What’s Moving at Massabesic and Tracking Tips

Posted on January 21, 2018

Despite the lack of snow, last Saturday’s tracking workshop at Massabesic Center was a great success! Naturalist Angie Krysiak and 8 people took to the trails and saw an array of tracks and animal sign. Deer tracks and scat were abundant, as were (of course) lots of songbird and squirrel tracks all around our bird feeders. We found lots of half melted tunnels from rodents, middens of eaten acorns and pine cones, and even a few small piles of mouse scat. We found fox scat-complete with fur from its prey.

Exposed small mammal tunnels in the snow. Massabesic photo archive.

In the woods, we spotted some young trees with bark that had been scraped away by deer looking for winter food, and a fresh woodpecker hole whose squarish shape tells us it may have been from a Pileated Woodpecker. At the pond, we saw the back end of our new beaver lodge – a good-sized pile of sticks and mud on the bank, surrounded by young trees with the tops chewed off. All of this just goes to show that while snow makes tracking a whole lot easier, it is not necessary to have a good time!

Tracking tips:

  • Know your area and your animals. What type of habitat do you have and what animals might live in it? Which ones may have migrated or might be hibernating?
  • Start with the patterns of movement. There are 4 main ways animals are categorized based on the shape of their bodies and how they move (walking, leaping, waddling and bounding). Picking a pattern can immediately help you narrow down your options.
  • Look at the actual prints. Can you see shape? Size? How many toes? All of these things can help you determine what animal may have crossed your area.
  • Look for other clues. Can you find scat? Fur? Does the trail end up a tree or in a hole? Is there food left behind?
  • PRACTICE! The more you are out and looking for things, the more tracks and sign you will become familiar with and learn to recognize at a glance.

Bounder track pattern. Massabesic photo archive.