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Tracks I need help with

We went down to the river yesterday, exploring, and came across these tracks.  They ended in some sand by the creek, so I backtracked them, through the snow, to where the tracks jumped across the river by way of two large boulders.  I suspected they might be fox, but wasn’t sure.  They seemed too small for a coyote.  They don’t have that classic elongated shape of dog/coyote.  The front track was 3″x 2 1/2″; while the back track was 2″x 1 1/2″.  The stride was about 11″.  I’m not very familiar with fox tracks, but when I looked them up in Elbrochs Tracking book, they seemed to have the classic roundness of a fox,  the ‘H’ in the center where they’d be more fur, and the flat line on the metacarpal pad.  So, all you trackers out there with more thoughts on these, let me know.

With Koda's tennis ball for size

Flat line at metacarpal pad

Full set


Hopped two boulders across river

And just to keep things rolling, here’s another set of questionable tracks, ones that I can’t find in Elbroch at all.  I’ve seen these a few times.  They are very small, smaller than squirrels and so they must be something like a vole.  Got any ideas?Tiny perfect tracks

3 Responses

  1. Canid-looking tracks are way too big for red fox–they’re more big kitty cat size, and in soft mud you usually see the clear chevron marks on the rear pad. Sure look like a coyote’s–classic look of outside toes larger than center toes, and fairly sharp claws. I’ve been fooled a few times by dog tracks that look more like a coyote’s than WilE’s himself, though.

    Lower track is most likely the bounding run of a deer mouse or close cousin, though you don’t get a real clear print of tiny foot/toe details in snow. Voles have a much shorter tail so you usually don’t see the pronounced drag marks


  2. Leslie,
    Those are coyote tracks. Coyote tracks come in all sizes. The others are perimiscus tracks, probably deer mice or meadow vole, more likely mice since voles are mostly under snow right now and heavier than mice and sink in the snow deeper.
    I most highly recommend you purchase Olas Muries book “A field guide to animal tracks”. Or Jim Halfpennys animal track book.
    It is probably too late for most or all of the conifers on your property, pheromone packets or not. Pesticides are sure not the answer, and are only a short term non-specific killing solution to what is an eco-system wide problem. Or is it a human problem to accept a changing forest? Is it climate change, or global warming? Good campfire subjects.
    Aldo Leupold said a long time ago “Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen subjectively to the howl of the wolf”. (When discussing the declining deer herd on the Kaibab plateau). That thought process appears to apply here to the dying forest change we are seeing.
    Your view out the window will change. It changed in 1988 in much of the region.
    I recommend you talk again to Paul Morency and take his recommendations for thinning to protect your structures, (the fires will come) and include conifer removal to stimulate in expedite seral changes. If you look closly, most all of your conifers are green, but dying, attacked by many species of invaders. Our forest is changing, and it is due. It might not be what we want, but it is evolution of the forest. You can speed up the process if you choose to.
    Fun reading your impressions of the wildlife and the country.
    I drive by your place frequently, but haven’t met you yet. Watch out for yourself, your dog, and take your bear spray with you!!
    See ya up the trail sometime.


    • I suppose I was hoping for something besides old wiley. Olaus Murie in her Animal Tracks book had described red fox tracks as 2.5″ front and 2″ back with an 18 1/2″ stride which fit and these seemed rounder and smaller than the coyote tracks I see around. Tracks can fool you and I’m trying to get more familiar with them, esp. with what the animal was doing and thinking, as well as all the other interactions the tracks might suggest.

      The best books I’ve found are the 3 complete guides by Mark Elbroch. He has one on skulls, one of mammal tracks, and one on birds. They are huge and extremely complete. Check them out.

      Thanks for reading my blog and I appreciate the input from veterans.


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