Who Goes There?

Wildlife tracks are one of the best things about taking a hike after a nighttime snowfall, to my way of thinking.

So many mammals and birds are active in the early morning, late evening, or after-dark hours, but in winter it’s easier to see and identify who has been coming and going while I’ve been tucked in warm and cozy under a quilt.

Sometimes the prints serve as a kind of calling card. For example, deer make an easy to recognize track…and rabbits, with their radically different front and back feet, leave an unmistakable mark…as do raccoons, with their nearly opposable thumbs and longer, flatter hind paws.

Even featherweight songbirds leave a telltale impression.Sometimes, the marks left in snow tell a story, like this image left by a barred owl dropping down from above to grab a meal for take-out…or at least a vignette, as with this short story of a deer mouse bursting through a crust of snow for a quick trip to some dried vegetation… looking for a seed snack, maybe, while also trying to avoid becoming an owl snack?

There’s no clear protagonist or villain in these snowy saga… just tales (and tails) of life and death on Planet Earth, but I love to read their stories.

[Thanks to the following photographers for making their work available through the Creative Commons license: USFWS, Wesley Fryer, Lassi Kurkijärvi, CA-DFW, Carol Jacobs-CarreKent McFarland, heidi bakk-hansen, and plantsforpermaculture© 2017 Sidewalk Zendo. Reprints welcomed with written permission from the author.]

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