The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

Winter Treasure Hunt (Part 1: critter feet!)

Like the paleontologist who delights in discoveries of trace fossils – information-rich footprints, trackways, skin imprints and coprolites – I am rewarded with historical records of the comings and goings of local critters as I search for signs of wildlife during these cold, dark days of winter. 

I finally revisited the lonely road I discovered last week.  The promise of a sunny, clear morning was enough to get me bundled up against the windchill (-25°C) and out the door with camera and binoculars in hand.

A fresh layer of soft snow and blue skies provided the perfect backdrop for my winter treasure hunt.   It was perfectly quiet except for the faint laughter of water running beneath frozen streams and the occasional gutteral “caw” of a crow.    The road stretched out before me:

The Lonely Road

The lonely road had been a busy place that morning, as evidenced by the myriad tracks crisscrossing their way over the snow, like those of this rabbit:

Rabbit tracks

I came upon a wide clearing; it seemed to be a very popular white-tailed deer hangout:

Deer Party

There seemed to be one big guy hanging around the deer party too…the bouncer, perhaps?  (That’s my mitt on the ground for reference).

Moose Tracks

A coyote loped between the trees:

Coyote tracks

Teeney-weenie tracks were EVERYwhere.  We tend to forget that there’s an entire community living, eating and travelling under the snow…and occasionally on top of it, but less commonly because it’s pretty dangerous to be roaming about the surface when you look like tasty noms to, oh, pretty much every predator out there.  The track on the right was about the size of a quarter.  I think it’s a red squirrel, but I’m not sure.

Small mammal tracks

This paw print appears to have been left by a different animal:

One paw

A pair of twin tunnellers left their marks:

Twin Tunnellers

As did this tail-dragging deer mouse:

Deer mouse tracks

Mammals were not the only creatures roaming the woods today…there was also a FEROCIOUS PACK OF RAVENOUS RAPTORS!!!!

Well, sort of.  These three-toed wild turkey tracks (very likely left by the same group I met the other day) just SCREAM “therapod” to me (oh, wait, that’s ’cause they are).  I just love them!

Therapods!  Um, I mean Turkeys.

Therapods! I mean, Wild Turkeys!

Stay tuned for more winter wanderings!  Tomorrow – Part 2:  stories in the snow.

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10 responses to “Winter Treasure Hunt (Part 1: critter feet!)

  1. Rachel February 2, 2010 at 1:48 PM

    C, I THOROUGHLY enjoyed this post (and am ashamed to admit how many times I read and scanned the images). What a wonderful find right down the road from you. Makes me long even more for the country.

    I have a question, do you keep a nature journal or a science journal or a bug journal? It’s something that I stumbled upon a few months ago and I’d love to learn more about it. In other words, if you do have one, can I see it and will you maybe do some posts about what you include, why and how often?

    • The Geek In Question February 2, 2010 at 3:33 PM

      Thanks, Rachel, glad you enjoyed!

      I keep a “hard science” journal/notebook for school stuff, but that’s experimental notes, data etc. I’ve never really kept an official nature journal, but methinks this blog is the start of one. I’m having a lot of fun documenting my finds.

      When it’s just me, poking around outside and harassing the wildlife, I’m not very careful about record-keeping; I’m more interested in the OMGSHINY aspect, and the cool natural history stories. Those are the things I would be noting, but it’s in my head, not written down (unless it ends up here). I don’t keep a log of, say, bird sightings or pressed plants or anything…not yet, anyways.

      I’d be curious to see some examples of the type of journal that you saw…

  2. christie February 2, 2010 at 2:49 PM

    I love this post. How cool it must be to see all this stuff. Little tiny mouse tracks, aww. I am just so dying for summer to get here so we can see what kind of bugs hang out around out house. I take some pictures, but they don’t look as good as these. What kind of camera are you using?

    • The Geek In Question February 2, 2010 at 3:29 PM

      Hi Christie,

      yes, the little mouse feeties are TOO cute! I share your yearning for the warmer months…I miss my bugs *sad Geek is sad*. I bet once you start looking for insects, you’ll be absolutely gobsmacked by the diversity; that’s what happened to me…you see so much more when you’re LOOKING.

      As for the camera, it’s a (nice) point and shoot: a Canon PowerShot Sx10IS. I’m still definitely in “learning” mode, but it’s pretty user-friendly.

  3. Ted C. MacRae February 2, 2010 at 11:15 PM

    Our snow cover is too short-lived to have this much luck at snow tracking.

    Again with the moose – I’m jealous!

    • The Geek In Question February 3, 2010 at 7:48 AM

      Now I just have to SEE the moose…perhaps if I staked out his little walkway there early in the morning? A project for another day.

      Ted, your comment here has the distinction of being my 200th! Thanks for all your contributions to date!

  4. Pingback: Winter Treasure Hunt (Part 2: stories in the snow) « FallToClimb

  5. Sarah Ellison April 30, 2011 at 10:15 AM

    I have a critter problem at my house. The tracks seem to resemble those of the same animals tracks you photographed. They are the elongated tracks that are quite faint in the snow. The photo is the close up shot. Do you have any idea what animal those tracks may belong to? Whatever it is, it has been trying to get itself inside my home and I need to trap it and relocate it somewhere else. Any help is appreciated!

    • TGIQ May 2, 2011 at 9:53 AM

      Hi Sarah,
      I’m not 100% sure which photo you’re refering to, but all of the small tracks belong to some type of rodent: chipmunk, mouse or squirrel, most likely. If you have tracks like these around your house (but not IN your house), trapping and relocation is not likely to help: where there’s one there are many more that you can’t see, and who will be more than happy to take the place of the one you removed. If your concern is that the critter may GET in your house, then you need to concentrate on critter-proofing the building. Examine the exterior closely for any small cracks or gaps (anything bigger than a couple of cm across is enough to permit access to a small rodent). Fill the gaps (you can use a spray foam insulation, steel wool…there are many solutions here). If you have larger gaps I would use a 1x1cm welded wire mesh to seal the space. You can make the interior of your house unappealing by removing any possible food sources (keep nonperishables in tightly sealed containers in a cupboard or pantry). If all else fails, house cats can be very helpful (I’m only sort of kidding; we had some mice when we first moved – our cats cleared up the problem and we haven’t had an issue since). If you live in the country, there’s only so much you can do; cohabitation with wildlife sort of goes with the territory. Good luck!

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