September 22, 2020

MyNature Animal Tracks MyNature Tree Guide MyNature Animal Tracks MyNature Fishing App

Tracking Tips

 One of the best places to spend some time outdoors looking for tracks is a Beaver pond. Actually an old beaver pond which the dam has broke and left a flow is even better. Dams represent the edge in the forest, an edge is where two different ecosystems meet.  Wildlife are naturally drawn to the edge of an ecosystem and spend time feeding, bedding and hunting these areas. These edges are where the majority of animal sign can be found if you take the time to look. Elevated areas like rocks and logs  in or near the waters edge are great places to find scat left by Mink, Muskrat and Otters.

This scat left by a Muskrat is a territorial marker. You can see that there is both new and old scat where he constanly freshens this scent post. You might also find a latrine area where there are piles of different aged scat, these are usually found near their core area where they spend the majority of their time.

Sign left on the trails leading to an Edge area like a Beaver Pond are also good indicators of what animals are using the area.

     This Bobcat scat on the left was found just a few feet away from the dam itself. 

This scat on the right was left on one of the trails leading to the pond by a Black Bear.

One of the best spots to look for tracks on a active beaver pond is right on the dam itself. Dams serve as a kind of natural bridge for animals to cross on. Many times the top of the dam  consists of mud placed there by beavers to reinforce the structure.  Bears, Deer, Coyotes, Fox will all utilize the top of the dam to get from one side of the pond to the other and leave their tracks there for your identification. 

Next time your on an outing try to  find the Edge whether a beaver pond, mountain meadow, stream or agricultural field and you should have no problem finding animal sign.

                                                          Happy Tracking !!

Squirrel, Cottontail or Snowshoe Hare?

Even though it’s winter and animal tracks are everywhere to be found how do you know which track belongs to what animal? Squirrels and rabbits have an almost identical track pattern and to make it worse their toes usually aren’t distinguishable in the snow.  Most often you only see a group of 4 imprints that are merely oblong impressions. If you can remember a few different trail width sizes then you’ll be an expert in telling which of these three animals left the tracks you found.

Snowshoe Hares will always have the largest trail width averaging around 6 inches wide.  Once you have identified a Hares tracks you’ll never confuse them with any others. Another important thing to take notice of is where are the tracks. A Snowshoe will almost always be found in a coniferous forest.  I’ve seen them in the open of hardwoods, but there was always the cover of evergreens within site.

This set of tracks on the right are of a Cottontail Rabbit.  The trail width of a Cottontail is approximately 3 to 4 inches wide.  Their feet are much narrower than a Snowshoes but the gait pattern and track pattern are identical. Cottontail tracks will usually be found in brushy areas, the thicker the brush the better the habitat for Cottontails. They will also be found along hedgerows and agricultural fields. The length of the Cottontails hind track is approximately 3 to 3 1/2 long.

This set on the left is of a Red Squirrel. These tracks are more commonly confused with those of Cottontails. Red Squirrels as well as Gray Squirrels are more boxed shaped in the track pattern and are much smaller in length. Even though the trail width can be quite similar the rear track size will distinguish the two apart.  The rear print of a Gray Squirrel will usually be just under two inches long while a Red`Squirrels rear track will be approximately 1 to 1 1/2 inches long.  Depending on how deep the snow powder is squirrel tracks can appear much larger than they actually are as more of the foot and leg tend to leave an imprint.

With that little bit of knowledge you should be able to tell these tracks apart on your next outing.  Happy Hiking!!


Redtail Hawk 0, Snowshoe Hare 1

I was tracking a Snowshoe hare today and he turned out to be one tough rabbit. I came across a spot where he was attacked by an obviously hungry Redtail Hawk. I’m assuming it’s a redtail since I saw one in the area and the sign at the crime scene was as fresh as could be.

The spot of the first attack, they wrestled around here for a few minutes. The spot is trampled so much from the Hare escaping the clutch of the hawk several times.

The hawk drew some blood at this point in the attack.

Here is where the final attempt to catch the hare took place. The hawk did manage to get a talon full of hair but not a meal. I followed the tracks for 100 yards and with the exception of a few drops of blood the Hare was traveling at a normal gait. There was a lot of Coyote sign around so I’m sure they will be on his trail tonight.  He’ll probably do fine since he seems to be one tough Snowshoe!!

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.

Reindeer Facts

Here’s a few Reindeer facts to know in case your lucky enough to spot one today or even 8 later this evening. The North American Reindeer is called a Caribou and they live the better part of their lives on the tundra feeding on lichens and mosses. Their hooves are very broad and flat and allow them to keep moving on top of the snow pack without sinking in. The bottom of their hooves are hollowed out which helps them in digging through the snow to find food which they eat up to 12 pounds of per day. They also aid them in swimming, acting as a paddle as they cross many rivers during their long migrations, some Caribou may travel as much as 3,000 miles in one year. The average herd though travels around half that amount. At one time they could be found in much of North America but are now only located in Alaska and parts of Canada, the Alaskan population numbers over 700,000 Caribou !! They also are the only member of the deer family in which both male and females grow a set of antlers. As with all deer they shed their antlers and regrow a new pair each year. December 24th of each year is the best time to spot them. Make sure you have your camera ready!!