Thursday, January 6, 2011

Who's That Walking 'Round My Back Yard?

Yesterday, it snowed off and on all day.  There wasn't much accumulation, just an inch or so.  Towards evening, it stopped, and, when I got up this morning, I could tell that it hadn't snowed any more over night.  I figured that would be perfect for finding tracks in the snow, and figuring out just who had visited overnight.

The first place I went, when I got outside, was the spot by the garage where, every night, I put out food for the feral cat that lives in the woods.  It's a pretty thing, a black and white tuxedo and as fey and shy as can be.  I see it from the window in my back shed two or three times a week, and I always sigh a little sigh of relief.  Life isn't easy for feral cats, and they don't usually live very long.  You shouldn't feed them, but, I often do things I shouldn't.

So I looked for cat track, and YES! there they were.  So, I knew that the little cat had a good meal last night.
You can tell that they're cat tracks by the fact that the two middle toes aren't the same length, and the pad in back is divided into three parts.  That's true whether it's a domestic cat like this, or a mountain lion.  And, no, I didn't know all of that before I got these pictures, I did some research.

These tracks were also near where the cat food was.  They aren't as clear, but you can see that you can pretty much draw an X through the parts.  That means that they're canine.
They are also bigger than the cat's tracks, but not huge.  I have seen a red fox around here on occasion, and I would guess that this guy is coming after it's dark, and finishing up what the cat leaves behind.

The sun had been up for a couple of hours, before I got outside.  So, I wasn't surprised to see these tracks.  They belong to squirrels, and those of you who have been following my blog for a while know that I have plenty of them around.

An interesting thing here is that the bigger tracks, in front, are actually made by the hind feet, while the smaller tracks behind them are made by the front feet.  That is because of the way that the animal moves, of course.

Not much doubt about these tracks either.  This is a deer track.  You can tell by the two toed appearance.  I wanted to see how many there were in my yard from one night.  There were a lot!
When I get over there after the snow melts, I suspect that I'll see lots of deer droppings, too.

These track were no surprise either.  They belong to mice, and I don't know of any place where humans are, that mice aren't.  And, they're a good many places where humans aren't, as well.
They're so tiny and delicate, when you see them in a line in the snow.

Erm, I wasn't so pleased when I saw where they were coming and going from.  This is the rather beat up corner of the old shed that you often see in my Sunday pictures.  Looks like I'm going to have a clean-up job come Spring, because it sure looks like I have mousies living there.

And, way to the back of my property, I found some more canine tracks.  I followed these along the side of my yard, near the woods, towards the road.  There they doubled back, and then turned off into the woods.  Interestingly, they didn't go anywhere near where the cat food was.  These were much bigger than the fox tracks I found earlier.
We have a leash law here, and people are very good about obeying it.  I never see any stray dogs.  So, I would say that there are coyote living in the woods, even though I never hear them.

I live in the suburbs.  Not a highly developed area, to be sure, and I do have all of those lovely woods in back of my house.  But, there sure are a lot of critters sharing the space I call home territory.  Oh well, no bear or cougar tracks, thank goodness.


Vicki Lane said...

Tracks in the snow are a kind of social column of neighborhood doings. I always like to see who's been to call.

texwisgirl said...

That was a very cool post. And informative too. Loved the little surprise mouse trails to your shed. :) Made me chuckle. You've got a lot of activity there indeed!

Sharon said...

Interesting, I have never bothered to check for tracks - So many loose dogs in the neighborhood and with Jack and Jill - they mess the snow all up right away. I do remember taking pictures of bird tracks all over the porch one time.

Sure glad you didn't find and bear or cougar tracks!!!

Terry said...

I don't think there's anything wrong with feeding a feral cat. My husband's all-time favorite cat was a feral cat we trapped. He was so wild my vet friend said "I don't know, Terry. You can't save them all", but he turned out to be my husband's special lap kitty. He'd walk right over me like I was a piece of furniture to get to David.

Gloria said...

That was very interesting and I like learning about the tracks. I enjoy that post, thanks.

~Kim at Golden Pines~ said...

Interesting tracks Louise!! I didn't know that you shouldn't feed feral cats--We also have a black and white one that I've seen a few times stalking birds. I put some canned food out for it, but haven't seen it in a few days...I guess its moved on. But it would be welcome to stay here if it wanted...

Gerry's Soap N Stuff said...

I enjoyed this post, Louise. Gerry

Upupaepops said...

totally delightful

Cindi said...

Lots of action going on at night...neat post!

IsobelleGoLightly said...

I wonder if the Woodland Gephoozlelump followed you home from the park? Oooh!

Pretty photos today!

Louise said...

Ohhhhhh, Isobelle! Do you think it could have? Yikes!

Madi and Mom said...

Footprints in the snow...well done!!!
Interesting post on things that go bump in the night. The feral cat is is very very lucky!!

We expect a dusting of snow tonight and possibly the Mother of all storms (for us anyway) on Monday and Tuesday,
Happy Weekend,
Madi and Mom

Jabacue said...

Louise, I just watched a documentary on TV last night about feral cats. In some parts of the US and Canada, there are organizations that 'catch, spay and release' these cats, so as to decrease their population. Any in your area? They do all the work which is nice. You are correct that they do not live for very long....on average of three years. But the organizations say that it is so important to neuter them and eventually the numbers of feral cats will diminish.

So many tracks around your place! Got me thinking that as soon as the snow stops here, I'll go and check to see what we have!

Cat said...

I have seen quite a few of those tracks in this area, but you know, I hadn't realized what the mouse tracks were! (Or hadn't seen them because they were covered by cat tracks?) Learn something new every day. And yes, you really, really don't want cougar tracks...


Joanna@BooneDocksWilcox said...

I used to catch feral cats in live cages, get them fixed, and set them back out where they were living (or folks to them to their barns, etc). Our local Humane Society had them fixed through their program. Interesting tracks. When I'm in my warm, cozy bed at night, I try to imagine whats going on outside.

Tammy said...

Great post. It's been years and years since I went out to see the tracks in the snow. Guess I need to do that. There is wonder all around us. My cousin and I used to, when we were kids, have a great time 'tracking' when in snowed and covered 'the big field'. I'm sure we saw bear, and maybe cougar tracks. (If only in our minds!) I too would feed the feral. I can't let anything starve or go hungry. I agree with the others...if there is a way to get it nuetered/spayed then that would be a plus. Otherwise at least it will have one good meal a day, and I'm sure that means allot.
Take care,

KB said...

I love the tracks! I see why you're considering a wildlife camera - you could get photos of who's visiting your yard overnight! It looks like you might get quite a variety of animals.

I'm wondering if you have bobcats there - I'm guessing that you do.

It's amazing how wild animals have learned to live among us without us seeing them (most of the time). Only in winter, with snow on the ground, do we know how many of them move invisibly through our world.

How big are those coyote tracks? I've been reading that eastern coyotes are actually a different species from our western coyotes. Apparently, coyotes were wiped out in the east a long time ago. Then, the ones from the west started moving eastward and some of them took a northern route where they met wolves. They bred with wolves, producing a much larger "coyote" than we have here in the west.

Sorry - I didn't mean to write a dissertation in your comments section! said...

How wonderful to have such a rich backyard wildlife! Interesting reading about the tracks, the X in the canine ones -- had no idea :)

Gillian Barfoot said...

Thank you for this wonderful and informative post -- interesting to learn about the canine and feline tracks, and I didn't realize those tiny prints were mouses... now I need to go out and check for tracks in our back field!