It was January 24, 2023, just a few days after a snowstorm had dumped 8-12 inches over much of Delaware County, NY. The conditions were perfect for a post-lunch snow walk in the Nature Conservancy’s West Branch Preserve.
My goal was to see how many different sets of wildlife tracks I could identify in about half an hour. I grabbed a MyWoodlot Pocket Guide to Animal Tracks and headed for the trailhead.
I could see one vehicle had already been at the preserve, perhaps the day before. There was one set of boot tracks coming to and from the trail entrance. Later, about 50 yards into my walk, I noticed some dog tracks joining the boot tracks. Was this person walking their dog? I didn’t think I saw any dog tracks where the vehicle had been parked. If it wasn’t a dog, I figured it must have been a coyote. I had certainly seen my share of coyote scat on this trail before.
I followed the track through some thick brush - I even did some crawling - until I was good and tired, and also wondering why I was doing it. I was breathing like I just did the 40-yard dash, but man did it feel good to be outside!
I continued on, noticing coyote tracks going down the trail and zig-zagging across it. Then, I noticed a different, but very familiar track.
I followed several deer tracks, noting where they crisscrossed. I am no expert deer tracker, but even I could recognize they were relaxed. The tracks just wandered about. They were grazing on what they could find beneath the snow.
I had two different tracks under my belt, but time was starting to run out. I headed for the mature hemlocks to see if I could find a third before I called it quits.
I have to admit I spent some more time on this one. I was torn between squirrel and rabbit. I ultimately chose squirrel because I never saw that unique rabbit foot shape. You know, like the old lucky rabbit’s foot key chain, which in hindsight is kind of weird. Also, I guessed it was a gray squirrel because the tracks seemed too large to be a red squirrel.
I was happy I went out tracking. I decided I’d have to go out again in search of a bobcat or fox or porcupine.