Snow and frigid temperatures have inundated Big Valley CA, our home, recently. Leonard and I enjoy “reading the snow” to determine which animals wander through our pastures and the wildlife area on our property. We found the tracks of four mammals on trek around the property on the last day of 2016.
In addition to identifying the animal that has passed through, the track pattern also gives a clue to the gait or speed at which the animal was traveling.
The mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) track pattern is that of a walking animal and shows the drag marks of the toes in the snow. This mule deer was probably simply walking around in our wildlife area looking for browse.
The coyote (Canis latrans) was moving at a slow lope. Leonard and I often see coyotes moving across our pastures at this speed while hunting.
The track pattern indicates the black-tailed jackrabbit (Lepus californicus) also was traveling at a slow speed.
In snow country the sagebrush vole (Lemmiscus curtatus) lives beneath the snow, coming out only occasionally. These little rodents will come to the surface to gnaw at the bark of bushes in the winter. They are exposed on top of the snow so quickly run between areas of cover. The sagebrush vole tracks are those of a running animal.
“Reading the snow” is an interesting winter challenge.