Winter is a great time to learn more about animals living in your wetland because of the tracks animals leave behind in the snow.
Get out into your wetland after a fresh snowfall to see what animal tracks you can find. Record what you see (and where) in your field journal. It is really fun to try to identify animals from their tracks. And you can learn a lot from animal trails: they can tell you what kind of animals went where and at what speed.
Some tips from the Wisconsin DNR for looking at animal tracks:
- Study the size, shape and total pattern of the toe and foot pads.
- Look at more than one track and compare before making an identification.
- Try to examine both front and hind foot tracks.
- Measure the stride (distance) between tracks.
- Look for tail or belly drag marks.
- Check for toenail marks. (Dog tracks are more apt to show toenails than cat tracks).
- Keep an eye out for other signs such as scat (feces), urination marks, hairs, and clipping or gnawing marks on nearby vegetation.
You can learn more about tracking mammals with a tracking publication from the Wisconsin DNR, available online.
Photo by Josh Mayer