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Animal Tracking School

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Please pardon the interruption in the Dean's Fork story. There's this thing called spring ephemerals, and in order to be of most use to my readers, I decided to publish the ephemerals posts while they were blooming in southeast Ohio. I knew you wouldn't mind. 

We've now made it through another winter, and it's early spring 2017. I hadn't been up to the beaver  pond since late September 2016. I didn't want to see it dry; it depressed me so. On March 28,  just the end of last month, I went on a walk from the house, intending to turn right when I got to the road and take my usual route to the lower end. I hoped to meet up with a skunk, as I have on earlier walks, but none appeared this time. That's OK. I would find even more wonderful things.

Skunk selfie. My only one to date. I plan to get more this summer. It's not that hard. Skunks don't pay much attention to me.

I made my way from the hayfield down into the woods, headed for the Fork. Seven fox sparrows rustled and scratched, and hopped up one by one to eye me briefly, then go back to their work. They're migrating through, headed north, and one even sang, a tentative, wandering melody that sounds like a white-throated sparrow who's been listening to meadowlarks. 

 The next thing I found was a bobcat print! Just about twice too big to be a housecat, but otherwise very similar. Look at the three-lobed rear edge of its pad, those lovely oval-round toes, and lack of any claw marks. Ahh, good fine silty mud is a beautiful thing. You'll find me out after rains and snows, finally able to get a read on my neighbors' doings.

Bobcat, hind (top) and front (bottom) prints

I find bobcat scat all the time. And it's hard to take a walk without finding their tracks. I love knowing they're around, all around. 
They don't even bother to cover their poop around here.

Wild turkey poop is everywhere, too. There are a jillion turkeys in the woods these days, thanks to the cicada hatch of 2016. Everybody ate.
You can tell this is bird poop by the white urates. Lovely twisty cylindrical galliforme poop with the sun coming up over Dean's Fork.

I kept walking and found most excellent pair of coonhands, the first of the spring. One reason trying to text on my phone with its persistent and maddening AutoCorrect is so frustrating is that I have to try three or four times to get a word like coonhands past it. No. I don't mean coin hands. No. I don't mean coonhounds. I mean coonhands dammit!!

some coywolf poop  (rawther large)

and a very nice double pair of coywolf tracks. They're much larger than fox tracks; neater and narrower than domestic dog tracks. Note how the large heel pad is two lobed (the bobcat's is three lobed) and heart-shaped; how the front two toes are long and narrow.  

Here's a domestic dog track (a big one) from the same area. It's much rounder and spreads more overall than the coywolf track, and it has the two big claw marks in front that mean it's not a cat.  Dog spoor is kind of staggered. They're sloppy walkers compared to coywolves and foxes and bobcats, whose tracks are in a neat line.

 I'll admit, I got kind of excited when I found these prints, because I couldn't find claw marks on the first dozen I found, and they were so huge!

But they're dog tracks, all right. I hope Chet and I don't meet up with this one. From the depth of the tracks, it's a very heavy animal. Big! 

So I'm trucking along finding one great track in the fresh mud after another. Here's a big old buck who's in a hurry and leaping. You can see the smeared imprint where he slid, and the two fetlock toes are sinking in, because his "ankle" joint is flexing all the way down, and he's so heavy. 

I find a section of Dean's Fork that has raccoon (bottom left), bobcat (just above the coon on left margin of photo) and striped skunk (right margin, deep claw prints) all together!! I have just come out on the road from the steep descent through the woods. As I cross a tributary to the main stream, a great sense of peace comes over me. I feel at home on this road. The sight and sound of running water sets me at ease. I smile, though there's no one there to see. Dean's Fork is working its magic on me again.

Next: a great discovery.


You amaze me. Really. Who else can make such a wonderful post of scat and tracks? No one. You are one of a kind, my friend!

I thought the same Jayne. I'm always smiling while reading and looking at scat. The tracks are good ones. I'm learning a lot !!!!! :-)

Look like Beardog tracks.
And your tracking number is 100A+.

Thanks Julie! I would have never expected to be
enthralled by mud & poop but you work magic! ;o)

This spring I learned from some hunters that you can tell the sex of the turkey that left the droppings! At first I thought they were (pardon the pun) shitting me, but I looked it up in a turkey textbook and, lo: the scat of a male turkey is more of a J-shape, while females leave more of a spiral blob. This supposedly arises from internal anatomy, rather than diet.

Agreeing with the other commenters wholeheartedly. While studying the coywolf print, I had Escher-esque moments of change! Only that image, not the others; not sure why. Something else to explore. Thanks for the post! Kim in PA

I love taking this walk with you. Thank you for showing us these wonderful tracks and sights!

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