Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Stroll Atop the Snow.....

I'm not sure how it's possible that I've had less time for blogging AFTER the semester ended....but that's the way it goes. 

I do have one small anecdote to share with you all.  Last Sunday, a student and I pulled all of my cameras at one study site and relocated most of them.  He took several of the cameras for a double-secret project that I hope to share cool pictures from soon (assuming it works out the way we intended).

As we pushed through the snow, moving from one camera location to the next, we continually came across both Coyote (Canis latrans) and Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) tracks.  See the example of some Coyote tracks below, and notice how spread out the toes appear. 

These canine trails consistently gave me reason to smirk.  Here we were, large and cumbersome primates, trudging our way through the shin-deep snow drifts....and getting pretty tired for it.  

Ol' Wil E., on the other hand, was able to take a more effecient route: walking on top of the snow....weight apparently spread out just right so as not to punch through the upper crust of the drift.

In all three of the pictures below, you can see the Coyote tracks on top of the snow in the foreground, while ours (as well as tracks of numerous deer) created deep tread marks in the background.

I guess that digitigrade stance pays off in a number of ways!

Hopefully more wildlife picture and stories in the future once I catch my breath.


  1. Man, look at those furry feet! I love winter tracking. It's one of my most favorite things about "the field", and I'm greatful to have snow this winter to do it!

  2. Just imagine the energy saved if we didn't sink down! Hell, even with snowshoes, I still hit bottom:)


  3. Hey Alyssa and Bill!

    Thanks for reading! got that right! It's also easy to imagine there's an advantage to chasing down deer in the snow...when they seem more prone to punch through than to 'yotes. a full run, a 'yote is probably more likely to punch through than when it's walking normally, but still!

  4. The advantage of "running on the snow" is well-used by big-pawed cougars in the winter. When you run, much of your weight is "carried" by your forward momentum, and thus your foot falls are quite light - unless you have pointy feet (i.e., no surface area). Another great example - lizards running on water. :)

  5. Sure....check out the feet on a Canada Lynx....well-designed for chasing those snowshoe hares!