Posts tagged ‘tracking’

January 11, 2014

Stories in the Snow

Animals venturing out in the snow leave a story behind. These stories, often otherwise invisible, shed light on animal behavior and provide visual clues into how critters make use of their habitat.

Snow Tracks

Snow Tracks 06The photo above, taken Tuesday, shows the imprint made by the feet and the tail feathers of a crow during landing. The crow walked up to a tree, turned left to walk down some steps, and then took flight again.

In the photo at left, we see a mouse hopped out a short distance from the rock and then returned to protective cover. At some point, a cross-country venture started here, too. But although this mouse only made one trip in this direction, a wider view shows a well-established “runway” between the rock and the tall grass in the other direction.

Both of these events are commonplace in the park, but the snow “captured” these two stories in a way that revealed something more than I could see with my eyes alone. In the first case, because I wasn’t there to witness the event, the crow’s landing and short stroll would have escaped my notice had it not been frozen in the snow until I happened along. And in the second case, even had I observed a mouse near the rock on several occasions, I probably wouldn’t have realized that a single runway existed between it and the grass had the snow not shown the cumulative track lines.

Next time snow carpets the ground, why not head outside and see what stories you can find “printed” in the snow?

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February 2, 2011

Blizzard Whitens Osage Hills State Park With 14″ Blanket of Snow

Sand Creek Falls at Osage Hills State Park

A blizzard blew in Monday night and dropped 14 inches of snow before it left Tuesday evening.  Osage Hills State Park was off limits to anyone without snow chains on Tuesday.  Four wheel drive was a necessity on Wednesday morning until the roads could be opened by tractor and snowplow.  Birds were about the only critters out and about.  While the snow was falling, I went looking for tracks and found none.  I did see five deer at about dusk, but that was it for mammals.  Even Wednesday afternoon, with a bright sunny sky, I found only two rodent tracks of the rat variety, tracks of two coyotes hunting in tandem, and a handful of deer trails.  Of course, although the snow had moved on, three foot deep snow drifts and temperatures in the single digits remained behind.  A day holed up in a warm spot probably trumped looking for dinner in those conditions.  Tomorrow morning we have temperatures of -10°F and a stiff wind to look forward to.  Brrr!

January 22, 2011

Oklahoma “Sooner” Beats Punxsutawney Phil to the Punch

Sand Creek [pictured above] and Lookout Lake remain largely iced over, but Last Thursday’s snow has melted from all but the most protected sites.  I took a little companion with me to explore what was left of the snow.  We found where a mouse had hopped around, where a beaver had come ashore, and where a bobcat crept around a juniper.  Our best find, however, was the remnant of a groundhog track.  No groundhog prints were found at this location after the previous snow, so I suspect it has awakened from hibernation in the meantime.  Punxsutawney Phil will emerge in 10 days to prognosticate on the weather while this “sooner” has already determined that Spring is near.

January 15, 2011

Who Goes There? Reading animal tracks in snow




Walking a snow-covered park road or trail is a great way to discover who’s been out looking for food.  At Osage Hills State Park, you will find coyote, fox, raccoon, opossum, squirrel, and bird tracks in ample supply.  The tiny prints of small mammals such as mice and voles are plentiful, too, but like those of birds are difficult to tell apart. Beaver slides are conspicuous near the water, as are the many twigs they’ve been snacking on.  Bobcats, badgers, and mink are more scarce, but their tracks have all been found within the park.  Of course, I am always on the lookout for mountain lion tracks, but I haven’t found any yet!

If you find critter evidence in the snow, tell me about it!