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Farm Tracking 101, Part 1

With all of the snow we've been getting this winter, I thought now might be a good time to talk about one of my favorite snowy activities --- tracking.  I've decided to call this lunchtime series "Farm Tracking 101" because I'll cover all of the basics you need to tell your chicken tracks from your dog tracks and to figure out who's been nosing around your chicken coop.  I'll mention my favorite books and tools later, but for now, let's dive right in!

Take a look at the two photos below.  Yup, I've intentionally made them too small to tease apart the shape of individual tracks.  But you can probably tell they're made by two different animals, right?

Bounding and walking tracks

The animal on the left is a walker (a house cat in this case) --- notice how its tracks aren't grouped into sets, but continue in a staggered line from right to left.  The animal on the right is a bounder (probably a squirrel) which travels in leaps, leaving pairs (or often sets of four) tracks with long spaces between them.  If you think about the animals you see around you, you'll probably be able to guess which ones are walkers and which are bounders.  Cats, dogs, chickens, and deer are walkers.  Mice, squirrels, chipmunks, and rabbits are bounders.

Fox track

Domesticated walkers often leave "muddied" track patterns like the first photo of cat tracks, but wild walkers are more careful.  The track pattern above (a Red Fox) is typical of a wild walker which carefully puts each hind foot into the same spot it put its fore foot.  The result is a very clear track pattern, and for the animal a very quiet walk.  By putting its hind feet in the same spot it already put its fore feet, the fox is sure that it's not stepping on a noisy leaf.

This post is part of our Farm Tracking 101 lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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