Somerset Wildlife Trust

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Wildlife Tracking in Winter

Somerset's big four!

With mammals on the move seeking to gain body fat in preparation for the lean months of winter it's a perfect time of year to brush up on your tracking skills. 

 

 

Rabbits

Rabbits leave very distinctive tracks, with the rear feet making sausage shaped marks in the ground and the front two feet being staggered one in front of the other.

You can see just how active and numerous they are by looking out for their tracks and also guess at the different ages by the size of their feet.

 

Foxes

Where there are rabbits there are almost certainly foxes. The elusive rural fox often visits rabbit warrens as part of its nightly, or crepuscular activity, and when the ground is blanketed with snow this can clearly be seen.

Fox prints are similar to a small dog but there are some key differences to look for. The overall shape is more elongated, and their claw marks are generally more delicate, as these are sharper than domesticated dogs that walk on tarmac.

In the right conditions you can see the presence of hair in between the toes. The other difference is that foxes tend to direct register (step in their own tracks) and often tread in a very distinctive straight line, one foot in front of the other.

 

Otters

Otter tracks are very distinctive although the webbing is rarely seen. The toes are tear drop shaped and resemble domestic feline feet rather than canine.

Apart from the footprints there are also the spraints to find. Dark coloured and strongly scented they often contain fish bones or scales and are generally placed high up on a prominent rock or root to maximise the chances of other wildlife catching a whiff!

Take a look at my photo of an otter track noting the mallard print to the left for size comparison.

 

Badgers

It is also a good time of year to find badger tracks in the wet mud or snow which show all of its five toes to the front in an arc, with a large main pad behind. In soft ground you can see all five toes but more commonly just four - the inside toe is the one missing. The front feet exhibit very strong blunt claws which makes them such efficient diggers. The overall shape is circular as apposed to oval of the dogs.

With less for them to eat and energy conservation in mind they tend to get lazy and only come out every few nights, when it is really cold ­and who can blame them?

 

Send in your spots

Keep a look out for interesting tracks and signs when you're out walking and let us know what you find. If you take any photos and need help identifying them you can send them to us using the form below.

Rabbit tracks 001 cpt Amy Lewis

Rabbit track © Amy Lewis


Fox close sml

Fox track © Martin Prothero
 

Otter track with mallard © Martin Prothero

Otter track , plus mallard, © Martin Prothero
 

Badger track © Martin Prothero


Badger tracks © Martin Prothero

Let us know what tracks you spot.

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