Making Tracks

White-tailed Deer track

White-tailed Deer track

Living in the country as we do, we share our land with many wild creatures. Though rarely seen as most are nocturnal, we occasionally see sign of them in a muddy footprint by the river or a soft spot of earth on the path. Once the snow falls, the whole world of animals outside our door comes to light through their tracks and it is breathtaking to see how vibrantly alive with wildlife are these fields and woods.

Mink tracks

Mink tracks

Me and Ms. Fox

Me and Ms. Fox

Seeing numerous tracks, large to very small, is like a tour of discovery every time I walk out. Identifying the owners is an intellectual guessing game.

In the past week, I’ve seen coyote, fox, bobcat, bear, deer, opossum, raccoon, otter, mink, rabbit, porcupine, squirrel, numerous birds and countless small species of rodents. Most on our small parcel of seven acres, a few on our neighbor’s land, but none more than a half mile away.

Opossum tracks

Opossum tracks

Otter slide from upper right to lower left across our foot  path

Otter slide from upper right to lower left across our foot path

Close-up of otter slide - Welcome Friend!

Close-up of otter slide – Welcome Friend!

“These are my neighbors,” I think to myself. They live here, connected to their home just as I am. They live out their lives and we so rarely see them. I suspect many of my fellow humans barely give them a thought, but they are here by the hundreds and they have learned to co-exist in a human-dominated world.

Raccoon tracks

Raccoon tracks

I can’t help but feel admiration for their tenacity for survival. It feels thrilling to know that they are thriving and multiplying, a reassuring indication that this environment is clean and healthy. I am so grateful to share their world.

“Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than [this].”                            ~ New Testament, Mark 12:31

“Mitakuye Oyasin” (All are Related)                                                          ~ Lakota phrase

Ruffed Grouse landing, with wing print and footprints

Ruffed Grouse landing, with wing print and footprints

White-footed Mouse

White-footed Mouse



About Eliza Waters

Gardener, writer, photographer, naturalist
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67 Responses to Making Tracks

  1. Sharon K. says:

    I always enjoy seeing tracks (other than mine) in the snow.

    You have snow!

    Lovely post, Eliza. 🙂

  2. Treah says:

    These are SO cool!

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thank you! It’s been amazing how many tracks I’ve seen this week. I think perhaps with the early snow fall we are seeing pre-hibernation activity that we wouldn’t normally see.

  3. cindy knoke says:

    Oh my, you have otter! And you have mink! Awesome! Love your set. I haven’t seen bobcat tracks or mountain lion tracks at The Holler for over a year now. We just had rain, I need to go check.

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thanks, Cindy. We have so many animals here. I’ve never made a formal list, but it must be a long one. Supposedly, cougar have been sighted in town, but I have yet to experience one myself and that is okay by me!

  4. mk says:

    Oh, what wonderful sights this must be! It would so warm my heart to see so many signs of friends all around,

  5. maureenc says:

    Thank you (yet again) for sharing your neighbours with your readers! It makes me MISS the visitors that used regularly to cut through our paddocks and even the house yard. I had the odd dingo, wallabies as well as possums and koala. The birdlife was prolific……..galahs, cockatoos, ducks , Jabiru and wedge tailed eagle.
    What an amazing diversity of wild life you have visiting.! Lucky! Lucky you.

  6. Kate Houck says:

    This is a fantastic post and such important images and thoughts to share. I often feel cold and distanced from the natural world during this time of year, but you have made me feel connected tonight 🙂

    • Eliza Waters says:

      What a kind comment Kate, I’m glad to serve as connector. Do you live in the midwest? It gets cold here, but I have to go out every day or I go crazy. Lots of down and good boots keep me comfortable, but our temps. rarely go below zero during the day.

  7. Lily Lau says:

    To leave and follow tracks on the snow is so much fun! 🙂 I already want to visit a snowy forest!

  8. dorannrule says:

    There is something to be said about country living and the connections we make with the natural world. No snow here yet, but when it finally arrives, I am now inspired to investigate “tracks.”

  9. Maria F. says:

    Great quotes Eliza! Very informative post! I’ve learned how to distinguish these now. Thanks!

  10. seedbud says:

    Eliza, fabulous post! Your woods/surroundings are so busy!! Lucky you. I saw tracks a little while back that made me wonder ‘do bears tiptoe?’ but a naturalist friend suggested that it was the marks of a fox pouncing – which they do to make mice and chipmunk appear from their snow cover. OH and me too I have to go outside every day regardless how cold or I go stir crazy. Best, Catherine.

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thanks, Catherine! so glad you liked it. You understand me completely! I would have loved to see the fox pounce marks. I did see one of the bobcat’s pounce and kills, but it was a bit too gruesome to post. 😉

  11. Jewels says:

    Oh I love this post Eliza, it’s always so wonderful to see wildlife tracks in the snow! I miss living in the country…

  12. Wonderful! I’ve had this exact experience on the rare snowy morning in Virginia. First there is that feeling of shock, really, at just how much is going on in the dead of night all around the house. And then I feel sort of….what’s the word…..humbled, maybe, that I am just one of the many creatures at home in our little corner of the world. How on earth did you learn to read these paw prints? I’m very impressed.

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thanks, Barbara. I have a really good guide book! 🙂 After seeing lots of critters here over the past 24 yrs. it is pretty easy to guess their tracks. I consider myself an amateur with a little experience.

  13. What a wonderful and beautiful post. Thank you so very much.

  14. I love getting to “go” on these little sightseeing trips with you. It is a gift to see the world through the eyes of another.

  15. Robin says:

    Beautiful post, Eliza! I love seeing all the different animals tracks. And an otter slide!! How wonderful is that? 🙂 I find a lot of tracks along our sand driveway, and always marvel at how many creatures are out there that I never see other than through their tracks, trails, and scat.

  16. Murtagh's Meadow says:

    How wonderful to have all these ‘secret’ neighbors Eliza. Loved all the track photos. Great post:)

  17. LadyPinkRose says:

    Amazing how you know what those tracks are, Eliza! I know a few, but some no. I really enjoyed your post. Thank you. Love, Amy

  18. margber says:

    This is so awesome, Eliza! Did you take those pictures? I have always loved finding tracks in the snow. In fact, I LOVE the snow! We have none this year so far. A far cry from last year’s Polar Vortex, which I loved. I am hoping for a few inches by Christmas. It would be an added gift if I found some tracks in that snow. Loved this!!

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thanks so much. Yes, those are my photos. I was amazed at the abundant tracks I’ve been seeing lately, so thought I’d share them with everyone. I tried to represent a portion of them. Missed taking ones of the porcupine and bear track – maybe another time. My favorite was the otter slide – they love to play. Hope you get your white Christmas!

  19. Rebecca says:

    Eliza: as always your photographs are so beautiful and I so utterly agree with you about how important (and humbling) it is to be reminded (by a simple thing like footprints in the snow — or in my case footprints in the sand!) that other creatures coexist with us on this planet. I often think about this when I am sitting on my porch watching the birds fluttering around or the ants crawling along the ground between shreds of discarded bark and leaves. They go about their lives, as do we. It makes me feel grounded and part of something bigger than myself. And that’s all to the good 🙂

  20. Robbie says:

    Such a beautiful post! I have been away from my computer and our local internet was down for two days-crazy-huh-lol. We did survive…I just love this post for it is one of my favorite things to do- is go outside and hike in the woods when the snow first falls-all those neat tracks-great photos+ blog post!

  21. Eliza Waters says:

    Reblogged this on Eliza Waters and commented:

    A few days ago, I was thrilled to see an otter ‘slide’ in the snow that wound around our waterfall, over a steep lip (whee!) and all the way down the stream (hop-hop-slide). Otters are such fun-loving creatures!
    While I didn’t get a photo of the slide that day, I published this post six years ago– and as it’s still revelent, I thought I’d share it again.

  22. Beautiful post, Eliza! Thanks for resharing. I love how you think of all the various creatures in the woods as your neighbors. And so they are, and we should indeed cherish them.

  23. Joanne says:

    You have no idea how much reading this post means to me, Eliza. You have written the words so eloquently that I too feel in my heart, the last two paragraphs in particular. ❤

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thank you, Joanne. I wish more humans thought of our role in the world more respectfully. We need to see the big picture, we need every player, small to large, for the world to work.

  24. Next time I see an otter slide I will know what I’m looking at — I had no idea! Thank you for sharing this informative and thoughtful post. May we all be good neighbors!

  25. tippysmom2 says:

    You have a lot of animals traipsing around your property! I didn’t really see any tracks in the snow yesterday, which is odd. I usually at least see rabbit and squirrel tracks. I did see two deer near my driveway this morning. I always enjoy them.

  26. Great assortment of animal tracks Eliza! You have a lot of wildlife in your yard! Enjoyed seeing your images!

  27. It must be a delight to see so many tracks and know which neighbours have been around.

  28. Debbie says:

    Oh, this is wonderful — I missed it the first time and am glad to read it now. Otter? Mink? Bobcat? Wow, you’ve got some interesting neighbors, Eliza!

  29. This is fantastic! I love these little footprints. What a fun adventure 🙂

  30. Oh goodness I feel the same way about “my neighbors”!

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