Even when it seems like there is not much wildlife to see in the winter, there are often signs left behind of many of the animals that are active during the cold months. These signs, typically tracks, are usually more obvious in fresh snow so there should be some good opportunities this week to look and see what is active around you. Here are a few mammal tracks to look for:
A personal favorite to find in the winter is the dugout cache of an Eastern Gray Squirrel, especially because squirrel tracks can be found even when the top layer of snow is frozen. As seen in the photo below, you will often find these small holes with messy grass and leaves tossed around. If you look closely, you’ll often find the husk of an acorn. Each hole typically leads the squirrel to one of the hundreds of caches that it has.
Small rodent tracks can be tough to tell apart, but there are a few signs to look for with each species. White-footed Deer Mouse are known for jumping, which often leaves a parallel set of tracks. Also, compared to other rodents that are active in the winter, they have fairly long tails that drag and will typically show up in the snow – look how obvious this is behind each set of tracks, especially the bottom set in the photo below.
Larger, more obvious tracks can be surprisingly abundant in winter, especially with the increase in Virginia Opossums and Eastern Raccoon we are seeing in Maine (particularly in suburban areas). Below is a photo of classic raccoon tracks in Maine: their digits (finger and toes) are long and very conspicuous on the forefoot with the hind foot showing a larger pad. You will often find fore and hind foot tracks right next to each other because of the way they walk.
For those of you in the Bangor area this weekend, there will be a fun ‘Scats and Tracks’ walk at Fields Pond Audubon Center in the afternoon. Full details are available here. Have you found wildlife tracks this winter? Share them with us on on our Facebook page or tag us on Instagram!
A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.