Here it is the middle of winter and pest control guys are generally like Grizzly Bears… all snuggled into our caves waiting for spring. And with the weather in the last few weeks being frigid, due to that whole “Polar Express” thing the weather people were all excited about, that sounds pretty inviting. As my neighbor said, “I got your Global Warming… RIGHT HERE!”
Nevertheless, the day before yesterday we got a good snow storm which had all day to harden up. Then last night we got just a dusting. This created a thick layer of fine powder on top of a hard underbase of ice capped snow. Perfect for tracking small animals. I love doing this because I get to see the stories the animals print into the snow… I “read” about their lives. So I went out looking around the yard. Here’s what I found…
In the first photo a set of cat tracks leads due West. Kitty belongs to my neighbor.
At the West end of my yard is a deck and some small trees. Kitty made a hard right turn toward home across the back of my house. She stayed in very close to the tree cover because when she passed through late the previous evening it was still snowing. Kitty no fool.
West of my house is a wide empty field. Bunny tracks cross South to Northwest where the bunny crossed the road for a while. When she came back she crossed her own track. This is very common for Cottontail Rabbits because it tends to put predators off their scent by confusing their direction of travel. After that the bunny tracks travel directly toward the camera where they make a 90 degree right turn (camera’s left). Hard 90s are another Rabbit Habbit though this is most typical when being persued. This rabbit was not being persued. How do I know? Because the tracks are close together with no dragging or streaking, meaning a leisurely hop. And if you look closely you can see she stopped at the corner and looked around for a second. She preened her fur here because there is only one front paw mark. She had the other in her mouth. Not something you do if there is a coyote on your puffy white tail.
Another turn in the Tale of the Bunny Trail… Another right turn. But not so sharp this time. And another moment of sitting and preening. Then she walked a step before hopping… She is coming toward the camera’s lower left. Notice the two dots in a straight line? That’s the right front, then left front paw touching down. Yes the FRONT paws. Lifting herself up on those front paws she hoists her rump over the snow and touches down with her hind feet forward of her front ones. She then took two more hops and then sat for a moment with her front paws between her rear toes before moving into the tree line.
These next photos tell an exciting part of the story… Left of the frame are Kitty’s prints coming toward the lower left. Right of them are Bun Bun’s prints, leaving the tree line and headed the other way. Kitty’s are dull because they are older. Bunny’s are sharper because they are in fresh snow. Bunny was here after Kitty. But what’s that third track in crossing left to right at top of frame?
Looking closer I could see four clearly defined toes, with wide pads, spaced closely together with external claws… Canine. Placement of the foot groups (front vs rear) very close together, very straight paths, front toes protruding beyond rear toes (of the same foot) making an elongated as opposed to rounded foot overall. Predator, not a pet dog. Fuzzy, ill defined shape caused by a furry foot… Fox. Chevron shaped rear toe pad: Red Fox! Judging by the size of the prints, a small one at that. Now let’s look at the crossing point: The bunny tracks are pushed in deeper, even though the fox is a heavier animal. And the fox never deviates in his path because he never smelled the rabbit. Bunny came by after the fox had allready passed. Lucky Bunny!
Even though I don’t care for cold weather, I so enjoy living where the animals feel comfortable enough to stop by and visit, and leave me their stories to read!