Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Some Snow at Last

After moaning about the lack of snow on Saturday, we woke to a white world on Sunday. It wasn't a lot of snow, but enough to make things white. The sun was out and the wind still, so Toby and I took a nice long walk down to the river. Along the way we found some great tracks.

The first, and very exciting, find of the day were these 2x2 tracks. It's a member of the weasel family. Around here, we have several mustelids: long- and short-tailed, mink, marten, fisher, otter. The footprints are fairly small, so we can eliminate all but the long- and short-tailed.

Based on the size of the footprints, and the fact that they are pretty common around here, I'm pretty confident these are long-tailed weasel tracks.

What did the weasel find? Or were there two weasels? Hard to say.

Did the weasel meet a hare on this snowy driveway? Odds are, they passed this spot at different times. Had they actually met, I'm sure the tracks would show the encounter.

The hare continued down the road, leaving some splendid tracks in its wake. Toby, of course, had to sniff the them:

For some reason, the hare did a quick turn. It was hopping along and suddenly made a sharp left:

I looked around to see where the hare had gone. Very faint, in the brush, there is a trail. Can you see it? This must be the hare's highway...or back road.

Canid tracks were prominent at the dead end of the road. I couldn't tell if there was just one animal or a group, and with the dog in tow, I couldn't investigate thoroughly. The tracks weren't terribly large, which would suggest fox (and foxes don't travel in packs), but if they were fox, then the animal was pretty good-sized. They could be from a small coyote, but most of the coyotes I've seen around here are bigger than Toby. I'll have to remember to bring my ruler in the future - sometimes measuring is the only way to know for sure. In the end, I found myself leaning towards fox.

The canid came along and did a little dance here. My first thought was that maybe it smelled something and was sniffing the ground, shifting its feet as it did so. My second thought was maybe it stopped to mark the spot (pee on it), but there was no evidence of yellow snow, and the tracks don't quite measure up the positioning dogs usually use when doing this.

These tracks show where our canid shifted gears. It was trotting down the road (you'll have to take my word for that), changed into a lope (the middle set of tracks in the photo; in horse lingo, a lope is a canter), and ended up in a gallop (the lower set of tracks):

Following the tracks back up their trail, I saw something odd. Our canine came trotting down the road and suddenly did something that left these triplet tracks:

Here they are close up. I am totally flummoxed. If anyone has an idea of what this animal was doing, please drop me a note!

After we had our fill looking at the tracks, and figuring out who did what, we headed home, where I made an apple pie for a potluck on Monday.

As Calvin of "Calvin and Hobbs" fame said: the days are just packed.


  1. This was a facinating post. I was trying to work out the foot prints and couldn't really. But it does look like to me it was headed off to the right and stopped putting all fours down and then decided to go the the right instead and resumed the trot. That is just my theory, you are the expert here. That pie looks delicious and I thought it had tracks in it but now I thing they are arrows instead. Beautiful.

  2. Squirrel - I thought of that, but the fact that the tracks are offset doesn't fit that scenario - if the animal just stops in its tracks, the tracks before would be closer together as it slowed down, then you would see all four together, and then the tracks would resume, first close together, then more spaced apart as the animal gathered speed. It's almost as if an animal was beamed down, landed on all four feet, and then beamed back up, next to the track where the other animal was trotting.

    Those are actually little trees on top of the pie, but they certainly do look like arrows! They looked more tree-like before it was cooked. :)

  3. What a great post. I need to pay more attention to the stories the tracks tell!

    Oh, and my supposition is that the fox was doing the Foxtrot. (sorry! couldn't help myself...)

  4. Actually, I have another possible explanation, albeit somewhat farfetched. I have frequently watched my kitten trot into a room, then without missing a beat spring straight up in the air with all four feet off the ground, then hit the ground and continue walking as if nothing happened. She's a complete spaz. I always assume something has just startled her although it tends to be comething completely imperceptible to the humans.

    Similarly spastic fox? Startled by a swooping owl? It does look like an extra fox just got beamed down!

  5. It is a puzzle. I wonder if just one each set of 3 is a direct register. And in the pair, one is a step back for balance when it stopped and then stepped forward in a stance.

    It is hard to think how to walk with 4 feet so I looked up this online book: http://books.google.com/books?id=HTJMTit3OJ8C&pg=PA87&lpg=PA87&dq=how+does+a+canine+walk+or+trot&source=bl&ots=VyoLbg6XRg&sig=EoO84hi9ULgFYZoFfOYzVXSUHUE&hl=en&ei=xKUfS5HrAsHllAeBitnoBQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=11&ved=0CC0Q6AEwCg#v=onepage&q=&f=false

    It didn't totally help but it was interesting.

    Thank you for makeing tracks a little more personal to my learning and thus easier to remember. I'm going to let it go for now. My brain can only learn so much a day. :-)