Footprints in the Snow

What animal made these tracks?  The January sun shone across the new snow, highlighting numerous animal visits earlier today.  The day before the wind drifted the snow wiping out most tracks, but today the wind was still.  However, fluffy snow does not create sharp images so I paused to scrutinize tracks to determine the animal that made them.

Mostly I saw deer tracks.  Their cloven hoof prints are unique.  Many deer, when walking, seem to drag their hooves so hoof prints have trailing indentations in the snow.  The deer are often focused on moving from one place to another, but I found several places where they huddled together, perhaps seeking the hedgerow to shelter from the wind.

But look! More footprints.  These look like a fox has been hunting for a dinner of voles in the field.  The tracks wander back and forth as the fox listened for voles under the snow.   There also were much larger footprints, probably belonging to a large dog rather than a coyote.  Foxes and coyotes often do not inhabit the same territory.  And lastly I discovered the footprints of a squirrel hopping along the edge of a hedgerow.

A book I’ve enjoyed reading and rereading is Tracking and the Art of Seeing by Paul Rezendes.  The author has studied in depth the tracks, scat and other signs of a number of mammals.  Photos and diagrams help the reader to understand what to look for.   This book has helped me to read the animal signs where I live.

Footprints tell a story about what has been there before me.  Mud or wet sand might have left more defined footprints, but I’ll take whatever clues I can find to know the story of wildlife here.

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