Identifying and following animal footprints in fresh snow make for a great winter activity in Shenandoah. You don’t have to be an expert—just keep a few key points in mind:
- Four toes on each of the front and hind feet means you’re looking at a track from the dog family (fox, coyote) or the cat family (bobcat, cougar).
- Does the paw print have small, triangular marks in front? If so, the animal has claws. You could be looking at raccoon, skunk, coyote, fox, or dog tracks. Animals in the cat family, on the other hand, retract their claws when they walk or run.
- Four toes on the front feet and five toes on the hind feet means it’s a rodent (mouse, chipmunk, squirrel, woodchuck).
- Five toes on the front and back could be a raccoon or a member of the weasel family (weasel, badger, mink, skunk, otter). If it’s a big print with wide spacing between tracks, it could be bear.
- Deer make two-toed tracks.
- Squirrels’ larger hind feet land ahead of their smaller front feet.
- Look for signs such as scat, feathers or bones that can serve as more clues.
When all else fails, consult a tracking book:
Whose Tracks Are These?