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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

New Tracks! New Tracks!

raccoon tracksIt's been warm here for the past few days. We've had a little snow off and on, but the skiing and/or snowshoeing has been terrible. But some of the critters are starting to wake up!

Here was a mystery to solve! New tracks,going from the cemetery woods, out across the field. They ended up leaving the snow to enter the stand of big white pines on top of the hill. I knew it wasn't the opossum, because I saw so many of those last year with their funny splayed front paws with bulbous toe ends.

I knew it wasn't the skunk, because the pattern wasn't the same. The skunk tracks always looked as if the animal was walking kitty-corner to the direction it wanted to go.

raccoon tracks

Remember that I promised you I'd start carrying a ruler? I have been, and I remembered to take it out! So now you can see that these are fairly large tracks. We just don't have a big selection of really large mammals here. So the smaller tracks are about 2" square, and the larger 2 x 3 inches. I also noticed right away that the tracks are in a straight line, in sets of two, pretty much evenly spaced.
raccoon tracksI also noted that the sets were about 8 inches apart. This animal wasn't making big leaps between steps, but just walking along. All the prints are about equally deep.

What I did not notice until I looked at these on the computer is that in each set it alternates which side the large print is on (which I suspected was the back foot).

Here is where I have to admit feeling a little bit foolish. If I had seen just a few of these tracks in the mud beside a stream in the summer, I would have recognized it. But I'd never seen a long string of tracks where this animal had walked a long distance.

Have you guessed yet? It is a raccoon! The smaller front paws have 5 fingers and the back feet also have 5. You can definitely see the right or left handedness. This kind of pattern is called a two-print pattern, but the handedness makes the raccoon track unique, and I knew that I had a definite ID.

Tomorrow, I'll be on the road, but I've scheduled the contest to post. See you from NY and PA!

See Maggie's Bad Day
See Our Common Mustelid


Julia said...

Not much stops raccoons does it! Snow, sleet, rain... We're waring at my house. They are so cute but the EAT my cat's food... AGGGHHHH!!!!!

Karen & Gerard Zemek said...

I was guessing it was a bear! This was very interesting to me.

Secondary Roads said...

As soon as I saw the track, I knew it was raccoon. For me it was the "fingers" and handedness. They are very interesting critters.

rainfield61 said...

Some mysterious tracks coming from the cemetery.....


Joanne Olivieri said...

I had no idea but love all the info you provided. We have raccoons out here in the city as well. I'm not sure exactly where the come from but they hit the yards at night rummaging for food. It's kind of scary to see one in person when you are not expecting it.

spinninglovelydays said...

I don't know anything about American wildlife, but as soon as I saw the tracks, I thought "Raccoon!". lol I don't know where I got that!

Ratty said...

I had a feeling it was raccoon tracks. I've studied them a lot since having a meeting with half a dozen young ones. I let out a small cheer when you said they were from a raccoon.

Sharkbytes (TM) said...

Julia- They really can be pests! When I lived in Ann Arbor they were pretty obnoxious

Karen- Oh my! Bear tracks are MUCH larger. I'll try to show some one of these days

Chuck- Great spotting!

rainfield- well, after I figured them out, it turns out they are very common.

Jo- They can be quite aggressive!

Ivy- good for you!

Ratty- you are getting quite good!

RNSANE said...

I'm just no good in the track ID department!!

We even have raccoons in our area of CA but I've seen skunks, including entire families, more often.

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