Tracks in the Snow
Written by Stalac-Tate
Animals visit us all year long. Staff often spot their tracks in the snow, whether it’s near our hiking trails or on top of our buildings. We also have a Trail Camera that was set up in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, that has taken snapshots of animals in our woods. That camera helps identify the animals that have been making footprints all over. Here are a few examples of animals that have been spotted this winter.
This is the most common track you can find here at Cave of the Mounds. It has been spotted across the property from our Oak Savanna to the bird watching area. White-tailed Deer live in all different types of habitats. It’s easy for them to roam around as they do not have a den or nest because they sleep in a different spot every night. In the winter, they look for a good food supply in a semi-sheltered area. Most of the time, we find the deer near our bird-feeder in the bird watching area. Deer are herbivores and in the winter they are known to eat twigs and buds.
Two years ago we had a family of foxes live on the premises. Today we have seen little fox tracks on the roof of our Cave Entrance Building. The heaviness of their fur makes their tracks less distinct than a dog. Red Foxes live in different habitats like forests, prairies, suburbs, and more. Cave of the Mounds has most of these habitats located on our property. Our family of foxes, a couple of years ago, built their den underneath one of our driveways in a storm drain. This is not unusual as they typically choose a hollow log or enlarged woodchuck den or in a hillside. We look forward to seeing them again this next spring.
Whether it’s the Eastern Gray Squirrel or the Eastern Fox Squirrel, Cave of the Mounds has plenty of entertainment from these squirrels. The squirrel’s race from tree to tree and also eat from the bird feeders like the deer. The difference between an Eastern Gray Squirrel and an Eastern Fox Squirrel is the Gray Squirrel has a unique trail pattern that begins and ends at trees. Whereas Fox Squirrels is much larger as it is the largest tree squirrel. Both squirrels inhabit woodlands, parks, and suburban and urban yards. Here at Cave of the Mounds, we have a wooded area next to a suburban neighborhood.
This exquisite creature has shown its face to both staff and our DNR Wildlife camera. Their tracks have been spotted across the Prairie and in the Woodland Restoration. A bobcat has an asymmetrical track that may be longer than it is wide giving the tracks a more streamlined path. We are unclear as to where the bobcat’s home resides but it could be in a hollow log or under a pile of tree branches filled with leaves. These den options can be found in our Woodland Restoration area.
This creature has become more popular in recent years. However, here at Cave of the Mounds, we have only seen a few of these hissing omnivores. Its tracks look like human hands and the front paws have a starlike shape. Again, we do not know where its home is. It could be in a leaf nest in an underground den or hollow log. Keep an eye out for these human-like animal tracks.
This five-toe walker has been spotted across the property, mostly by the garbage. Its tracks have a unique 2 x 2 walking gait and the prints look like human handprints. A raccoon can be found just about anywhere and it can make its home in a hollow tree or have an underground den beneath a prairie. We have trees galore in our Oak Savanna area and on the edge of our property. Plus we have a Prairie Restoration that this critter would love. Although, we don’t know exactly where it lives.
A couple weeks ago, a couple of our staff spotted a dark brown, almost black mink in the chert creek bed. It was peeking its head through the snow. At times, they could see half its body on the surface.It took some by surprise since there are no fish or crayfish. However, minks eat voles, mice, chipmunks, rabbits, squirrels, small birds, bird eggs, snakes, frogs, and toads. All of these small to medium animals have been spotted here frequently on our property.
Poppele, Jonathan. Animal Tracks Midwest Quick Guide. Adventure Publications, 2014.
Tekiela, Stan. Mammals of Wisconsin. Adventure Publications, Ins, 2005.