Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Red Squirrel Tracks

What: One of my favorite finds of the day on Saturday was a beautiful set of red squirrel tracks that had been preserved on top of the snow. Compressed snow melts slower than light fluffy snow, so you can often find tracks embossed, or raised in the snow as the surrounding snow melts away. Here, we found a whole set of red squirrel tracks that looked like little ice buttons sitting on the surface of the snow. Once we spotted these I started noticing similar tracks everywhere - particularly the raised ridges of cross-country ski tracks. Sorry for the high contrast photos, but it was about the best I could do with the lighting (I had to ramp up the contrast to make them more visible).

Here the squirrel is moving away from the camera. It's two smaller front feet land in the middle, slightly offset from one another. The larger rear feet land after the front feet pick up and on the outside, in line with each other. Red squirrels tend to land with their feet more offset than gray squirrels. I think I learned this from Jim Halfpenny's tracking book: animals that spend more time in trees (e.g. gray squirrels) land with their front feet in parallel (like they'd been while perching on a branch) and animals that spend more time on the ground (e.g. rabbits) land with their front paws far more offset.

Where: The Intervale

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