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Making Tracks!

NatureNorth's Tracking Guide

By Doug Collicutt
Illustrations by Tom Keep

A Guide To The Tracks Of Some Manitoba Mammals

The guide is arranged taxonomically with families of animals grouped together. It consists of a typical foot print for each family (hind & front foot, if warranted), together with a line of tracks displaying the typical gait of that group. Information on print size (length x width) and stride length (distance from 1 set of prints to the next) are included so you can differentiate between species within that family.

Remember, this is not a complete guide to the tracks of Manitoba mammals. It's just something to get you started. We didn't include any small mammals (mice, voles, shrews, etc.), nor most of the critters that hibernate or aren't very active above the snow surface. We'll try to update it and include more species later.

Leporidae (Rabbits and Hares)

Rabbits have 4 toes, front and back, and the claw marks are not often visible. The "hind" measurements given are for the entire foot length, but the entire hind foot rarely leaves a complete imprint. The typical gait is a hop with the smaller front feet placed in-line, behind the larger hind feet, arranged side-by-side.

White-Tailed Jack Rabbit (Lepus townsendii).
Front = 7 x 4 cm, hind =15 x 4 cm , stride = 35-200 cm. Found in the southern agricultural zone of the province.

Arctic Hare (Lepus arcticus).
Similar to the White-Tailed Jack Rabbit in size and arrangement of tracks, but the two species' ranges don't overlap. In Manitoba, found only in the extreme north.

Snowshoe Hare (Lepus americanus).
Front = 5 x 3 cm, hind = 12 x 8 cm , stride = 25 - 150 cm. The hind feet are greatly enlarged as snowshoes. Throughout the province in forested areas.

Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus).
Front = 3 x 2.5 cm, hind = 5 x 2.5 cm, stride = 20 - 100 cm. Found in south-central Manitoba, usually along large waterways or in urban areas.

Sciuridae (Squirrels)

Squirrels have 4 front toes, 5 hind, and claw marks are usually apparent. They move with a hopping gait, placing the front and hind feet side-by-side.

Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)
Front = 1.5 x 1 cm, hind = 2.5 x 1 cm , stride = 15 - 50 cm. Throughout the province in wooded areas.

Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)
Front = 2 x 1.5 cm, hind = 3 x 1.5, stride = 25 - 75 cm. Found in southern Manitoba, mainly along waterways and in urban areas.

Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus)
Front = 1.5 x .8 cm, hind =2.5 x 1 cm , stride = 15 - 50 cm. Throughout the province in wooded areas. Gliding membrane will leave marks in deep snow.

Canidae (Dogs)

Dogs have 4 toes front and hind with a prominent, triangular pad, and definite claw marks. Front and hind feet are similar in shape and size. The shape of the print alone is not enough to distinguish wild canids from domestic dogs. The entire trail, and where you find it, will be more telling. Wild canids most often walk or trot in a fairly straight line. They place their hind feet directly into the print left by the respective front foot. Domestic dogs produce wandering trails and rarely manage to step accurately into the front feet prints.

Coyote (Canis latrans)
Front and hind 6.5 x 5 cm, stride = 30 cm (walk: left to right foot). Found throughout southern Manitoba to the north end of Lake Winnipeg. Common in agricultural areas.

Wolf (Canis lupus)
Front and hind = 11 x 8 cm, stride = 50 cm (walk: left to right foot). Throughout Manitoba, less common in agricultural areas.

Arctic Fox (Alopex lagopus)
Front and hind = 6 x 4 cm, stride = 20 cm (walk: left to right foot). Only in extreme northern Manitoba.

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
Front and hind = 6 x 4 cm, stride = 20 cm (walk: left to right foot). Throughout the province.

Grey Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus)
Front = 5 x 3.5 cm , stride = 17 cm (walk: left to right foot). Only in extreme southern part of province.

Dog (Canis domesticus)
Front and hind feet from 3 x 2.5 cm to 11 x 8 cm , stride = 15 - 50 cm (walk: left to right foot). It is difficult to discount domestic dogs whenever "dog-type" tracks are encountered.

Carry on for Tracking Guide Page 2

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