Who goes there? I love to unravel mysteries and footprints in the snow are a challenge. My walk in the snow before it all melted revealed lots of animal activity. Aside from a domestic cat, there were fox, squirrel and deer footprints as well a new set of prints found in multiple places.
It was of evenly spaced footprints in a straight line with a depression on either side as though a low-slung body had moved through the snow. Unfortunately, the wind has drifted some snow into the indentations so the actual print of toes was not visible. I think I have found the track of a striped skunk.
I know there are skunks who live in the area. They dig divots in the lawn looking for grubs and other insect larvae. My lawn is pockmarked with divots. In February and March, they often leave their distinctive odor behind as they begin to emerge from their burrows or from under a shed.
One April or early May day some years ago while walking our dog, I saw a kitten in the hedgerow. (People abandon animals frequently on our road.) I went to pick up the kitty and realized just in time it was a young skunk. The dog and I backed off quickly. No harm done to either the dog or me.
The fox tracks were numerous, crisscrossing the woods. Several nights ago I heard a vixen calling not more than 50 feet from the house as she made her way up the hill. Looking for a mate? In recent years we’ve heard red fox kits calling during warm summer nights. Such a change from decades ago when seeing a fox once a year was a memorable event.
Foxes and skunks are nocturnal animals. I might not know they were in the area if it weren’t for their footprints in the snow. Deer browse at dusk and in early morning before daylight. Their tracks record many visits to my landscaping which they love to eat.
As the days lengthen, animals and birds are getting ready to welcome a new group of offspring. Even though it’s still cold and we may still experience significant snow, the animal kingdom isn’t wasting time to assure their species’ survival.