September 22, 2020

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Mink Tracks

One of the best ways to narrow down what animal tracks you found is to study the gait pattern the animal used. Animals are categorized by Family and each family has it’s own preferred method of transportation.  Animals in the Weasel family use a bounding gait. A bound is a when the animal pushes off his hind feet and does a short leap landing on his front feet with the rear tracks registering just behind the front. All four feet are in a tight group resembling  a small rectangle.  The image of the  Mink’s gait at right shows just how this looks. 

 The members of the Weasel family that most commonly utilize this type of gait pattern are the Mink, Short-tailed Weasel, Long tailed Weasel,  Least Weasel, Otter, Fisher, Pine Marten and Badger.  Once you have identified the gait pattern you can measure the individual tracks to narrow down what animal tracks you found.  Paying attention to the habitat you found the tracks in is just as important as the tracks themselves. If you observed this type of gait pattern in the middle of a coniferous forest with no water nearby this would point more toward a Marten or a Fishers track.  Close to a stream bank or body of water would tend to be an Otter or Mink. The tracks above were following a stream bank and the individual size of the tracks gave this animal away as a Mink.

Of coarse it’s not always that easy is it?  As I mentioned members of the Weasel family prefer a bounding gait and use that most times to travel but they don’t always bound.  You may find tracks that resemble the gait of the Bear family as in the Otter image below. This Otter was utilizing the pacing gait where all four feet register separately not grouped as in a bound. Rest assured he eventually broke back into his bounding pattern a short distance away.

 If you follow a set of tracks far enough you may get a chance to see the various gait patterns used by each animal. Just remember that the most predominantly used gait will point you toward which Family the animal you found belongs to.

       Happy Tracking!!

iPhone and Animal Tracks

As the snow starts to pile up distinguishing individual tracks of larger animals can get a little tricky. Most tracks of heavier animals fill in with snow as one foot is lifted and the next in line pushes more into the imprint. Often times their trail  may just appear as a trough throw the snow obscuring most of the details. When this happens if your not lucky enough to find an identifiable print you need to look more at the animals gait pattern, trail width and stride.  Not all animals traveling gaits are the same, some are bounders, some are pacers and some are diagonal walkers. Learning their gait patterns will eliminate some possibilities of which animals tracks  your looking at.  Just as their gait is different so to is their trail width. Trail width is the measurement from the outside of  the left track to the outside of the right track. If you can distinguish in the deep snow the edges of the tracks then you have narrowed down your choices even further. The last measurement to help you out is the stride of the animal. The stride is the measurement from the back edge of one track to the back edge of the next same track. An Elk will have a larger stride than a Mule deer or Whitetail.

Just because the snow gets deeper doesn’t mean identification is impossible. Next time your out bring along the MyNature Animal Track app, everything you need to know about stride, trail width and gait patterns are just a push  button away. So pull on your long johns, strap on the snowshoes and hit the woods and see what’s living in your back yard.

iPhone Animal Tracks

MyNature Animal Tracks for the iPhone has been pretty consistent at receiving 5 star ratings. Stop by the iTunes store and pick up the app today and start learning what’s sharing the woods with you on your next trip.