Background Switcher (Hidden)

A Tracking Snow

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A new snow, a tracking snow. We walk out the driveway, Chet and I, looking at the signs left by all who passed in the night. 

Ah, bah, a housecat. I don't realize how much cats hunt our place until it snows. We have temporal separation. They're doing their work at night; I'm out in the daytime. Clever cats. Cat tracks have a very round look to them, and are clawless, and are arranged in a neat, straight line.

The next set I find I much prefer. A mink came loping along here last night!

Lovely little fine-toed tracks, more or less paired. Why the bright orange smartgloves? So I can find them, first, and so I can take photos while wearing them. I've already lost one of them. I rain gloves.

The mink tracks appear in bunches of four with a space in between the bunches, as the animal bound/shuffles along. It's a lopey gait, hump-backed, somewhere in between a shuffle and a leap.

I've seen only one mink in our 22 years here, and it was a brownblack beauty, bearing down on a very wet, bedraggled, shocky cottontail. I was guessing they'd tangled and the mink was about to finish it off in the dewy grass. We heard the scream that confirmed that hunch. You go ahead and help yourself to our rabbits. They'll make more.

Compare and contrast mink, above, with the gray squirrel tracks below. Squirrels have a rabbit-like forefoot plant behind the hindfoot. Think of a bunny hopping, with its big hind feet in front of its forefeet.

More squirrel tracks:

and just a bit farther down the driveway, the clumsy stars of Virginia opossum:

You can see the telltale tail drag marks in both these shots, above and below.

An eastern cottontail. Most people know these tracks. The feet are so heavily furred that you're hard-pressed to make out the toesies. Hind feet to the right, forefeet to the left. The rabbit is traveling left to right. 

This is all one night in our driveway. Obviously, a crittercam planted there would be lots of fun!

I have to run a mile and a half to find a coyote, though it could have just as easily been in our driveway, too. This one's walking up the drive to Waxler Church. All my kind of people go there.

See how large the intervals between the paired tracks is? Bigger animal, longer stride. 
How do I know it's a coyote and not a domestic dog? Well, the feet are elongate and very neat.

But I know also because the domestic dog walks sloppy.  While the coyote places his hind foot in the track of his forefoot, the happy dog drags his toes and ambles and shambles. His is not a neat straight line. His is staggered.

He's careless and joyful. He's Chet Baker. Dum de dum de dum.

We get to the Waxler Church, and a housecat has been sitting on the stoop, waiting for something or someone. Beautiful little tracks, and a place where it sat for awhile, shifting its feet in the cold. 

And on the way home, Chet Baker provides another Magnetic North Poo Sample. This, the third, and the only time he's been off a north-south axis. He's pointed 10 degrees N NW. Not bad. Not much of a deviation, if you ask me. Nobody knows why dogs tend to line up on a north-south axis when they poop. But it's been making the news nationwide as well as in Whipple. Please do not tell Chet Baker I published this photo. He'd be mortified.


Wow! Thank you so much for posting about animal tracks! We always have a lot of them in our driveway after a snow, but some of them I have trouble identifying. Now, thanks to this, I may have better luck next time! (Which should be tomorrow morning, alas. I'm severely tired of winter this year.)

Perhaps Chet Baker is NOT incrementally off the North-South line-up. Perhaps he is just more attuned to it than the average mortal, and realizes that the magnetic pole has shifted just a smidge. He IS a very smart doggeh, after all!

Posted by Anonymous February 2, 2014 at 3:55 AM

love this SO much! I think I know some of the creatures on my perambulations, but you provide confirmation. That, and I can pretty much expect that if I see something that looks like coyote tracks at the Mt. Auburn, it is what I think. Dogs not allowed--but now I know to notice how tidy and orderly the coyote is.

Thank you for this!


Posted by KH Macomber February 2, 2014 at 6:03 AM

What fun to have all these visitors and know they have been passing by!
BTW, I also rain gloves, I have a nice red right hander that would make a pair with your orange one!

Thank you for posting all this wonderful info and your pix of tracks. I have a scat and track book that has helped me some, but you add little details that make it so much clearer than my book.
I love trying to ID the tracks and figure out what was going on. So interesting ! Hope you will do more blogs on this subject when you are able. Darlene Shamblin

Posted by Anonymous February 2, 2014 at 8:36 AM

Thanks for the tracks info! One of the things I like about taking our basset hound for a walk in good tracking snow is being able to actually see the tracks of the animal whose scent she is following! If you think Chet Baker's tracks are ambling and scrambling, you should see a basset's... and not only do the toes drag, the ears do, too.

Snow in short supply, but damp sand works in a similar way... and it is almost as white. Thanks!

[Back to Top]