December 7, 2022

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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!

Beavers on your iPhone!

That’s right, there are beavers on your iPhone but don’t worry they won’t be chewing through your memory. What beavers are on your iPhone are located in the MyNature Animal Track app. Next time you come across some unknown tracks near the waters edge you can use the app to measure the tracks, compare the outline, find out the gait pattern, see a beautiful image of one in the wild and learn about their habitat. Below are just a few pictures of what beaver sign you might find on your next outing.

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.

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.

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