Thursday, September 19, 2013

Whose tracks are these? I think I know.

Back in January and February I wrote three posts about identifying the tracks of a mouse, deer, and coyote.  In each of those posts I talked about how to identify the track of a mammal based on the size, shape, location, arrangement, etc. Part of that initial post on track identification is included below.

Mammals in Michigan move on the ground in one of four ways: walking, waddling, hopping, or bounding.

Walkers typically have long legs and narrow bodies.  Their footprints are usually round or oval shaped and always have an even number of toes. Their tracks usually form a fairly straight line with front and rear prints staggered from one side to the other.   Examples of walkers include deer, foxes, bobcats, etc.

Waddlers usually have wide bodies and shorter legs.  Their feet are generally wide at the heal and get wider toward the toes forming a trapezoid shape.  Their tracks are spread wider apart than those of walkers and would straddle a straight line rather than being on it.  Like a walker, waddlers' footprints are also staggered. Some examples of waddlers include black bear, opossum, and raccoon.

Hoppers move by pushing off with their long springy hind feet.  When they are moving fast all four feet are in the air at the same time.  They land front feet first and their back feet will actually land in front of the position of their front feet.  When following their tracks their smaller front prints will be behind their paired larger rear footprints.  Their feet are generally shaped like long skinny triangles. Some examples of hoppers include rabbits, squirrels, and mice.

The mammals in Mid-Michigan that bound are all members of the weasel family.  This includes mink, otter, marten, and fisher.  These mammals all have long skinny bodies and very short legs.  Their footprints are oval or teardrop shaped and might be mistaken for a mammal that walks except for the number of toes.  Bounders have 5 toes on both their front and hind feet.  Bounding is similar to hopping in a way. Their footprints are also paired, but the front prints are often obscured by the rear feet which will land in the same location as the front prints.

This week I am doing thirteen classroom programs over five days.  Nine of those programs are about Michigan Mammals.  One of the activities included in those programs is identifying an unknown track.  

Here is an unknown track.  Can you guess who made it?

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