Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tracks Revisted

Ah, yes - the mystery tracks from 8 December 2009. Thanks for the reminder, Squirrel!

Some of you may recall that I found these canid tracks while walking the dog one day down to the river.

They are canid tracks, and due to the number of tracks all over the place I suspected coyote. This was reenforced by the fact that I've heard coyotes in this area quite often over the last few years. Still, I wasn't convinced they weren't fox.

The conundrum was the pattern: a straight line of tracks with a set of four footprints set off to the side, like the animal had been beamed down and then beamed back up. What had happened?
So, when I was at the tracking workshop this last weekend, I showed these photos to Vince. He said it was a pretty good find, not something one will see too often.

According to him, multiple coyotes were using this trail (foxes don't travel in groups like this), each walking (or trotting) in the exact same tracks, making it look like a single animal (how to fool your prey). Then, something caught the attention of one (or two) of the animals, it/they stepped out of the trail to listen or sniff, and then got back on track (no pun intended) and disappeared with the others.

Now, of course, I wish I could take another look at the tracks, not just photos of them. I want to note which way toes are facing, and see if I can pick up where the animal first left the trail and where it joined back up. But, all I have are the photos, so I do my best to decipher with what I have.

Take a close look at the trail just before the offset tracks. See the footprint by the arrow?

This footprint has already left the trail, so this might be where the animal(s) began its (their) detour.


Note that the footprints marked with the red arrows are darker and better defined than the others. Could these have been made by multiple feet? Is this perhaps the trail they were all on, and the others in the cluster are the side steps?

Well, at least we know that it was more than one coyote and that at least one stepped out of the trail, even if we can't be sure which footprints are the abberant ones.

Isn't tracking fun?


  1. Hey, that's cheating on the part of the coyotes. It's a Sherlock Holmes trick to step precisely in someone else's (or one's own) tracks to fool others.

    Seriously, though - impressive walking skills on the part of the critters stepping in each other's tracks. I can't even keep my skis in someone else's tracks, much less step that precisely!

  2. Awesome! Thanks for checking and posting the answer. There is so much to learn and it is all so much fun! That answer never entered my mind.
    I am really enjoying your tracking lessons and enthusiasm, it is helping me to learn about these mammals and to have a greater appreciation of them. Most of the time they just seem elusive so I haven't bothered. You have given me a whole new interest in mammals.

  3. Woodswoman - well, you know those wild animals - anything to save some energy! They are a lot smarter than most people give them credit for being. :)

    Squirrel - I agree - tracking can be a lot of fun. And also very frustrating. I know I can be a bit of a tracking bore, so it's great to hear back from others who find my drivel interesting! I also find that by posting my finds, it's like sharing with a class: by trying to explain what I see I can sometimes answer my own questions...or discover new ones! Happy tracking!