A fun activity to do a few days after a good rain is head to a nearby creek and look for animal tracks in the mud.
We went on this kind of walk yesterday in the nature area near our home. As we walked to the area, I asked my son what animal footprints he thought we might find. He came up with a list of animals that live in our neighborhood (at least, the ones he’s seen)… racoons, deer, coyotes, squirrels, and birds.
When we arrived at the creek, we were disappointed to find that much of the area looked like this…
So we walked further upstream until we found places that hadn’t been disturbed by the cyclist. When we came upon a more pristine area, my son walked around slowly and carefully to see what he could find. Here’s what he spotted…
Deer tracks. My son squatted down to study the tracks closer. We found lots of deer tracks.
Then my son found these…
I’m thinking big dog tracks. I was half expecting to find mountain lion tracks on this outing (I know at least one lives nearby), but these prints seem to have claws. Cats have retractable claws, so these must be dog. And definitely not coyote. My son was disappointed not to find any signs of racoons, but was happy overall with what we saw on this outing.
I’ve seen lots of coyote and raccoon tracks on the trails in this area, so maybe we’ll have more luck next time. My son can’t wait to go again!
We’ve never done it, but I’ve read about making plaster of Paris casts of prints and it looks cool. A bit of work, though.
I remember hiking Rattlesnake Canyon in Santa Barbara alone, abandoning the path and slogging up the river, when I came upon some tracks in the riverside mud. They were massive, and could only have been made by a mountain lion. And they were fresh – very fresh – no more than a couple of hours old. It made the rest of my hike very interesting indeed, as I scanned the rocky ledges above me and envisioned a very large cat following me with its yellow eyes.
No rattlesnakes, though, unfortunately. I did catch a garter snake sunning itself on a rock in the middle of the river, and a rather buxom young woman nakedly sunning herself on a boulder riverside. Although she greeted me enthusiastically, I didn’t stop to chat. Just had no idea where to focus my own yellow eyes.
Anyway, look into making plaster casts of prints. I think it would be an awesome project.
Hahaha! Great stories! I actually have a bag of plaster of paris that I’m waiting to make animal track prints with (my mom did that with us when we were kids). My son was desperate to do the activity that day, but we didn’t have the hour to wait for the plaster to dry. We’ll try it out another day soon, and I’ll write about it. Thanks for the fun stories!
What a fun experience. Did you have a book with you to identify the animal tracks?
We do have a little book about local animal tracks, but we didn’t take it along yesterday. I’ve been using it for a couple years now with my son, and we pretty much have them memorized.
This is a great idea! Thanks for posting
You’re welcome. 🙂
My wife and I were hiking up on Russian Ridge yesterday and saw two coyotes just below our trail at about 11:30 in the morning. We were surprised to these two just walking along and undisturbed by our presence.
Cool experience! Coyote are funny that way… the ones around our home are shy and skittish, but in Yosemite, I’ve had one walk along beside me, not three feet away, as if I were out for a walk with him. I’ve had multiple other experiences where coyotes didn’t run away at my presence. It helps me understand how these wild animals could have become domesticated.