Thursday, January 15, 2009

Update from the Lake: Tracks...

...Of a mountain lion, a deer?


Tracks in the snow: if you enlarge the photo and look closely, you can see 4 sets of these tracks going off into the trees in the distance. The animal was probably moving towards the camera in this photo.

The last time MOH and I were at the lake, the snow was 12 to 18 inches deep, with a heavy corn-snow crust such that we were both able to easily walk on top without breaking through.

While walking around in the backyard, MOH discovered some large, widely spaced animal tracks that had been moderately degraded by snow compaction, melting, and time. The tracks were about 10 to 15 feet apart, and MOH said they were similar to tracks he'd seen in snow on Wheeler Peak. At first we thought the tracks might have been made by a mountain lion (cougar or puma). Mountain lions live around the lake and feed on the local mule deer population, among other things.
larger1 An enlargement of the second set of tracks, with winter boot for scale, above. The animal probably moved - bounding or galloping - from right to left.
tracks into trees We followed the tracks farther into the backyard, where they eventually went through and around some small trees and manzanita bushes and then toward what appeared to be a deer bed under an evergreen tree.
larger2 Here's another close-up of one set of tracks. I think that the animal was moving from left to right in the picture.
tracks againThis is what the tracks looked like as they went away from the deer bed, towards the original photos and towards the front yard. Behind the deer bed, in another yard, I saw some human footprints. I'm thinking that a person unwittingly walked close to the hidden deer, causing it to leap and bound out of its bed, and then it continued to bound or gallop into our front yard, making wide-spaced tracks in the snow.

I couldn't find many good, online examples of large animals running, bounding, or galloping through snow (or any other substrate, for that matter), but did find examples in a tracking book. Our tracks looked more like the deer tracks shown in the book than the cat tracks, but our tracks were relatively old and degraded. If you have any other opinions about these tracks, let me know. Following them from near our front door, all the way through our backyard, and then all the way back into our front yard, was fun. I like tracking!


Unbalanced Reaction said...

Darn! I was hoping for a Bigfoot story (I kid, I kid).

Silver Fox said...

Hmmm... I thought about that, a giant sasquatch stomping through the snow. The tracks didn't look right though. And it wasn't in the tracking book either! ;)

Short Geologist said...

I had a very enthusiastic malamute/german shepard mix on site once and a visitor got all excited about the wolf tracks.

I haven't found terribly exciting tracks other than moose (huge!) myself.

Silver Fox said...

Moose tracks can be pretty exciting if fresh and the moose is nearby!

Anonymous said...

I took pictures yesterday of the same type of large tracks spaced at least 5 feet apart and thought they might be Mountain Lion.

Silver Fox said...

Too bad I can't see those pictures! :)