During the winter months it’s easy to spot the signs of animals big and small. Once there’s snow on the ground, it’s fun to play winter wildlife detective and examine tracks and the stories they leave behind. Who made them? What were they doing?
Not all animals go into winter hibernation. Many are up and moving, and their tracks give us a glimpse into the wonderful world of wildlife.
Time to sharpen up your identification skills! Let’s explore some tracks you might find in the Credit River Watershed:
These unusual tracks will likely leave a passerby stumped! The shape of the track provides a lot of information about the animal who left it. Porcupines are pigeon-toed. This causes them to wobble and waddle creating this unique imprint in the snow.
Four toe prints and a heal pad indicate a canine or feline. If you see toenail marks, you’ll know it’s a canine.
Dog tracks are common along trails and in parks. How do you know if it is a domestic dog or a coyote? The path of the track is the easiest way to distinguish the two. Coyotes are efficient and move in straight lines whereas domestic dogs tend to travel erratically.
Some small rodents, like voles, spend a lot of time under the snow. They leave evidence of their visit with long winding tunnels that are visible from above. If you follow a trail and it abruptly ends at a large messy hole edged with markings from wing tips, there is a good chance a hawk or owl found a snack.
The number of toes helps us tell species apart. Turkey tracks are large with three large toes in the front and a shorter back toe. The track averages four to five inches long. It’s rare to find solo turkey tracks as they usually travel in flocks.
If all four footprints are bunched together with the larger ones out front, you probably have a squirrel.
When rabbits hop, they leave certain markings based on where their feet land – which helps us identify tracks. They place their larger hind feet ahead of their smaller front feet. Unlike squirrels, which keep their feet next to each other as they hop, rabbits stagger their feet creating a “Y” shaped track.
Next time you’re out and about, keep your eyes peeled for interesting tracks and the tales they leave in the snow.
By CVC’s Meagan Ruffini, Marketing and Communications Associate