January 25, 2012
Have you ever been on a walk in the winter, come across animal tracks and wondered what kind of animal made them and what they were doing? Mammal tracks show various gaits and patterns because different animals have different ways of traveling.
Walk-Mammals that walk leave behind alternating, evenly spaced prints in parallel rows. They often put their hind foot in the same spot where their front foot stepped, giving the appearance of a single line of tracks. Walking is a slow way to move, but it's very energy efficient.
Trot-Some mammals trot, which is a faster way to get around but still energy efficient. During trotting, two diagonal feet move at the same time-for example, the left front and the right rear.
Gallop-Galloping is the fastest way for a mammal to travel, but it requires a lot of energy and can be done for only short periods. When an animal gallops, all four feet leave the ground at the same time during one stage of the activity.
Bound-Bounding requires the most energy. Although it's slower than galloping, it also includes one stage when all four feet leave the ground at the same time. Rabbits, squirrels, mice and rats are all bounders.
This popular topic is repeated in Outdoor Discovery every few years.
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Learn the best places to view wildlife at DEC's Watchable Wildlife pages.
Tracks: Only Part of the Story
You can tell by animal tracks whether they were made by a deer foraging for food or a bobcat chasing prey. Did an animal stop for a drink? Are there many tracks in one spot, meaning an animal was looking for something to eat? What are some other signs of animal life that tell a story?
Scat-Scat (the scientific name for animal poop) tells us what an animal has eaten. Some animals use scat to mark their territory.
Fur and Feathers-Animals may lose their fur or feathers when they rub against something (to leave scent or scratch an itch) or when attacked by another animal. Look for fur stuck to lower tree branches or on the ground to tell you where animals have been.
Chew Marks-Animals such as deer, rabbit or beaver leave chew marks on the vegetation they eat. Chew marks are different for different animals because of their tooth structure and their eating habits.
Food Caches-Some animals such as squirrels collect and store food to eat during the winter.
Homes-Animals live in holes high in trees or near the ground, in leaf or twig nests in branches and in thick brambles. Some live in caves, burrows or dens. Deer and coyote leave well-worn paths from traveling the same trail over and over again from their homes to their feeding areas.
How can you track animal prints if there's no snow? Make your own track station. Get a 3' x 3' piece of plywood and some sand, flour or cornmeal. Find a level spot that's in the open but near trees or shrubs where animals might find food. Put the board flat on the ground and sprinkle flour, cornmeal or sand on the entire surface. Come back the next morning to check for footprints on your track station. How many different kinds are there? Use the posters offered above to help you identify your nighttime visitors.
Read Conservationist for Kids for more information and activities!
DEC Summer Education Camp
Are you looking for a summer camp where your child can have a fun-packed, educational experience in the great outdoors? Then check out DEC's Environmental Education Camps! Applications must be postmarked no earlier than January 28, 2012. All four camps (Colby, Pack Forest, DeBruce and Rushford) educate youth who are 11 to 13 years old.
Pack Forest in the southern Adirondacks is also open to campers 14 to 17 years old during five sessions of camp. Camp Rushford will offer one week for the 14 to 17 year old program. These older campers will participate in the DEC Teen Ecology Workshop. The cost of attending the one-week session is $350. If you would like to download an application for camp or would like more information, visit the DEC website.
Upcoming DEC Events
Watchable Wildlife: Birding by Snowshoe
Saturday, January 28 at 9:00 AM
Call 518-475-0291 by Wednesday, January 25 to reserve snowshoes and/or to register. If there is insufficient snow, we will go on foot. In the event of severe weather, this program may be cancelled.
Teacher Workshop: Project Wild Aquatic
Saturday, January 28 from 1:00 to 4:00 PM
This interactive workshop introduces instructional activities which integrate aquatic wildlife themes into the core disciplines. Participants will receive a free Project WILD Aquatic K-12 Curriculum and Activity Guide full of hands-on activities which correlate to NYS learning standards. Call 518-475-0291 by January 25 to register.
Family Fun: Groundhog Day
Saturday, February 4 at 10:00 AM
Children must be accompanied by an adult. Call 518-475-0291 by Wednesday, February 1 to register. In the event of severe weather, this program may be cancelled.
New York's Wild Cats
Saturday, February 4 at 2:00 PM
If weather permits, an outdoor walk to examine the habitat and prey of these elusive animals will conclude the presentation.
Albany Pine Bush Preserve Discovery Center (link leaves DEC's website)
CSI: Critter Scene Investigation
Saturday, January 28 from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM
Call 518-456-0655 or go the Albany Pine Bush website to register. Cost: $3.00/person, $5.00/family, children under 5 free.
More events at Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center (link leaves DEC's website)
Central New York
Programs at Rogers are now offered by the Friends of Rogers (link leaves DEC's website); there are no DEC education staff at the site due to fiscal constraints.
Snowshoe at Brookfield State Park
Saturday, January 28 at 10:00 AM
Call 607-674-4733 to register.
Kids Drop-in Program
Saturday, February 4 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Parents must stay with children during the entire event. Dress for outdoor weather.
Full Moon Member Night Hike/Snowshoe
Tuesday, February 7 at 7:00 PM
For members and those interested in becoming members.
Western New York
Advance registration is required. Call 716-683-5959.
Thursdays, January 26 and February 2 at 4:30 PM
Enjoy a one-hour program for kids featuring a different, fun, outdoor activity each week. For children in grades K-5. No registration required.
Winter Wonderland in the Woods
Saturday, January 28 from 1:00 to 4:00 PM
Try our snowshoes or cross-country skis for free, go on a winter scavenger hunt, take a winter wildlife tour, make snow sculptures, and more! Kids can create nature-related winter crafts. No registration required.
Learn to Ski
Sunday, January 29 at 1:00 PM
Ski rental = $4.00/person; Friends of Reinstein members = $2.00.
Tuesday, January 31 at 6:00 PM
Snowshoe rental = $4.00/person; Friends of Reinstein members = $2.00.
Educator Workshop: Project Learning Tree Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood
Saturday, February 4 from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Attendees receive a curriculum guide and music CD that incorporate investigations of nature with art, literature, math, music and movement. For educators of students ages 3 to 6.
Tuesday, February 7 at 6:30 PM
Experienced cross-country skiers are invited to join us on this guided ski tour. Ski rental = $4.00/person; Friends of Reinstein members = $2.00.