September 22, 2020

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

Spring Tracks

   The last of the winter snows have disappeared and along with them went the perfect canvas for animal tracks. As I bummed as I am to lose the good tracking snow I’m very happy Spring has arrived. Along with Spring comes  mud season which not as plentiful as snow still has the ability to capture a perfect crisp outline of the animal that passed through it. I recently scouted a farm field not far from here. The great thing about the agricultural fields south of here is that they consist primarily of clay and the next best thing to Spring mud is Spring clay. I’ll probably return there tomorrow if I get a chance and do a little plaster casting of some of the tracks if the rain holds off. The best way to approach finding tracks in farm fields is to just walk the edge, there really is no need to venture any further than 10 feet from the sides of the field to find tracks. In fact most animals will be doing the same thing, just cruising the edges. Any animal that ventures out of the bordering brush will definitely leave evidence of it’s passing as long as the clay or dirt is wet. Take for instance the Weasel Tracks I found, weighing in at just under a pound this one left a very distinct track.  

    Weasels have a heel pad that is easy to recognize once you know what your looking for.  The size of the track and placement of the feet also give it away.

Farm fields really offer one of the best places to find and identify tracks. Prey animals are attracted to the crops and the carnivorous animals follow the prey so there is an abundance of sign as long as you keep your eyes to the ground.

If you don’t personally know a farmer then just stop and ask for permission if you can walk the edges of their field to do some tracking, most won’t mind as long as your respectful of the property. It’s a great way to spend some time outdoors especially with the kids and what kid wouldn’t love traipsing through the mud?    Happy Tracking !!

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!!