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Tracking Animals In San Diego’s Urban Wild Lands

Credit: Promise Yee

William Suzbach, a senior tracker with the nonprofit San Diego Tracking Team, talks to a group of volunteer recruits at Los Peñasquitos Ranch House in North County how to determine what kind of animal left a track in the dirt.

If you’re interested in a safe and fun wildlife experience in our urban home, the San Diego Tracking Team has a class for you.

The nonprofit trains volunteers to track animals in San Diego’s canyons and wildlife corridors and to keep logs on their findings. The group uses the information to evaluate the health of certain species and if government efforts to preserve habitat are working, according to its website.

Denise Harter, a volunteer tracker for five years, said her appreciation of nature has grown because of the program.

“The landscape opens up to you,” Harter said.

The group hosts monthly classes to introduce people to tracking and recruit volunteers. On a recent Sunday at Los Peñasquitos Ranch House in North County, senior tracker William Sulzbach gathered a group around a circle drawn in the dirt. Using charts, measuring tools and field experience, they determined that a four-toed track belonged to a toad.

They’re taught to record animal tracks, scat and fur. Over time, they learn to observe patterns and see the effects of development, wildfires and natural disasters such as floods on nature.

The volunteers track animals within the wildlife corridors in Los Peñasquitos Canyon, Mount Woodson, Calavera Preserve, Rose Canyon and Mission Trails Regional Park.

The San Diego Tracking Team is an all-volunteer nonprofit that has been recording county habitat data since 1993. For more information on the group and its classes, go to sdtt.org.

Promise Yee is a North County freelance writer. Contact her at promise805@hotmail.com. Twitter: @promisenews. Facebook: promise.yee.1.

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