Spring is here folks but there is still snow left on the ground even though we are having a wonderfully fast breakup. Soon there will be no snow on the ground and we can get started with trailing and finding tracks and sign in more challenging substrate. I have taken hundreds of interesting track and sign images this month and I'll share a few now in case this is my last snow season entry. Higher elevations will have snow well into may of course.
Even Birds make mistakes. This is a pigeon that landed on some ice covered with a dusting of snow. It was probably surprised when is slid and had to catch itself with its wings. There were several of these skids on the ice so it wasn't just an inexperienced bird.
Here is a pretty neat Mountain Goat trail in Southeast Alaska. After a rain and ice storm this goat walked down the trail sinking into the soft snow and slush. The wind was also blowing hard and it blew debris into the tracks of the goat. Then it all froze up hard and the rest of the debris blew away leaving this clear trail frozen in time. There were also wolf tracks in the are which formed in a similar manner.
Snowshoe hares don't burrow into the ground like rabbits do, but that doesn't mean they don't take advantage of getting buried in deep snow. This hare just kept coming and going as the snow built up thus creating a burrow in the snow which offers safety and protection from the cold. I don't see this often but this snow was probably 6 or more feet deep and buried all the willows where there were many hares.
Above you can see a nice muskrat trail in the snow. Notice the wide straddle the very clear tail drag and he even left several scats in the trail. The image on the right shows a muskrat bed melted into the snow. Very round. It was twenty below zero when I took these pictures in December. The muskrat probably got frozen out of its pond and was traveling overland to find more water. It made it to a slough and disappeared under the snow. There was also heavy mink activity in the area. Probably not a good thing for the muskrat.
The groundhogs are coming out. Here is a picture of one that has recently emerged from its burrow and is making forays into the fields or other burrow entrances. It is truly spring in the Interior when groundhogs emerge. There is still a lot of snow and nothing green growing for several weeks to come.
Here are tracks of that groundhog in the left image. The hind foot is on the right and with 5 toes showing in the classic rodent structure 1-3-1 and the front foot is on the left. When walking in snow the animal direct registers, or close to it. The image on the right is in the alpine and is an emerging marmot for comparison. They are related animals.
Okay, I'll leave you with this one. A very delicate porcupine trail in a fresh skiff of snow. These were only a few hours old and we did find the porcupine that made them. I did not use a tape measure in this particular image but he was just a little guy.
Mike Taras is the founder and tracking instructor of Alaska Tracking and Traditional Skills School and is always learning something from the tracks.