While Michigan was busy trying to set records for snowfall this winter, I contented myself by trying to identify a record number of tracks in the snowfalls! Here is what (I think) that I found, but if for any reason you believe I’ve mis-identified a set of tracks, please let me know, since I’m hoping this might be helpful for others too. Obviously, the first one we all know: tire tracks! Then…
Deer tracks have cloven hooves, are somewhat oval in shape & 2.5-3″ in length.This is what a deer trail looks like close up.Deer walk in a relatively straight line (as you can see from this trail across our lake), as do members of the feline and canine families. Here are my German shepherd, Abishai’s prints: They are somewhat elongated, have 4 toes, and there’s always a touch of his tail dragging. Dog prints are in the range of 2.25-4″ long usually. Here you can see Abby walking to the right of a trail left by a deer.Red fox tracks are somewhat smaller (2-2.5 “), rounder, and usually leave a more distinct X-shape in the middle. We have a fox in our woods, but we don’t see him often, so I was excited to find his tracks one day!Cats have four round toes (no claws), and a triangular-shaped heel pad. They leave a very small footprint, only about 1.9.” I wonder if this could possibly be a bobcat track, although they’re not common around here. Based on its size, roundness, and the shape of its heel pad, I’m not sure what else it could be, but correct me if I’m wrong and you know what it is.I don’t even try to distinguish song bird tracks, but they make patterns like this.Individually, most song birds’ tracks look like this.We have a flock of wild turkeys that roam our woods. I always think of their tracks as pointing, the opposite direction from the way they’re going.Rabbits, squirrels, and mice all typically have tracks that appear in sets of 4. Here you see a rabbit hopping, and then he took off in a run when Abby saw him!Cotton-tail rabbit prints look like tiny human shoes to me: no claws and only about 1″ in their front feet and 4″ in their hind feet. If often looks like the longer print are “in front,” but it’s really that the rabbit jumps forward so that the back feet land not far from where the front feet were. This bunny was at rest until he took off in a flash to avoid Abby! We have oodles of rabbits, and where there are rabbits, there are usually pellets. There are almost always rabbit tracks along the road, criss-crossing the road, and skirting along the edge of the fields and through the woods.Squirrel tracks have clear claw prints, are rounder and a little smaller (1.5-2.25″).They have 4 clawed toes on their front and five on their hind legs. Here are deer prints with tiny mouse prints running through. The little white- footed mouse have feet that are only 0.25″ in front and 0.75″ in back! Mice leave straight trials that go in and out of snowbanks and lead to tiny holes! However, if you see a squiggly line in a field, you’re more likely seeing the trail of the meadow vole. They create crazy patterns called “vole runs,”and Abby can never figure out what to make of such capricious creatures! Now on to some tracks that are less common. Muskrats have 4 long, spreading toes and leave almost V-shaped footprints. The are aquatic mammals, so if you live near water and see footprints like these, you’re probably tracking a muskrat.The stripped skunk has 5 more rounded toes. The back paws are 1.5″ long andthe same length but wider and have five sharp claws to protect themselves (not that they need it with all their smell power)! Opossums are another critter with very different front and back paws. The front paw is 1.75″ long and leaves a 5-point star design, whereas the back paw is about 2″ long with three very long and one short toe. It seemed all too fitting to find 4-toed, 1″ weasel tracks next to tiny mouse tracks and near a hole into the ground. I don’t know if the mouse made it or not! 🙂 Our friendly (or not so friendly) woodchuck has a nice, broad 2″ front paw print with four spreading toes and a slightly larger 5-toed back foot.
Last of all, are human footprints. This is my boot with Yak Trax to keep me from slipping on the ice. I hope you have fun trying to identify tracks in the snow, and I hope this helps give you some ideas for what you might be seeing. I also hope you take delight in the marvelous diversity in our world and the wonders that God has created for us to enjoy!
“And God created…every living creature that moves…and God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:21).