Friday, January 16, 2015

What animal walked through here?

Tracking Winter Wildlife
By Andy Avram, Interpretive Manager

A fresh coating of snow lies over the land, disturbed only by a single line of footprints. These tracks offer us a glimpse into this animal’s life—a few pages of its story on this winter day. What animal walked through here? What was it doing and where did it go?

By examining the size, shape and pattern we can tell it was a small mammal, likely a meadow vole. Following the tracks we see it burrowed into the snow as the tracks end in a small tunnel, about the diameter of a quarter, but resurface a couple feet away to carry on the journey. The tracks stop by some nibbled vegetation where the vole had a bite to eat, but suddenly the footprints become widely spaced as if the vole was startled into running away. It ran a short distance before the prints simply vanish. Looking next to the area where the footprints disappeared, we see what looks like brush strokes in the snow and realize our little friend was captured and carried off by a hawk or owl. Our footprint story ends here, but the bird of prey’s story continues on.

It is stories like these that make hiking in the winter so much fun, but we know that it sometimes takes a little extra motivation to leave a nice cozy home to brave the outdoors. Animal tracks, birds, trees and even interesting insects that crawl on top of the snow can be found all winter long and Lake Metroparks offers a number of opportunities to get out with a naturalist to discover these. 

For general nature try a Winter Nature Walk. If you would like a more in-depth program to learn about and look for animal tracks, join us for Wildlife Tracking.

Wildlife Tracking
January 24 at Veterans Park
February 28 at Pete’s Pond Preserve

Winter Nature Walk
February 21 at Penitentiary Glen Reservation

These programs are free. To register (required), click on the link provided. Registration may also be made by phone at 440-639-7275 or in person at the Registration  Department at Concord Woods between 8 and 4:30 pm.

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