You've shoveled out and plowed the driveway – now its time to take advantage of all this snow. GO FIND SOME ANIMAL TRACKS. Animals move through the snow and leave direct evidence of their identity, location and behavior. For instance, on the Armstrong Preserve I found where three deer bedded down during the storm. I also followed a fox on a long trek over hill and dale. The grand prize of my post-blizzard journey: an American mink hopping along the icy shore of the nearby Cross River Reservoir.
Seeing animal tracks in the snow really puts our backyards into a new perspective. Most wildlife is secretive and many of our local mammals only come out at night or during twilight. They usually go about their lives totally undetected, so it is hard for us to appreciate them as neighbors. After a snow fall it becomes obvious how many critters rely on your backyard. I suggest you spend a few minutes wandering around your backyard, scanning the snow for signs of animals. You will be surprised by the amount of wildlife moving about just beyond your awareness. Don't worry if you don't know which animal made the tracks – what's enjoyable is seeing where the tracks lead and getting a sense of your wild backyard.
The following pictures are from a few hours of wandering around the Armstrong Preserve. Note: The powdery snow is sometime difficult to track in because it is so easily disturbed (melted, blown around, etc.). After today's rain, the snow will be harder and more able to clearly capture the track of an animal.
If you are interested in the subject of animal tracking there are many resources out there. Here are two:
In print: Mammal Tracks and Sign by mark Elbroch
Web-based: Alderlead Wilderness College
Happy tracking, feel free to share with me what you find.