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Not just One but Two: In Search of Mammal Tracks

Just a day and a half after our Mammal Tracking workshop, not one but two moose came to visit early Monday morning. We went live on Facebook so the video is quite lengthy. But we have a couple of still shots that are below. We hope you enjoy.

Photo Credit: Twofeather

Now on to our Mammal Tracking Workshop.

On Saturday, January 28th, Bob Bowles led a group of naturalists into the heart of our wetlands on the hunt for mammal tracks and signs. With measuring tapes, calipers, cameras and Bobs' 20 page Mammal Tracking Guide, we donned our snowshoes and began the trek.

Bob talked about the Five "S" approach to mammal tracking. The first is "Size" of the print. Is it small, medium or large? The second is "Stride". This is the distance between the 2 front footprints. Next "Straddle", is the distance between the inside of the left and the right footprint. "Speed", is the rate the mammal is moving from a understep walk (stalk) right up through a walk, trot, hop, lope, bound and gallop. They will leave a different straddle and stride but the pattern will still be evident. And finally "Step", this is where you count toes, two, four or five toes on the front and back feet.

Bob also talked about the pattern of the track that is left when mammals are walking in the snow. There are four methods of mammal movement which are diagonal walkers (long legs, slim bodies), pacers or waddlers (large round bodies and short legs), bounders (long, narrow bodies and short legs) and gallopers (small front and large hind legs).

A few examples of diagonal walkers are moose, deer, coyote, fox, cat, dog and humans. Opossums, beaver, skunk, muskrat, raccoon and bear are pacers or waddlers. Bounders consist of the weasel family, minks, fishers, martens and otters. And finally the gallopers, consisting of rabbit, hare, groundhog, squirrel, chipmunk, shrew, voles and mice.

Rebecca Lamb, a workshop participant scribed for us as we began our journey. And what a phenomenal job she did! Latin names and all. Thank you Rebecca!

We observed 6 different mammal tracks, Snowshoe Hare (Lepus americanus), Eastern Coyote (Canis, latrans), Deer Mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus), Meadow Vole (Microtus, pennsylvanicus), Fisher (Martes, pennanti) and Red Fox (Vulpes, vulpes). Today (Monday) we could add Moose (Alces alces).

Fisher Track in the Wetland

We saw evidence of old and new scrapings on trees caused by White Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and Moose (Alces alces) and evidence of a very busy Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus, pileatus). Scat was found and confirmed to be canine. We deduced that it belonged to our Labradoodle, Charlie!

Evidence of Pileated Woodpecker at work

We discussed 11 upland and wetland trees, from white ash (Fraxinus, americanus), black ash (Fraxinus, nigra), beech (Fagus, grandifolia), basswood (Tilia, americana) to pines (Pinus) and spruces (Picea). We observed NewYork Scalewort (Frullania, eboracensis), Tinder Conk (Fomes, fomentarius), Wolf's Milk Slime Mould (Lycogala, epidendrum), Common Greenshield (Flavoparmelia, caperata) and Mock Oystery / Orange Oyster (Phyllotopsis, nidulans).

As we came out of the wetlands and into the meadow we discovered Brambleberry/Briars, Evening Primrose (Oenothera, biennis), Speckled Alder (Alnus, incana), Milkweed (Asclepias, syriaca) and Pine Cone Willow Gall.

Each and every tree, liverwort, slime mould, lichen and plant could and will have its own workshop. There is so much to say about everything we noticed.

We finished up with having story telling session and lunch around a cozy fire.

Join us on Monday, February 20th, 2023 for Family Day 1:00 - 3:00 PM.

We'll have fun in the snow and an outdoor fire to enjoy. Contact us to register.

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