Do you look forward to the first snow of the year? Or do you wish we could skip winter altogether? Either way, we have a challenge for you! Learn how to identify tracks in the snow, then take our quiz to challenge yourself!
Coyote prints are ovular and usually 2.5 to 3.5 inches long, sometimes with sharp claw marks on the front two toes. The four toes are usually close together, while dog prints are thicker and splayed in different directions.
In addition, coyotes typically run or walk in a straight line, with each paw print almost directly in front of the next and with few meandering lines. Domestic dogs, on the other hand, aren’t as worried about conserving energy, so they wander all over the place, frequently crossing over their own paths.
Look for coyote tracks in fields or along woodland edges, where they forage for food.
Fox tracks can be similar to coyote tracks, although they are typically smaller (2-3 inches long) and daintier. Another way to distinguish fox tracks is by the clarity of the print: In winter, red foxes grow thick fur on their feet, which can blur their tracks considerably.
Like coyotes, red foxes travel in straight lines with little meandering or crossing of their own tracks. You might also spot pounce marks in the snow where a fox dove under the surface to catch its prey.
Dark-Eyed Juncos & Wild Turkeys
It can be easy to spot birds up in their air during the winter, but try looking down for another challenge: spotting their tracks in the snow. Dark-eyed juncos and wild turkeys commonly leave tracks that you might spot in the pastures and woodlands of CVNP.
Wild turkey tracks are about four inches long with three toes. The center toe points straight forward and is longer than the other two. Look for turkey tracks in open pastures or old farm fields, where the birds forage for leftover grains.
Dark-eyed juncos are quite a bit smaller than wild turkeys and like to hop around on forest floors while looking for food. Prints are only about 1.5 inches long and have three forward-facing toes, with one longer toe reaching behind.
White-tailed deer tracks are some of the most common tracks you’ll see in CVNP. Look for heart-shaped prints from a deer’s hooves. When walking slowly, deer barely lift their feet, so you can also look for drag marks between each step.
One last print: the river otter! Some of our most playful animals, otters have prints that show five pointed toes around a small heel pad. Tracks are wider than they are long—3 to 3.5 inches long and 3-4 inches wide.
Otters—and even their tracks!—can be tricky to spot, but your best chance is to visit Beaver Marsh and look for clues in the ice and snow.
Test Your Knowledge
Let’s see how well you can identify CVNP animal tracks in the snow.Take the Quiz