Wild Things: Give Animal Tracking a Try
The snowy landscape provides a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the native wildilfe in our preserves. Take a walk in the preserves after a fresh snow and you'll likely run across some animal tracks that provide clues about the animal, its habitat and its behavior.
"It's not just about identifying the animal that left tracks behind but kind of reading the signs and getting a bigger picture" about the animal and its habitat, said naturalist Stephanie Touzalin. "It's kind of like being a nature detective to learn more about their lives."
While birds are easier to spot throughout the year, mammals are often more elusive, so tracking provides a glimpse into their lives. "There are signs you look for even maybe before you find tracks like things like trails and commonly used routes and vegetation that's been disturbed. A good rule of thumb is where the prey goes the predator follows," Touzalin said.
One of the most common animal tracks to find are white-tailed deer, whose two-toed hooves create heart-shaped tracks if you look at them upside down. Coyote tracks are quite common but often mistaken for dogs. Coyote tracks are often smaller than you might think — maybe 2 or 2 1/2 inches long, and they often are very neat and travel in a straight line. Because dogs tend to be more curious and like to sniff and explore, their tracks will often meander more.
Curious to learn more? Sign up for one of these upcoming programs on animal tracking:
Learn about tracks, scat and other evidence animals leave behind, and then look for critters on a guided hike. Ages 5 and up with an adult. Free. Register online or at (630) 933-7248.
|Dec. 17, 22 ||10 – 11:30 a.m. ||Mayslake|
Learn how to identify tracks and other signs animals leave behind, and then look for critters on a guided hike. Ages 6 and up; under 18 with an adult. $3 per person. Register online or (630) 942-6200.
|Jan 8 ||9 – 10:30 a.m. ||Greene Valley|
|Jan 15||1 – 2:30 p.m.||Willowbrook|
|Mar 25||3 – 4:30 p.m.||McDowell Grove|
Willowbrook Wildlife Center naturalist Stephanie Touzalin talks more about animal tracking on Wild Things on WDCB Radio (90.9 FM).