FSPW outdoor education winter programs planned

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(Courtesy photo) Outdoor instructor Brian Baxter leads a tracking class during a Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness outdoor educaiton program.

In addition to the burgeoning Winter Tracks outdoor education program Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness puts on with area schools, FSPW also annually offers a continuing series of free adult education classes. In 2018, expert tracker and wildlife researcher Brian Baxter of Libby will lead four winter and spring classes in the Scotchman Peaks vicinity.

Baxter’s first two classes run consecutively on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 19-20 in Libby. On the 19th at the Venture Inn Fireside Room, he will make an evening slide show presentation on the basics of animal tracking from 5-6pm, followed by questions and a no-host social hour. Saturday, January 20th, will be a field day exploring nearby forests and wetland habitats and observing and interpreting tracks, sign, scat, and wildlife trails. The meeting place and time for the tracking day is 9 am at the Venture Inn parking lot.

“Brian is a great outdoor ed instructor,” said FSPW program coordinator Sandy Compton. “He’s animated, enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and he knows how to have fun outdoors.”

On Feb. 17, Baxter will lead a day of unique study in winter ecology, concentrating on local evergreen trees, shrubs, and forbs as well as winter adaptations of mammals and birds including Canadian lynx, snowshoe hare, white-tailed ptarmigan, Rocky Mountain elk, long-tailed weasel, boreal owl, and wolverine. Meet for this day at 9 a.m. at the Venture Inn parking lot.

On March 24, Baxter will lead a winter birding class beginning at the Heron Community Center. After an initial informational meeting at the Center, the class will move to the field and examine riverside, wetland, and timbered edge habitats in pursuit of spotting birds of prey, waterfowl, woodpeckers, and songbirds. In addition to scoping for birds on the wing, the class will also hunt for roosting birds, owl pellets, scat, tracks, sign, and listen for their vocalizations.

On April 28, a second birding day will be held, also beginning from the Heron Community Center, this time concentrating on the newly returned species as well as raptors.

All of these events are free. Some have limited group sizes. Signups for Jan. 20, Feb. 17 and March 24 are online at www.scotchmanpeaks.org/events Signup for the April 28 event will be online soon. Lean more about the FSPW Winter Tracks program at www.scotchmanpeaks.org/stewardship/winter_tracks/

For all winter and spring outdoor events, please come prepared with proper layers, rain gear, binoculars, spotting scopes, good winter boots and snowshoes if appropriate, snacks, hot beverages, lunch, and water.

Baxter has been doing outdoor classes for FSPW as well as instructing with the Winter Tracks program for the past five winters under the auspices of Silver Cloud Associates. He has also worked in forestry and wildlife research for over 30 years, including projects involving lynx, wolverine, fisher, marten, badger, owls, bull trout, and mule deer. He has been teaching for 16 years. For more information, email him at b_baxter53@yahoo.com or call 406-291-2154.

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