Parkgoers could add animal tracking to their resume after attending a NYC Parks Department free Outdoor Skills: Animal Tracking event at the Marine Park Salt Marsh on Sunday, March 12th.
The adventurous group met at the Salt Marsh Nature Center and gathered at a display table at the rear courtyard to hear park rangers Gabby Miranda-Diaz and Ian Evans talk about the various animals that visitors may encounter in the park.
Animal pelts from a muskrat, groundhog, squirrel and rabbit were examined as the rangers talked about each of them in turn. A replica of a raccoon’s head and various animal droppings were also shown, along with a handout of various track marks to look for on the ground.
The group set out toward the rocky outcrops by Avenue U and spotted some groundhog tracks near its reputed den that runs along that section toward the corner of Burnett Street. Small rodent tracks, holes in the ground made from awakening hibernating bees, broken clam and walnut shells, and small droppings were evidence of animal activity in the area.
The group also observed evidence of human and dog activity by the large amount of garbage strewn about and a few dog droppings.
“It’s a shame because we just did a cleanup about six weeks ago,” said a volunteer who was at the event, mentioning the need for more park funding in the mayor’s budget.
The resident geese remained calm as the group approached and continued their trek toward the small beach where rangers spotted a perfect set of raccoon tracks earlier, but the full moon high tide covered the path with water, preventing the group from reaching their final destination. Additional tracking continued on the other side of the salt marsh instead.
“That’s nature,” Evans said. “You can’t control the tides.”