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Training to track wildlife on Long Island

Common gray squirrel nearly camouflaged on wooded ground.
Common gray squirrel nearly camouflaged on wooded ground.Diana Duel

Professional wildlife tracker George Leoniak will teach Long Islanders how to forgo binoculars in favor of their own eyes in order to spot local wildlife using clues such as tracks and scat to identify different animals. These may include gray foxes, squirrels, chipmunks, minks, deer, raccoons, river otters, and opossums, as well as relative newcomers to the region such as coyotes, etc. Leoniak is a widely recognized Vermont-based animal tracker, and adjunct faculty member at Antioch University New England.

Students are invited to join Leoniak May 2 and 3 (and possibly May 4th if needed) at the Quogue Wildlife Refuge in Suffolk County, where he will also teach them to look for subtle signs such as little nicks in trees indicating where squirrels chewed bark to get at sap, food scraps, and how to identify different animal burrows. The workshop is open to naturalists, environmental and outdoor educators, amateur trackers and citizen scientists, professional biologists, and students 16 years old and up (of all levels of proficiency) interested in honing wildlife tracking and observation skills, and sign knowledge.

“Once you start tracking you can see things that ‘all of a sudden’ seem to appear out of nowhere,” he stated.

Those who complete the two-day course, sponsored by the Long Island Nature Organization, will be presented with an internationally recognized wildlife tracking certificate that is “beneficial for those in the naturalist fields,” commented the group’s co-founder wildlife biologist Mike Bottini. “Our goal is to get a group of wildlife biologists based on the Island who are trained in signs and tracks.”

Cost for the course is $110, and will be conducted regardless of weather conditions and temperature at the Quogue Wildlife Refuge, 3 Old Country Rd., Quogue, NY. Class size limited to14. For more information call 631 267-5228 or visit longislandnature.org