from sky to seed

Tracking animals in the snow

It’s no new news that it’s winter and it’s cold and just about everywhere east of the Rockies is a miserable snowscape.

Having lived in Minnesota for three winters, I honestly make a point in every day life not to complain about weather. I’m no snow troll. And, honestly, the weak knees of my fellow Missourians about crummy weather and icy roads makes me into the smuggest little snowbird I know. I’ve actually been getting a pretty big kick lately out of staying active (case in point: I was literally the only person who showed up at the gym on Tuesday) and driving, period.

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That said, it’s been really fun spending time down on the farm. For some reason, I always assumed that wild animals just sort of hunkered down in bad weather, but their tracks in the snow say otherwise.

 

Yesterday was a bit of a crash course in animal tracking. There was a brief lesson in girl scouts about a thousand years ago, but nothing was retained.

I started down in the main yard by an abandoned old red house and backyard tornado shed.

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From here, it was really obvious to find the paths where animals had walked. Deer tracks laced across the ground, squirrel prints raced from tree to tree. Fresh hooves in the snow are a dead giveaway for deer, which look a bit like flexed butterflies.

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I followed the deer tracks up into the woods and amazed to find a kind of super-highway of animal traffic. For some reason, the same deer seem to follow the same paths. But what determines one way or another? I don’t know. They seem to appreciate the human-cut trails and roads, though. We should set up a toll booth.

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I especially get a kick out of animal tracks that appear to stop at nothing, even a wall of trees.

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I followed those deer tracks into the woods, which led down into a ravine angled so sharply that I couldn’t keep steady footing and had to turn around.

Back near the homestead, there’s a barbed wire fence that does a fine job capturing little sprigs of hair.

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This is coyote, I believe. Could be bobcat, but I think it’s most likely a coyote. I see them in the morning a lot, skulking across the fields. They’re beautiful and noisy and our region’s top predator. Here’s a coyote track just going for a stroll. Or maybe going back to bed.

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