“One of my favourite things about winter is being able to tell who’s been where and what they’ve been up to!” says Neil Vinson, Resource Management Officer at Fundy National Park (FNP).
By heading out soon after fresh, light snowfalls, the tracks we find are most likely to have clear detail. In the Chignecto Recreation Area in FNP, you can often see little “mouse highways,” where these little rodents have come above the snow to scamper to their next tunnel.
Snowshoe hare are common in FNP, and their hopping motion and bigger hind feet make distinct tracks through the snow. Because they hop with such strength, their hind legs actually overtake their front legs, and their tracks often trick people into thinking they were travelling in the opposite direction. You might also be lucky enough to see a depression in the snow where a white-tailed deer hunkered down to spend the night.
In FNP, coyotes and bobcats are two common yet elusive animals that we don’t often get to see, but we know they are present because we see their tracks. Both of these mammals have paws and are around the same size, so how are we supposed to tell them apart? The answer might be more obvious than you’d expect. Like house cats, bobcats retract their claws while they walk, but coyotes don’t have this ability. You will be able to see little depressions from claws in coyote tracks, but the bobcat’s tracks won’t have these. Another way to distinguish bobcat from coyote is the shape. The bobcat’s track will be round, whereas the coyote’s track will be oval.
Put your new-found tracking skills to use the next time you are out snowshoeing or skiing in FNP!
Kat Hallett is the Community Engagement Coordinator at the Friends of Fundy/Fundy Guild Inc. The Friends of Fundy work to increase public awareness & enjoyment of the natural and cultural heritage of Fundy National Park & surrounding communities. We work closely with our colleagues in the Albert County Chamber of Commerce & Albert County Tourism Association to promote community engagement and sustainable economic development in the region. Image of FNP contributed by Kat Hallett.