The other day while walking in the woods I stumbled across an area completely covered with complex patterns of animal tracks. The conditions were perfect to see the tracks, since the older snow had hardened, from exposure to sunlight and then re-freezing, and a fresh dusting had just fallen the night before. You should have seen me bounding around in knee-deep snow chasing after the new tracks I saw!
I saw many MANY snowshoe hare tracks. I could tell this is what they were by looking at the pattern of the tracks. Hares have much larger back feet than front feet. When they hop, their front feet land together and then their back feet land IN FRONT of the front feet. So the hare in the picture below is hopping to the left.
|This hare is hopping toward us.|
The other really cool thing tracks can show you is what the animals did while they were going about their business. In the above picture you see a hare track that leads to a spot where the hare stayed for a little while (see how there is a big spot where the snow was packed down). What was the hare doing? I can't say for sure, but I know it spent some time here before continuing on.
I saw more than just hare tracks, I saw human tracks, bird tracks, dog tracks, and skiier tracks as well. Some tracks I wasn't able to identify, such as the ones below. I do know they are some sort of rodent because I can see the tail dragging between tracks!
|There is a quarter for scale.|
|These rodent tracks end at this tree, so the |
rodent's home must be under the snow here.
Due to the size of this next track, and the fact that there are little claw indentations, I say that it is a sort of weasel. If I'd had a book on me at the time then I might have been able to narrow it down further.
A weasel moves in a bounding pattern. This means that when the weasel leaps its front feet land first, then its back feet land in the same track as the front feet before it launches forward again.
|They can get really good distance!|
As I continued walking, I saw another track that seemed to appear out of nowhere. At first all I saw was another hare track, but suddenly a short, much smaller hare track appeared beside it. Then it vanished again!
Until I looked closer!
|A baby hare was following an adult hare, hopping in the adult hare's tracks!|
|See how the track is almost single-file? That's characteristic of a walking animal.|
|Because of the 4 toes and arrow-head like foot pad, I'd say that this track is canine. |
Due to the size, I'd say fox.
I put myself in for scale.
Based on size and surrounding habitat, my best guess is that these were made by a young Tyrannosaurus Rex. However, I am not well-versed in palentology, so I will have to do more digging to determine which dinosaur made these prints.
Next time you're out walking in the snow, what do you notice about your own tracks? Can you tell which ones are yours from the tread on your shoes? If you jump, or run, or turn around does that change how your track looks? I'd love to know what you find!