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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Footprints in the Snow

Raccoon tracks at NBNC

Every time it snows, it is as if a blank canvas has been strewn across the landscape.  As animals move across the carpet of snow, they are writing their stories onto the canvas.  Those stories lie there waiting for us to find and interpret.  It may be a day, or a week that these stories remain, but with the next snow or thaw, those stories will be erased never to be read again. 

It is this ephemeral nature of animal tracks that makes them so special.  Hiking through the forest the day after a snowfall, the tracks you find may have been left just a few hours earlier.  Be it bobcat or mink, fisher or fox, animals we seldom see in the flesh make their presence known with their footprints.

One of the biggest mistakes a beginning tracker will make is to look at just one print.  This may be enough evidence to determine which species left the track, but a single print fails to capture the story.  Was the animal moving swiftly across the land, as if just passing through?  Was it stalking prey?  Trying to escape from a predator?  The patterns left by animals will reveal their behavior and tell their story.  Follow the tracks (backwards so that you don’t sneak up on and startle the animal) to extend the story and see where that animal has been and what it has done.  If you’re lucky, you’ll be treated to a fascinating tale and a hidden glimpse into the lives of some of our hardiest and hardest-to-see forest residents.

To learn more about tracking, please join us for the Naturalist Journeys lecture by Angella Gibbons TOMORROW NIGHT!

Winter Wildlife Tracking
Friday, February 15, 7:00 p.m.
minkFrom mink trails, moose scrapes, fox tracks, turkey scat to squirrel taps---what can we learn from our wild neighbors? Come find out, with local tracker Angella Gibbons, who will share an inspiring slide show and stories that can help reveal many tracking mysteries! Angella has been connecting people of all ages to the wild for 25 years; is the founding director of EarthWalk Vermont and holds a Level III certificate in Wildlife Track & Sign through Cybertracker Conservation. See more lectures.

All presentations take place at the
Unitarian Church of Montpelier

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