TRR photos by Sandy Long

The weight of the turkey that left these tracks, in combination with snow conditions, may have produced the interesting circular pattern. Tracks laid in snow expand as the snow melts, providing clues as to how recently the animal was there. 

Tackling tracking in the snow

The first snows have dusted the Upper Delaware River Region. Other than giving everyone something to crow about on social media, some areas saw just enough accumulation to provide early opportunities for tracking animals and learning more about their “hidden” lives.

“A track is a window to the past of an animal,” wrote master tracker, Tom Brown. “Look at the ground as if it were a manuscript of the animal’s life.”

Learning to identify animal “sign” is a helpful step to finding animal tracks for further exploration. Animal sign can include droppings (scat); nests or nesting sites such as burrows or dens; evidence of feeding such as middens, food caches, gnawed bones and twig browse; flattened bedding areas, trails, scratch marks on trees and more. Don’t forget to heed audible sign such as coyotes howling or olfactory alerts like the strong odor emitted by skunks.

Whenever you encounter any of these, investigate the surrounding area for actual tracks. In addition to fresh snow, mud and sand provide excellent materials for setting tracks. For a deeper dive into animal tracking, see Rick Curtis’s “Outdoor Guide to Animal Tracking,” at https://outdooraction.princeton.edu/nature/guide-animal-tracking, compiled through Princeton University’s Outdoor Action Program.

Or burn off those Thanksgiving calories while learning more about tracking on November 25, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Pocono Environmental Education Center in Dingmans Ferry, Pennsylvania. Participants will explore tracks, trails, scat, territory marks, chew marks and more. Follow up that opportunity with the Winter Ecology Hike on December 9 from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, focused on how plants and animals survive the winter. The cost for each is $5. Visit www.peec.org for more information.

 

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