Share it! Science : See it? Share it! Science Observations and Questions

Friday, November 21, 2014

See it? Share it! Science Observations and Questions

Wildlife Tracking
     This week we had several snowy mornings. Just a dusting, no lake effect snow here! Sorry Buffalo! The thin layer of snow is the perfect ground surface for animal tracking. Each morning before the sun comes up we strap on our headlamps and take our dog for a walk. She often has her nose to the ground sniffing and tracking who knows what. This week we had the rare treat of understanding what she was investigating with her nose. I quickly identified some red fox tracks with their straight and steady walking gait. Unlike the meandering tracks of my dog, you'll find fox tracks in a direct register pattern, meaning that the back paw lands directly in the track of the front paw, creating a straight line of tracks. Red fox footprints are fairly small, usually less than 2" long or wide. We tracked the fox for at least a quarter of a mile before it ducked off into the woods. There were times when our dog tracked the fox precisely and times when she got distracted by other olfactory wonders.
Tracks spotted during a walk last February. © S.B.F 2014
     Wildlife tracking can be a really fun family activity. You can find tracks in the snow, sand or mud just about anywhere. Once you have identified your animal tracks you can begin to piece together the natural history mystery they have left behind. 

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Some tracking resources I find incredibly useful for tracking with children are: 
Mammal Tracks and Scat: Life Size Tracking Guide by Lynn Levine and Martha Mitchell. 
This guide is one of few that shows life size tracks for mammals large and small. Imagining scale can be a difficult concept for younger children, so this allows kids to see tracks on the page they size they will see them in real life. It is also a weatherproof guide so you can take it on your adventures.

Tracks, Scats and Signs (Take Along Guides) by Leslie Dendy
This is a great introduction to tracking and animal sign geared towards children.

Your state's conservation office most likely offers some sort of tracking guide. There are several printable tracking cards from around New England: 

Here's a video to get you started from the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation 

What sort of science observations did you make this week? Do you have a great resource for animal tracking with children you'd like to share? Please do so in the comment section below. Happy tracking!

Post Updated: 1/4/2016

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