Many animals hibernate or migrate in winter to avoid the cold weather, but there are a number of animals that not only stay here but stay active. More often than seeing the animals, we know they were around because of their tracks behind in the snow. Animal tracks can be found in all seasons, but often are the easiest to spot in fresh snow.
Studying animal tracks in a certain area can help paint a picture of an animal’s activities or group of animal’s lives. Tracks tell us if a species is living in the area, even what the population of the species might be, where their territory is, and their travel patterns. Each animal track can tell us about the age, size, or health of each animal.
When identifying an animal track there are a few things to consider. Start by thinking about what animals are active in winter in your area. Think about the habitat around you. What species might like the habitat nearby? When looking at the track, notice the size and shape of the track, the number of toes, if nails are present, and pattern of the tracks. All of these strategies can help you to identify the track you are looking at. Now go out and explore!
Some common tracks found in the biosphere are:
Fox tracks look very similar to the tracks of small dogs. They have small triangular foot pads with four round toes and nails. The two outer toes are set completely behind the two inner toes. Fox tracks tend to occur close together in a fairly straight line
Deer tracks are made of two ovals next to each other. The outer edges are curved towards the inside and the inner edges form straighter lines. Deer tracks tend to occur in a fairly straight line at least half a foot apart.
Rabbit tracks are made of small round or oval tracks with four toes. The tracks consist of two small hind leg tracks side by side or one slightly in front of the other. Just beside them and further forward there are two long front tracks.
Squirrel tracks have front and hind tracks. The front tracks have a long oval center with five long toes and are found side by side. The back feet have a smaller circular center with four toes and leave tracks side by side. Sometimes the left or right tracks will be closer together than the other two.
Black bear tracks have large round or oval foot pads with five toes. Back tracks tend to have a longer pad whereas front tracks tend to have a shorter and wider pad. Bears often walk so that their tracks form a fairly straight line.
Canada goose tracks are made of three forked toes connected at the back of the foot. Sometimes the webbing between the toes can be seen in the tracks. Geese tracks are often formed with one foot track in front of and left or right of the previous track.
Moose tracks are made of two ovals next to each other. They are curved on the outer sides and form a straighter line on the inside. There is a small dot behind each half of the track. The tracks tend to form in a fairly straight line although they are often found set to the left or right of each other.
Otter tracks can take a few different forms. Their front tracks have a small pad with five round and spread out fingers. The hind tracks have a figure 8 shape with five round fingers. Sometimes their tracks can be found in a scattered line in the snow. Other times, otters will slide on their bellies in the snow leaving a pattern that alternates between one or more sets of paw tracks followed by a long line and more tracks.