February 11, 2020

February Scavenger Hunt: Hunting the Scavengers

Our January Scavenger Hunt turned up trails of Deer Mice, Meadow Voles, Sorex Shrews, even a House Mouse, and led to some good conversations about distinguishing these tiny trails.

This month's scavenger hunt will be a hunt for scavengers. In late winter, many prey animals succumb to months of sparse, low quality food. Their deaths bring respite to both predators and scavengers--from coyotes to mice and eagles to cardinals. The calls of ravens and the trails of coyotes may lead us to carcasses this time of year.

This month, I invite you to join me in a search for carcasses and the signs of scavengers. If you find a carcass, look specifically for sign of depredation or scavenging by:

1) A carnivore
2) A bird
3) A rodent

For an added challenge, try to reconstruct the cause of death and a complete list of animals that scavenged on a carcass. Trail camera images are welcome!

Posted on February 11, 2020 20:25 by jonpoppele jonpoppele | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 07, 2020

January Scavenger Hunt: Tiny Trails

Last month's Scavenger Hunt yielded a number of observations of tiny trails -- 2x2 bounding patterns left behind by long-tailed shrews, deer mice, and meadow voles. A number of these trails look surprisingly similar. Which brings up the question, how can we distinguish between the trails of our smallest mammals? This can be even more of a challenge when the animal modifies its gait to accommodate deep snow (well, deep for a mouse at least).

This month, I invite you to join me in search of tiny trails. Seek out and identify trails left by members of the following groups:

1) A Mouse (Peromyscus species)
2) A Vole (Microtus species)
3) A Shrew (Family Soricidae)

For an added challenge, search out and distinguish the trails of:

1) A Long-Tailed Shrew (Sorex species)
2) A Short-Tailed Shrew (Blarina species)
3) Similar Size Trails from Other, Unrelated Animals (e.g. salamander, junco, least weasel, etc.)

Since some of these trails can look nearly identical, investigate (and document!) them well enough that both you and other observers can feel confident in the identification. Look for scat or other sign along the trail. Find where the trail begins or ends. Look for changes in gait.

I look forward to seeing what you find, and learning more about how to distinguish the trails of our tiniest track-makers.

Posted on January 07, 2020 17:12 by jonpoppele jonpoppele | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 02, 2019

December Scavenger Hunt

For many of us in northern climates, this is the beginning of the snow tracking season. Often in snow, track patterns are clearer than the prints themselves—and sometimes all we have to go on for identification.

Our December Scavenger Hunt includes three track patterns which can look quite similar, but are produced by completely different gaits. Over the coming weeks, I invite you to look for examples of each of the following track patterns and record them to our iNaturalist project page:

1) 2x2 Walk (aka “raccoon walk”)
2) 2x2 Bound (aka “weasel bound”)
3) Side Trot (aka “canine trot”)

For an extra challenge, try to find and document any of the following. Note that some of these are exceptionally rare.

1) A 2x2 walk pattern left by an animal other than a raccoon
2) A 2x2 bound pattern left by an animal other than a weasel
3) A Side Trot left by an animal other than a canine

Some notes on terminology:

“Track pattern” refers to an arrangement of footprints on the ground. “Gait” refers to the way an animal moved its body to travel. Track patterns are generally named for the gaits we presume are used to create them. We infer information about the gait an animal was using by studying the track pattern – but when we are looking at the ground, we are always looking at a track pattern, never a gait.

Some authors refer to the “2x2” Bound” track pattern as a “2x2 Lope.”

Posted on December 02, 2019 20:49 by jonpoppele jonpoppele | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 30, 2019

November Scavenger Hunt: In A Rut

For the coming month, I invite you to seek out and document as many of the following as you can:
1) Deer Scat
2) Buck Rub
3) Deer Scrape

For an additional challenge, look for these fresh sign:
1) a deer scat that is still damp with mucous
2) a buck rub with curls of bark that have not dried out
3) a deer scrape with a patch of soil still damp with urine

Posted on October 30, 2019 19:53 by jonpoppele jonpoppele | 0 comments | Leave a comment