This image may not seem too revealing but there are signs in it that should jump out at you if you were driving down this road. This is a great example of dirt transference. Moose were feeding on willows along side this road and cross the road twice in this image. Even with the snow and cold the moose's hooves penetrated into the ground under the snow and when walking on the compact snow of the road, deposited that soil over several steps.
You can even tell which way the moose was traveling without looking at the tracks, as the dirt gets lighter as the moose walks.
There are other good examples of how dirt transference can help up figure things out in the winter time. For those of you who don't live in Interior Alaska our snow is very white and it usually stays that way all winter long minus the birch seeds when they let loose, and the urine stains, and the moose scat, etc. When something is not white, take notice.
Quite often I walk on the trails of Creamer's Waterfowl Refuge. There are always lots of fox tracks on the trails in the winter time for those who can distinguish them from dog tracks. One day I found some "dirty" fox tracks. I wasn't sure what was going on so I backtracked them and was excited to find a bull moose carcass at the end. It turns out that the dirty tracks weren't dirty at all. The fox was actually transferring rumen (stomach content) on its feet. Stepping in it while it fed on the carcass and depositing it for quite a ways down the trail.
On another occasion I backtracked some dirty fox tracks and this time they were really dirty. It was an overcast day with very flat lighting. The kind when you can look right at the ground in front of you and have a hard time seeing much because there are no shadows whatsoever. I followed these fox tracks until I saw a mass of grayish hue seemingly floating on the snow. As I approached, it finally became clear that it was a fox den surrounded by a powder of gray soil that the fox had been throwing out of the den. The fox were using the den during the winter and based on the past weather it was easy to figure out the fox had been in and out of the den on that morning. I also found another active fox den in a different area simply by noticing a few dirty tracks.
So dirt transference can help us figure things out in the winter time. There is a lot more to understanding and using dirt transference and we will visit it again in the warmer months.
Here is something of an inverse of transference which occurs in light snow on ice. As it travels, a mink is clearing spots on the ice of snow, revealing a beautiful 2x bounding pattern.