Making Tracks

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 revelant, I thought I’d share it again.

Eliza Waters

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…

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About Eliza Waters

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

  1. How thrilling, Eliza, I would also be elated to see an otter doing the slide in the snow! I’ve enjoyed watching them at the Baltimore Zoo, sliding up and down their man-made created slides. I enjoyed your republished post, jumping to the original. When we had 2.5 acres 20 years ago, I did the same thing, go out after snowfall and venture to see what animals were thriving. It was a happy feeling to co-habitat with them back then!

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thank you, Donna. They are fun neighbors! Even when the deer browse my garden and I grumble, I still know they have a right to be here, they have their place and we must co-exist.

  2. Yes, those wild creatures are indeed our neighbours. Even here in suburbia we have deer (black-tailed), raccoons, rabbits, and all the small rodents (including rats). And all kinds of birds, of course. I remind myself of the neighbour thing when I find deer-nibbled plants.

  3. Anne says:

    It was marvellous to see all the photographs in your original post. I am so pleased you re-published it! How interesting to be able to identify so many tracks laid out on the snow.

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thank you, Anne, glad you liked it. 🙂 It’s fun to see who visits in the night (mostly). We have guidebooks for animal track IDing, but now with the internet, it is even easier.

  4. That must have been fun, Eliza. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one.

  5. Tranature - quiet moments in nature says:

    You have such wonderful neighbours Eliza and so lovely to see an otter slide too! 🤗💖

  6. Joanne says:

    So much beautiful wildlife you have around you! Those tracks you find are very revealing. ❤
    I'm wondering, do you have animals "native" to the US? We have native Australian animals, and any animal regarded as non-native is taboo, and fair game for the local council authorities. I wondered if you have laws such as these?

    • Eliza Waters says:

      We have mostly native animal species here, but other areas, particularly watersheds and oceans, have invasive fish and mollusks– Carp and Zebra Mussels come to mind. We’re struggling to keep out Asian insects like the Emerald Ash borer and Long-horned Beetle, as well as plants, which are numerous.
      As far as open season hunting goes, coyotes bear a lot of aggression from farmers and hunters who falsely believe they hunt livestock (they don’t), but eat small game such as mice, etc. They will scavenge dead deer if the opportunity arises. They will take a baby deer if they can, but culling naturally takes care of the weak, strengthening the herd. Human development puts pressure on their natural prey but they have adapted to urban areas, and have been known to take cats and small dogs, which drives folks to want to eradicate them. Humans don’t really ‘play well with others.’

      • Joanne says:

        Are coyotes and deer native to the states? We have wild foxes and dingoes in our area, dingoes being native to Australia. Many people believe we should eradicate foxes (I don’t believe it’s possible or should even be considered) but dingoes being native animals, they believe they should be preserved. Both hunt hares and rats, so I don’t see the difference! It’s simply the “label” – native or non-native – that sways peoples’ perception of the animals. I wonder how the “preserve only native animals” crew would feel about otters if they were wild in Australia? 😉

      • Eliza Waters says:

        Coyotes and deer are native to the US, but species vary East to West. The deer family includes moose, elk and several other deer species. Western coyotes are different than Eastern coyotes, the latter DNA includes western coyote, wolf and dog.
        Humans have introduced non-native species all over the world and it has clearly changed many ecosystems…we’re only beginning to understand the consequences. We’ve opened Pandora’s Box and must live with those consequences. As I frequently say, “The horse is out of the barn.”

  7. Robin says:

    How wonderful, Eliza!! Otters seem to know how to enjoy life. 🙂 Our otters have disappeared. I haven’t seen any signs of them at all. I’m wondering if the trappers got them (although I did not see the traps out on our part of the creek this year — perhaps they were around the bend somewhere).

  8. What a treat to see an otter slide in the snow around a waterfall and down into the stream! I’ve never seen an otter in the wild, although they say we do have them in our area. Last spring we saw a bear print in the mud by a stream… It is fun seeing the variety of footprints in the snow.

  9. Alice says:

    Yes, animal tracks are super fun to see. From all the bird-feet prints to wingtips, bunny-hop prints, fox or coyote prints across the yard & deer & squirrels and rodent tracks and tunnel mounds. Great post with all the photos, glad you ‘re-blogged’…as 6 years ago I hadn’t started following your wonderful blog. You don’t have any trail-cams set up…that would be even more fun!

  10. Treah Pichette says:

    Wow…you have the whole gamut! Our most common track across the meadow are coyotes, but we also get turkeys, fox & a whole lot of squirrels! Thank goodness for snow! Nice post.

  11. Jewels says:

    I loved reading this again, Eliza, thanks for sharing! So cool to see all those tracks!

  12. How exciting to see an otter!

  13. ke01341 says:

    Wonderful post, thank you for sharing

  14. derrycats says:

    The otter must have been so much fun to watch! I’m envious!!

  15. Isha Garg says:

    “Living in the country as we do, we share our land with many wild creatures.” – when I saw the picture I immediately exclaimed how lucky you are, Eliza. No wonder you have such a vibrant aura and kind energy about you – it’s not everyone that’s blessed to be around animals and in the lap of Mother Nature herself! The way you appreciate your blessings only go on to prove how gratitude is the key to unlock infinite blessings. I’ve said it before and would like to reiterate (in keeping with your re post 😉 ) how therapeutic your posts are! They’re really an escape ❤️

  16. Identifying tracks is fun and the snow makes them more visible. Here we are on the lookout for tracks from the mountain lions that share our mesa. Since their claws retract they can be distinguished from other critters, like big dogs. There have been several sightings lately.

    • Eliza Waters says:

      You must have to keep out a sharp eye for puma! I suppose they generally avoid humans, but I’ve read of attacks on runners that excite their chase instinct. Do you have grizzly bears? I would be very nervous about seeing one of those!

  17. Cathy says:

    It’s fascinating to hear how many creatures you get visiting in your part of the world. Opossum and raccoon tracks are completely new for me! Deer are the only ones I could clearly recognize out of all of your tracks. We see tracks like fox, hare, field mouse and various birds here. Thankfully I haven’t come across any wild boar tracks as apparently there is a group somewhere nearby in the woods. Love the slides made by the otters. Do you have beavers too?

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thanks, Cathy. We have many tracks to see in winter– lots of different birds, large mammals like moose and deer, and small rodents and yes, our biggest rodent is the beaver which we sometimes see in our river when the young ones search for new territory. Nearly every wetland/pond around here has a beaver lodge in it. In the past 30 years the population has rebounded, largely due to a change in the trapping laws and fur pelts going out of fashion.

  18. Jane Lurie says:

    How exciting and your identification skills are impressive, as always, Eliza. Would love to see those otters sliding! 🙂

  19. Kris P says:

    I love otters – who doesn’t enjoy their playful antics? I wish more people here felt the same respect for the wild creatures surrounding us. While I certainly don’t want my cat eaten by a coyote, or rabbits and peacocks eating my plants, or raccoons digging them up, I acknowledge their right of way and don’t support trapping them – or worse.

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Yes, there has to be a ‘third way’ where we can live in harmony. Wild animals have to eat and coyotes, for instance, often eat rodents which is a service to us. Protecting our pets by keeping them on a leash is the easy price we pay for that service.

  20. Murtagh's Meadow says:

    I love looking for animal prints in the snow.

  21. This was very interesting, and I must admit I’ve never seen an otter or several of those other animals you mentioned. Wow – you live in a nature preserve. 🙂 Thanks for sharing with us folks who are use to seeing deer, squirrels, chipmunks, skunks, and groundhogs. 🙂

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thank you, Judy. It does feel close to wilderness out here. I once tried counting species we’ve seen here and I got past sixty, then gave up because there were still so many left, I just rounded it to 100! 😉

  22. More creatures than corn!!

  23. dylan hereford says:

    Oh hell yea that was a friggin awesome post! So cool to see so many critters around there. You should do more animal posts if you can. This was one of my favorites! Love ya!

  24. Karen Lang says:

    A beautiful visitor for you! Love the captures 👏🥰

  25. Loved the post. The willingness to let go, and be in the moment is the mindset from which such a wonderful articulation and photos emanate. I would encourage you to write more such posts.

    Shakti

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thanks, Shakti. I wrote a lot in my earlier posts, but moved on to focus on photography. I encourage you to have a look back to those early articles. I might repost a few to give them more press. 🙂

  26. Snow certainly does give us a good idea who is out and about. Nice post, Eliza!

  27. Oh that Otter sounds like a treat to see! Such joie de vivre!

  28. Adele Brand says:

    Great post! As you can imagine, I love tracking and it’s always nice when snow is at the right depth to get a good clear print. How long do your bears sleep for? I have seen them in winter on the west coast but of course in the Rockies, they disappear for months.

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thanks, Adele. I’ve never seen a black bear between Dec. and March, but I’ve read that the males esp. only sleep intermittently, foraging occasionally. The females are more likely to den with their newborns through to spring.

  29. A different and exciting world brought to life in the winter! I often wonder about the tracks I see in the snow…Enjoyable post, Eliza!

  30. I had no idea you had so many wonderful animals to track on your property and how exciting it must have been to watch the otter sliding by your waterfall!!! This week the only new interesting tracks our the turkey prints on the roof and for some reason they were pounding on the roof (can’t be due to a lack of food).

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Maybe turkey mating season is starting early. 😉
      Last night I saw at least four deer in the backyard. Unlike you, I’m not so thrilled to see them nibbling the shrubbery, but if they move on quickly, I let ’em be. 😉

  31. wspines says:

    How wonderful, so many tracks. Its wonderful to know these creatures are around even though we rarely see them.

  32. naturebackin says:

    As others have said its wonderful to have the snow confirm the presence of such a diversity of animals and thrilling indeed to be able to see (and identify) their tracks and know that you share the same spaces with them.

  33. nshami14 says:

    I LOVE otters, but so far have always seen them at the zoo, not my back yard, not in the snow. They are so playful! Once I watched three generations of female otters playing in the water for an hour. I was mesmerized!

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