April 18, 2021

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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!

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!!

Otters on Your iPhone

Yep!! there’s an app for that to. Whatever you wanted to know about an Otter or any other mammal is now on the iPhone. Learn  how to identify their tracks, about their habitat, listen to the sound they make and much more. The tracks below were made by an Otter and you can see the different gait patterns it uses to travel. Most often Otters will use a bounding gait where all four feet register close to one another and the track sets will be spaced one to two feet apart, it’s tail may not be show in it’s trail when bounding. Otters will also use a walking gait where each track registers seperately as in the picture below. The tail drag is a dead give away when walking.  You can look for other clues too as to which animal left a set of tracks. Does it go up a tree? does it go into the water?  what size are the feet and the trail width?  All the evidence left behind will point to which animals track you found.  Good luck on your next outing and don’t forget to pick up the MyNature Animal Track App on the way!

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.

Grouse Tracks

It’s always interesting to see what stories are laid out in a set of animal tracks. This is an image of where a Grouse had been hiding in the cover of a fir tree and for whatever reason decided to leave the safety of it’s afternoon hideout. Of coarse it could have been eluding me but since I didn’t hear it take off I’m assuming it was something else that disturbed him. I always know when a grouse takes off because it just precludes the heart attack they usually give me. I’m not that jumpy of a person but for some reason, maybe because they usually wait until your right on top of them, grouse always startle the hell out of me.

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!!

Dog or Coyote?

Now that there’s some snow on the ground your most likely to come across some canine tracks on your hikes. The question is, do they belong to a domestic dog or a coyote? There are clues to telling the difference with just a little observation. First the tracks themselves, are they meandering around or traveling in a fairly straight line. Coyotes travel with a purpose, a destination to get to whether it’s water, denning or in search of prey and are usually traveling alone. Dogs on the other hand meander here to there with a more zig zagging trail pattern as they investigate every little thing that peaks their curiosity.
A coyote’s individual track will measure from 2 to 2.5 inches long and is consistent among individuals. The shape of their tracks are oblong, narrow with the two middle toes being the same length. If you were to take a stick you would be able to draw a clear uninterrupted diagonal line from just outside the two middle toes down to the opposite side of the heel pad. Domestic dogs on the other hand are variable in size and their toe pads will not show a clear uninterrupted diagonal line drawn to the opposite side of the heel pad. Domestic dogs tracks will also have more rounded dull claw marks. The front track of a coyote is also slightly larger than it’s back track. If you happen to come across some scat in the trail then figuring out whose track that was will be a no brainer. If there is hair, bones or seeds in the scat then you most definately are following a coyotes tracks.     Happy Hiking!!

Snow Tracking

Just about a foot of snow has fallen in the past 12 hours here in the Adirondacks. Adding that to the 4 or 5 inches we had from this past weekend means it’s getting just a tad deep. Last winter was a pretty hard one for the deer herd judging by the lack of deer sighted throughout the year and it doesn’t seem like this winter is going to be any easier. We’ll be out this weekend to see what we can find roaming around the woods. The deer will be leaving earlier this year to yard up so I’m not expecting to find to many deer tracks in my hike. As the deer go so go the coyotes which won’t leave but a random fox track, some squirrels and an occasional grouse or two and the Snowshoe Hare to find. Don’t forget, if you go out bring along the MyNature Animal Track app with you. www.mynaturesite.com

Tracking in the Snow

Yesterday’s snowfall made for some good tracking today, part of the day anyway. I spent around two hours this morning trying to find some Cottontail tracks and struck out. I wouldn’t have minded if it were close to home but it was an hour each way to get to the some land I have permission to hike on. The area is perfect habitat for Cottontails, swampy lowland with thick, thick brush but they just weren’t on the move today. In fact I saw no tracks there at all of anything except two Whitetails. It was a disappointing outing on the one hand but anytime I get to spend outdoors alone is a great time.
I came back up to the mountains later in the day to look for Snowshoe Hare and got the needed track images of those with no problem and some Porcupine scat to boot. It really helps if you know what the animals preferred habitat is to find their tracks. Cottontail and Snowshoe Hare rarely overlap as Snowshoes prefer coniferous forests and Cottontails bottom lands with dense brush. Once you see the two tracks there is no mistaking the snowshoe for anything else. While their tracks are usually obscured the sheer size and shape give it away. So next time your out try to learn the habitat of different animals and that will give you some insight as to which animals track you may have found. If you get a minute check out our new app on the iPhone for tracking at www.mynaturesite.com