Which Track is That? A Look at Winter Animal Tracks Throughout State Parks

Winter is a wonderful time of the year, there’s snow and ice everywhere in our State Parks. Within that snow and ice, you can see traces of what animals have been there – maybe even just moments before you arrive! One of the traces that can help you identify which animal it came from is their tracks.

To determine what animal the track came from, you should look at several different factors. First, the condition of the snow the track is in makes a big difference in how a track looks (wet snow leads to more clear tracks and drier, powdery snow has less clearly defined tracks). Second, you should think about the gait of the animal (how it moves). There’s four different types of gaits that most animals use in their daily activities: the walk, the trot, the gallop and the jump. And lastly, you must look at the shape of the track including the number of toes present, which can vary in size depending on the animal that made it. For more information on identification of winter tracks, please see this blog.

Let’s look at some tracks that have been seen throughout our State Parks:

mink_tleblanc
Here’s evidence of a mink on the ice of one of the streams within Allegany State Park, photo by T. LeBlanc
weasel_tleblanc
This is the track of a long-tailed weasel also seen within Allegany State Park. Fun fact: long-tailed weasels have a very high rate of metabolism and they eat about 40% of their body weight per day! photo by Thomas LeBlanc
turkey_tleblanc
Above you can see track of a turkey. To learn more about Allegany State Park’s role in wild turkey restoration, please see this blog. photo by Thomas LeBlanc)
coyote_rabbott
And a coyote track was spotted within Allegany State Park. As you can see, there is a bit of fur and a splotch of blood so perhaps this coyote just finished his lunch! Photo by Randall Abbott.
fisher_rsibner
Within the Finger Lakes Region, park staff noticed this track of a fisher at Keuka Lake State Park. Photo by Becky Sibner
deer_wcarleton
The tracks above, found at Harriet Hollister Spencer State Recreation Area, are from a deer. The large spot is where the deer had stopped to browse. Photo by Whitney Carleton
blackbear_kbroz
This is the footprint of a black bear, found at Mark Twain State Park. For more information on female black bears in the wintertime, please look at this blog. Photo by Kira Broz
raccoon_kbroz
Also, seen at Mark Twain State Park, is a raccoon. The most important sense of the raccoon is their sense of touch – they have hyper-sensitive front paws adorned with vibrissae (a type of hair that aids in tactile sensing) that allows them to identify objects before fully touching them! Photo by Kira Broz
greysquirrel_glamitina
At Letchworth State Park, you can see the tracks of a squirrel as compared to a human footprint for a scale reference. Photo by Gary Lamitina
bobwhite_amcintyre
Above is the tracks and wing impressions of a Northern Bobwhite, a small quail, seen at Connetquot River State Park Preserve on Long Island. Photo by Annie McIntyre
pinecone_pcutul
At Fort Montgomery State Historic Site, you can see the tracks of a squirrel and some mystery tracks as well…which turns out to be from a pine cone as seen in the insert! Photo by Peter Cutul
bobcat_pcutul
At Harriman State Park, you can find the tracks of a bobcat as seen here. For more information on bobcats and other wild cats of the Northeast, please check the blog again in a few weeks for the upcoming post on that subject! Photo by Peter Cutul
weasel_pcutul
Also at Harriman State Park, the tracks of what is believed to be a short tailed weasel can also be found! Photo by Peter Cutul
oter_ewagner
Looking around Grafton Lakes State Park, river otter tracks can be seen in the snow. Photo by Elizabeth Wagner

As you can see, there is still a great diversity of animals to be found within our State Parks – even in the cold of winter! So, the next time you’re hiking the trails at a State Park, look around you and see what tracks you can see!

Scat is another trace that animals leave behind.  If you are interested in learning more about winter scat ID, check out this blog.

Post by April Brun, State Parks

Disclaimer: All identifications are just suspected, none are confirmed by a wildlife biologist.

Resources:

Animal Track Activity Sheet, Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources

Long-tailed weasel, NatureWorks

My Animal Sign Field Guide, US Fish and Wildlife Service

Tracks, New York State Conservationist, February 2015

2 thoughts on “Which Track is That? A Look at Winter Animal Tracks Throughout State Parks”

    1. Good question, the top photo is of a large bird (hawk or owl) who had landed on the snow, perhaps looking for a meal.
      It looks as though the bird landed on the snow; hopped twice and then was successful in taking off from the snow. This difficultly trying to fly might be a sign that the bird indeed did grab a meal or that it was having trouble taking off because of the snow depth.
      It is a more recent track than the other tracks nearby since it is not covered in snow.

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