Winter fun: Become a ‘winter wildlife detective’

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Photo by Sandy Van Vranken

If you’re looking for something to do to get yourself or your family outside more often this winter, searching for wildlife tracks can be a fun and educational way to enjoy a winter day.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation issued a newsletter that said now is a great time to become a “winter wildlife detective.”

Here are some tips from NYS DEC to help you get started:

  • Snow conditions can make a difference in a track’s appearance. Wet snow captures a print better than powdery snow.
  • Members in the dog family, such as coyotes, foxes or dogs, will usually leave claw prints above the toes, while members of the cat family, such as bobcats and housecats, will not. You should see four toes on both front and back feet for both families.
  • Rodents, such as squirrels, chipmunks, mice, muskrats and voles, usually have four toes on the front feet and five on the back. Claws may or may not be seen.
  • Bring a notebook, camera or field guide with you.
  • Sometimes an animal’s droppings, or scat, can help you identify it. A rabbit’s droppings looks like small balls of sawdust.

More information on searching for wildlife tracks in the winter is available in the Become a Winter Wildlife Detective issue of Conservationist for Kids.

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