Winter Wildlife Tracking
One of the things I love to do when I go for a nature walk is to look for the “stories” of the wildlife that live in the area that I’m walking through. I’ll confess, it often takes me a long time to walk a short distance because there’s so much to investigate, so many “clues” to see!
This time of year can be especially fun for looking for wildlife tracks and signs – there’s mud or snow to look for tracks and trees and shrubs are mostly bare making it easier to see signs.
So head on out and look for some tracks….perhaps some bird prints in the snow or a mammal track?
Ask yourself some questions…how big are the tracks, what direction are they going in? what would have brought that animal to this spot? Is there food or water nearby? If it’s a mammal track, can you tell if they were just passing through or did they dally there awhile?
The stories will come together as you pull together these great clues, and you may even see the animals as you look for the clues. The other day, I was out taking a stroll and was quietly taking a photo of the deer print above when I heard a commotion coming towards me. A herd of about 9 deer was coming my way…
I was just as surprised to see them as they were to see me so I stood still as they passed by, resisting my urge to get a great leaping deer shot. I then came across a network of trails through the snow, smaller than a deer would make, that leads down a bank to a stream. My guess here is that raccoons and maybe opossums are using this trail. I’ll watch for more tracks and signs.
You can see more wildlife scat, tracks and signs photos from this nature walk on our Loudoun Wildlife Facebook page.
If you enjoy wildlife tracking, there are some great resources that you can use to make your identifications. One really handy book that’s small enough to take on a walk is Animal Tracks of Maryland, Delaware & Virginia by Tamara Eder. It also has a fun running rabbit drawing at the bottom of each page that moves when you flip the pages quickly 🙂 as well as a ruler on the back cover for measuring the tracks. There’s no scat in this book though. The best overall resource for both scat and tracks is Mammal Tracks and Signby Mark Elbroch – complete with color photos.
You can also come along on our general nature walks. Our field trip leaders are great at helping identify tracks and signs. Check our Programs and Field Trips calendar for upcoming walks.