Jackie Veats

Where are the Animals?

Many people come to Coldfoot and the Brooks Range and one of their first questions is, “Where are the animals?”   We don’t see them every day as they rarely come into camp.   But they are out there.   Take your camera and take a walk around Coldfoot.  If you keep your eyes open you will see signs of many different types of animals that inhabit this area.   Take a walk along the creek and see what footprints are in the mud.  The other evening I walked to Slate Creek and there were raven prints.  I also saw grizzly footprints following both a large and a small set of moose prints…a cow and a calf most certainly!   Wolf prints were in the mix as well, and there were boot prints!   A human!!

While I had my head down I came upon some moose scat…a large pile (the cow) and a tiny pile (the calf).  An lo and behold what else did I see but a pile of wolf scat.  All this in about 15 minutes!!  Scat and prints…two very interesting things to find.   If you find scat don’t let it put you off.  Go get a stick and prod around in it to see who or what that critter has been eating.   Do you see lots of fur?   Perhaps they dined on the hares that are a popular tidbit for many local animals.   Piles of moose scat might make you wonder why the nuggets all come out same size and perfectly shaped!  Has the scat been there long?  Is it dry?  Or is it still steaming?  I might leave the area if a big pile of bear scat is still steaming!!!  Try to guess how long it has been since the animal passed by.

If you get tired of looking down, look up.   You’d be surprised at what you might see….a lynx sitting on top of a structure, a great horned owl sitting in a tree, or maybe a bald or golden eagle looking for a meal.   Look at the vegetation…can you see where a moose nibbled on the willows?  Do you see the scratches left by a bear?

If you aren’t used to identifying footprints, scat, or other signs of animals there are field guides available to help you identify the evidence of their presence.  If you aren’t sure, take photos and ask others to help identify them.  Also, it is a good idea to make some noise when you are out looking around so as not to surprise any of our forest friends.

Good hunting!

The Onset of Fall

Photo by Jackie Veats

Photo by Jackie Veats

Fall is my favorite season. Here in the Brooks Range the heat of summer will suddenly shift overnight to cooler nights, days have a sharp edge to them, the smell of coming winter is faint. I look around and notice suddenly that the migratory birds have all vanished, the summer flowers have gone to seed. I see one willow bush with a yellow leaf, the next few days there are many more, another week later Fall colors are putting on a vibrant show. The tundra showcases red, cranberry, yellow, pink, purple, and multiple shades of green. The leaves continue to turn vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow. The berries are ripe for the picking and my thoughts turn to preserving them.

I walk the same path every day and look for changes in the rivers and creeks. The edges of the creeks start to freeze and the frozen water slowly takes over for the free flow as it creeps towards center. Soon the rivers will follow suit. I now listen to my steps crunching over the frozen mud. The young bull moose I’ve been watching all summer has grown antlers covered in velvet and his color is shiny mahogany.

Coffee is best brewed on a Fall morning down by the river. I love sitting in the mist doing nothing but watching a lynx peruse the opposite band or listening to the deafening silence that only the Brooks Range can offer. My senses sharpen at this time of year. I can feel the softness of a Fall breeze running over my cheek or the mist of low clouds dampening my hair. All of this happens at lightning speed as the freight train of Fall thunders through the Koyukuk River valley. I wait all year for its beauty and, sadly, it is gone within a few weeks. But, oh! the joy of those few weeks!!


Photo by Jackie Veats.

Photo by Jackie Veats.