Stories in the Snow
Winter is hands down my favorite season for hiking. I may be in the minority on this, but there are some real advantages to winter. No biting insects is a big advantage as far as I’m concerned. I’m the person who gets swarmed if there are biting insects.
I love looking for animal tracks, and while there’s some opportunity for tracking in other seasons snow provides a wonderful canvas for tracks. I usually walk local conservation properties regardless of the time of year, so winter gives me a great opportunity to see which animals are living in each of the locations where I like to walk.
On a recent excursion, I chose a local property where I’ve reliably seen bobcat tracks – and on one occasion saw a bobcat! This weekend I didn’t find any evidence of the bobcat, but for a brief stretch the hiking trail was covered with turkey tracks. Big tracks, little tracks, tracks on the main trail and tracks off to the side. Looking at the different sized tracks I could imagine the flock walking through the woods, the smaller tracks of this year’s just grown up poults alongside the bigger tracks of the more experienced adults, checking the area for regular winter food sources. The tracks were heading deeper into the woods from a residential neighborhood adjacent to the trails – perhaps back yard bird feeders provide an extra regular food source.
I think the tracks tell stories, or they can tell stories, about what the animals are doing and how many of them are traveling together. I try to pay attention to the location of the tracks – like noticing that the turkey tracks were coming from the local homes into the woods – to understand what the animals are up to. As I practice this skill I get better at reading tracks, and it’s amazing what can be learned about animal behavior by looking closely at what I see. I’m looking forward to a few more months of snow and cold so that I can bundle up and read more stories in the snow!
Report Your Winter Wild Turkey Sightings, January 1 – March 31
Have you seen wild turkeys gathering at backyard birdfeeders? NH Fish and Game is asking the public to report sightings of wild turkeys online. YOUR knowledge will help fill gaps in Fish and Game’s existing winter flock data collection efforts, adding to the Department’s understanding of the abundance and distribution of turkeys during New Hampshire’s challenging winter months. Learn more & submit your sightings here.
Making Tracks with Wildlife, February 23 - Creek Farm, Portsmouth
What happened here? Whose footprint is that? Join Center for Wildlife and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests to answer these questions and more! Following an environmental education program including live animal ambassadors from the Center for Wildlife, we will take a hike and identify the tracks of our local wildlife as well as the evidence of several telltale wildlife encounters! Open to all ages, moderate hike. Details and registration here.