Sunday, December 15, 2013

Tracks in the Snow

Saturday the 7th brought a lull in two back-to-back snowy days, so I decided to head out after lunch to The Ridges in Athens, OH, to get some relaxation in before finals week and see what I could find.

The snow wasn't too deep; in fact much of the gravel trail had already melted in places, but the forest floor was still covered as you can see. I was the first human on this trail, but far from the first animal.

One of the first tracks I came across, and one I wanted to share, were these. These are the tracks of a Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo. Notice the distinctive shape. These are large prints and definitely stand out from the other tiny, half-inch songbird prints you might find around. I had not found turkey at The Ridges before, but had assumed they were probably in the area. Finding these tracks confirm my suspicions, and now the next step is to see them.

While at one of the cemeteries along the trail, I came across these tunnels. They were very small, but what made them? I'm not exactly sure, but I know it was either a vole, mouse, or shrew species. Come snow fall, those tiny mammals are probably happy to be able to hide in tunnels they dig all around instead of being exposed.

I came across these tracks a few miles in on the trail. They were grouped like this and went across a bridge and off into the forest. There was a decent sized gap in between these "clusters" of tracks, meaning whatever it was was running over the bridge and into the forest. So what made these tracks? Well, there was some snowfall in the tracks so they weren't the crispest which made it hard to see all the details that would make an ID easy. Also add that to my little knowledge of animal tracks, and you have a stumped blogger. I knew it was some sort of carnivore, specifically a canine or feline species, but that was it.

So I posted these photos on the Facebook group Mammals Ohio for some help. In comes naturalist Joe Letsche. He said he "Can't say for sure, but they appear to be Red Fox tracks based on the trail width, the oblong shape of the track outline, and the gait. Bobcats rarely run unless they are chasing something or being chased." I had originally thought it might have been Bobcat tracks because there are supposedly multiple Bobcats at The Ridges; however, after comparing these and Red Fox tracks, I agree with Joe Letsche in this most likely being Red Fox Tracks.

I also found hundreds of deer tracks, raccoon tracks, and some songbird tracks on the trip, but I didn't get photos of them. Also, since my first semester is over, I will have some time to go back and write some more posts on photos I might have saved away, so keep on the lookout!

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