January 10 - January 16
Discover nature this week as you explore the New Year with a winter hike through the woods.
The morning after a new snow is the best time to look for tracks, but a good rain will yield good tracks, too. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, the easiest place to look for tracks is where two habitats meet, such as the edge of a field and a wooded area, or at the edge of water. A track's size and shape can help you make a good guess at the size and even species of the animal.
Deer tracks look like two half-moon shapes. Sometimes two small, round marks appear behind each foot.
Members of the dog family have four toes in an egg-shaped print with claw marks clearly visible. The prints of coyotes and domestic dogs are hard to tell apart. Coyote and fox tracks are much alike, but both will follow old animal trails. Dogs, on the other hand, tend to wander all over.
Members of the cat family have four toes in a round print and their claws do not show. You can tell them apart by their size. Cats stay near towns and houses, while bobcats are found in larger forests with tracks about double the size of a domestic cat’s.
Rabbits have front feet that look much like other tracks, but their long back feet are an easy giveaway.
Learning to identify what wildlife is in your area is not only meant to be a relaxing and fun hobby. By knowing what signs to look for, you can get a general sense of the health of your local environment.
Go online to MissouriConservation.org to learn more about tracking and how you can play an important role in conserving Missouri’s wonderful wildlife for future generations.