September 22, 2020

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Sign

A lot of time when your picking your way through the woods the only evidence you find of an animals presence may just be the sign they left. Animal sign can be anything from a pile of cone scales, rubbed trees, scratchings on the ground to scat as well as countless other markings left behind. I had a moment of brain freeze the other day on one of my outings when I came across 30 to 40 small piles of animal scat left around the base of a tree. Maybe it’s age catching up with me because for several short minutes I stood there looking for tracks as to whose scat this was, totally bewildered. It’s not that I didn’t know who left it or who’s scat it was after all I have seen this 100’s of times but for the life of me I couldn’t remember. I regained my composure and put the pieces of all the clues together, no tracks around, fresh and older scat in the same spot which meant the animal frequents here often and a large branch overhead.  Yes, it was a Turkey roost I had found. No tracks around meant what ever was visiting here flew in and perched on the overhead branch, the shape of the scat some in the tell tale “J” shape and the size of the piles were all pointing to Turkey.

I went on my way content in knowing that the onset of Alzheimer’s has started……..wait….. what was I writing about?  Oh yeah, Turkeys!! So I went on my way thinking there are probably a lot of people that come across sign like this and may not have a clue as to what animal left it. If you take a few minutes and study the area and the clues left you can usually narrow it down to 1 or 2 animals.  You don’t always need a track to identify an animal if you know the sign they leave and looking for animal sign can be just as rewarding as looking for the tracks they leave. The next time I have brain freeze I won’t get frustrated I’ll take it for what it is, a chance to discover things all over again.

Happy Tracking!!

Identifying Tracks

Many times identifying an animals track isn’t the simplest thing to do. You can buy all the books and yes even the apps on tracking and still be left wondering what track lies in front of you. It’s not always as simple as matching up a picture to the imprint left, more often than not you need to have an investigative mind. In light fluffy snow  some tracks appear distorted as the animals foot drags snow back into to the track as they move.  Some tracks may just suddenly disappear all together  and your left to figure that out where they went. Did they jump out of your line of sight, climb a tree, fly away or was the animal swept up by a hawk or owl.

In the picture (not a great one I admit) everything is there to identify the animal that visited this spot and what happened. While not the clearest of tracks the general form of it is still in tact as well as the stride and the trail width, all clues left to who it belongs to.  The fact that it suddenly dissapeared  and you found no other tracks in the area or trees close by that it could have climbed will be a huge clue.   Hopefully by now you came to the conclusion that it was some kind of bird that suddenly flew away. But what kind?  Was it a Grouse, Turkey, Crow or maybe even a Heron?

If your in the middle of the forest with no water around you can immediately discount it being a Heron. That’s going to leave you with three choices, now what?  Well, if the tracks have been walking for quite a distance that’s going to knock the possibilities of it being a Crow off the list. Crows won’t walk a long distance on the ground and if the do then they will hop, clearly the tracks above aren’t hopping. Now were left with either the choice of a Turkey or Grouse.  Now you can go back to an individual track measure the size, even if it isn’t a clear print and come to a conclusion based on the size difference between the two birds on which one it is.  The one in the picture was 4 inches long.  The only animal it could be was a Turkey since a Grouse is around 2 inches.

Tracking can be a great way to spend some time outdoors. There’s no need to have a destination to get to, no time limit, no crowded trails to follow, just you the woods and the animal your following.  Life doesn’t get much more laid back than that.        Happy Tracking!