Winter is a great time to get out and see which animals have been passing by. Plenty of mud and (if you're lucky) snow, mean that animal tracks are much easier to spot.
The tricky part once you've found some good tracks, is figuring out which creature made them.
In January after a good snowfall, Junior Rangers had a go looking for tracks at Corehead Farm.
There are many things to consider when looking at tracks...
- How many toes can you see?
Badgers, weasals, stoats, pine martens and shrews have 5 toes on the back and front, where as foxes, cats and dogs have 4. Some species such as rats, mice, squirrels, voles and beavers have four toes on the front and five on the back.
- Is it a front or back foot?
- What size is the print?
- Can you see claws? Cats keep their claws withdrawn when walking
- Is the paw print symmetrical? E.g. cats have asymmetrical front prints where as dogs are very symmetrical.
- What sort of gait did the animal have?
Diagonal walkers move their front left foot and back right foot at the same time eg deer, dogs, cats
Pacers move their front left and back left at the same time eg badgers
Bounders back feet land just behind the front feet eg weasels
Gallopers back feet land just in front of the front feet eg rabbits and rodents
Great image here to illustrate this!
There is a key to animal tracks here,
and a good PDF of common UK tracks here
There are many other clues to look for such as hairs, droppings, runs or trails in the grass.
Can you figure out who these prints belong to?
As the woodland develops and grass grows longer at Corehead we may begin to see more variety of tracks as diversity of food sources and suitable areas to den/nest increase.
Site and Community Officer