the specifics. Otherwise what you follow is the trail of torn up stumps, pushed down wheat and especially any area that would resemble a deer bed if it’s located by berry bushes. Summary. You hit pay dirt. Also look at the torn up stumps are the colors bright or dull looking where the stumps been ripped into this will indicate the age – you probably don’t want to track a bear that was around last summer. Tracking is a lot of fun. A bit of imagination and the energy to hike and you have a story waiting to be told. (Oh and ps. they love the shade so if you ever do track a bear or even collect berries on a mountain top carry bear spray on your chest, or carry a weapon, maybe, take a good strong pup with you but and primarily, keep an eye on shaded areas.) If one just wakes up – look quick and leave quicker. They are infamous for being grumps when waking up.

On the trail we ran into a butterfly and a caterpillar. They are two different species.

on fennel

Pine White

This is a pine white butterfly.

Woolly Bear Caterpillar

Distinguishing caterpillars is a fine art left up to those who know what the heck they are doing. If I made my most uneducated guess I’d go some place with a very shy woolly bear caterpillar. See? Even tho we are talking butterflies there was a bear link afterall. This little guy (or potentially gal) was spooked when I showed up. (Everything on the forest floor can be explained.) So it’s safe to say that since we didn’t take our pups something else touched this guy before we rounded the corner even if it meant a twig in the wind tapping his side. I only bothered him enough to make sure he was alive. Which he was – okay off to wander the woods again.

p.s. we didn’t see a bear on this day however, we saw enough to know where he ate some grubs, where he munched some berries, where he had managed to rustle up a small turkey for an aftenoon snack and eventually where he took a nap etc…. after this we were too hot and sweaty to go on. Fundementally I think I enjoy the stories that tracking tells as much as viewing wildlife.


14 Responses to “Bear Tracking with a Butterfly Break”

  1. Wonderful images again Lori, the butterfly on the bloom is really nice, your landscape shots are are really neat as well.

    Your eye is there now when you can upgrade your equipment you will be amazed by the results.

  2. wow, lovely set, i love the first photo. beautiful!

  3. 3 montucky

    These are all really great photos. The butterfly on the blossom is extra special. That’s a really cool shot!

    I agree that reading the tracks and sign tell you much more about who is living where than actual sightings of the animals. I spend a huge amount of time reading what’s written on the ground. Ah, the stories I have read that way!

  4. Beautiful pics Lori.

    I love how you found the little fuzz ball a lot of people would have looked over.

    I really love the topmost butterfly pic how it fits to the shape of the flower. The flower almost being triangular and the wings parallel to the sides creates a neat effect.

    The butterfly being white on a white flower is cool as well.

    I love the landscape shot with the pines almost silhouetted against the gorgeous sky. I like how the trees still have a little detail left. Just enough.

  5. Hi Bernie, I have a feeling that if you had my camera in your hands you do a thousand times better than I but thank you. I still have a lot to learn (including what my next camera purchase would be – utilizing the word “upgrade” is the understatement of the year) hopefully, you can be patient with my novice status … but I’m learning. (I’ve found the best is just going out there and trying just about everything works best…) fundamentally I have two things to work out; the mechanics as well as patience. And thus art is borne? I don’t know but we’ll see. 🙂 I’m working both of them out.

  6. Ankush – I sincerely believe that had you had this view at that time of a day you would have made it into a million dollar shot. (This one is okay – perhaps a calender shot?) but I thank you kind sir.

  7. Hi Montucky – I added the second shot of the same butterfly just so the identity could be placed. But the first guy was my fav as well. I knew you’d understand the tracking more than anyone else. It’s something to be out in the cold crisp air… it’s easy to see where man has went…a Doritos bag, huge footprints, a rusty can… It’s another thing all together to follow the path of a bear … my mistake I think was not telling it in photographs but I get so lost in the process I tend to forget to take the next shot. 🙂 Who knows maybe one day I’ll get this page right.

  8. Thank you PaintingArtist, sincerely I appreciate you making me think about this a bit. ps. The woolly caterpillar he was safe so one shot was invasive enough. If this is all he wanted me to see then so be it. The butterfly on the other hand he or she was showing off so the shot came easier. I just have to say what you do is hard, what I do is easy. Sometimes it does not feel that way but it is. One really fabulous photographer once said that he had one simple goal; to give the world the opportunity to care. I’m honored to have met some people online who have that same goal.

  9. Lori, if we can give the world the oppurtunity to care and inspire them to do so all at the same time we are most surely successful.

    I think a lot of things in life becomes easy when we understand it. When we really see art and photography I think are pretty easy.

    Thanks so much for helping me to see and to care more deeply.

  10. how come you havent been posting anything new?
    did you receive the email i sent you a while back in response to your question on my blog?

  11. Hi Ankush, actually no I didn’t get your email. As for posting I keep trying to think of something important to say and find myself utterly silent. This happens once in awhile and my hubby probably says a little prayer of thanks to the gods when it happens 😉 For the last week I’ve been doing two things; readying myself for the girls birthday party (which happened Saturday) and trying to find the camera of my dreams. (so far that’s been quite a task…. I still have no idea what to put my life’s savings into. 🙂 I’ll post tonight on my girls b-day – maybe it will get me out of my writers block slash photo block slump I’m in! thank you for asking.

  12. hey thanks for the reply, so that is perplexing though….how come that email didnt go through?

  13. dunno – here for anyone really. my personal email address is – honestly anyone can contact me at anytime. I’d love Ankush for you to give tips on cameras to look into… I am a complete novice!!! 🙂

  14. Absolutely thrilling work! I am going to look here often.

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