By Doug Collicutt
Every morning, the same routine. Pour a coffee, open the blinds, survey the neighbourhood. Another gloomy winter's day. "Hmmm, mail man's been already, that's early. Wonder what came today, probably bills. Boy, Rita's been out somewhere already and back again. Paper hasn't been delivered yet, Joan will be ticked. And that darn cat's been on top of our car again."
By now you've surmised that I'm a nosy neighbour, but how, you might ask, did I know all that from just glancing out my window. Elementary, my dear reader. I neglected to mention the first observation I made from my living room window. It had snowed overnight. The rest was simple deduction based on my prior knowledge.
A fresh dusting of snow is like putting out a slow acting photographic film. It keeps a record of everything that's happened, or that hasn't happened. Follow my deductions:
I like knowing what's going on in my neighbourhood and a fresh winter snow helps me keep tabs on things. Snow and the tracks left in it are great for keeping tabs on all sorts of things. When you combine an ability to recognize the shape and arrangement of tracks with some foreknowledge of the inhabitants of an area and the of recent weather, you can gain a lot of insight. This goes for human neighbourhoods and for critters in the wild, too.
Winter is a great time to observe and appreciate the activities of critters, even when you don't actually see them! I like to think of every set of tracks as a mystery. What critter made the tracks? Where did it come from? Where was it going and what was it doing? Following and interpreting tracks in the snow is fun and can earn you new insights into the lives of Manitoba's wildlife. We've prepared a little guide to help you identify the tracks of some of our critters, together with some tips on how to interpret what you see. So, next time you're out for a walk in the park or a cross country ski, you'll be prepared to do a little wildlife "sleuthing".
Carry on, for more on Winter Tracks (Click the right arrow below).
Or jump right to our guide to Manitoba critter tracks: