>> Tuesday, January 19, 2010
I've only really begun to develop an appreciation for tracking critters in snow. It's not that I didn't think it was interesting before, but more that I never stopped to think about just how much one can figure out about what a creature did, and sometimes even thought, just based on the impressions its feet/tail/wings/belly left in the snow.
And if you think you can't figure out what an animal was thinking based on its tracks, try reading this post on squirrel neuroses on one of my very favorite blogs called Naturespeak. One of the many, many benefits of becoming a blogger is discovering other people's blogs, and y'all have impressed the socks off me with your tracking expertise.
When else can one so accurately reconstruct an animal's movements, other than when there's snow on the ground? Unless, I suppose, one is a dog. I strongly suspect my hounds smell the ghostly scent impressions left behind the way I see the snow prints, only they can do it year round. If they could talk, they could probably tell me what type of animal it was, what it had for breakfast, when it last mated and how anxious it was when it walked by, among a lot of other things.
On Saturday at Baltimore Woods I didn't identify any remarkable prints beyond the ones one might usually expect to find - mostly a whole lot of deer and squirrel. But they, too, do interesting things. Both had been engaging in a great deal of digging. Presumably the squirrels were looking for buried treasure they (or their neighbors) had saved up for the winter.
The deer, on the other hand, were rummaging for farm field remnants. At first glance I noticed the farm field was criss-crossed with deer prints.
In winter, even the plants leave behind ghostly remnants of their former glorious selves, such as this wild cucumber pod. How cool is this weird spiky thing? It reminds me of a blowfish:
So here's to the neverending mystery of the great outdoors, and to joy of discovering just how fun and mysterious the forensic reconstruction of a critter's passage can be.