Monday, December 01, 2008

Track of the Week 11

Central Idaho, end of July 2008

1. Who?
These are badger tracks. When I first walked up to them, I thought bobcat because the foot morphology is pretty similar. Badgers do have a 5th toe that registers, but often faintly as there is just a faint impression in the front track here. The big give away that it isn't a bobcat though is the claws sticking way out in front.

The claws are easy to miss if you tunnel vision in close on the tracks, but once you see them there are very few options of animals around here that have claws that long. And badgers are the only ones that look at all like this.

Like most other mammals with long claws, badgers are avid diggers. They are members of the mustelid (weasels, otters, etc.) family though to my mind, they don't seem to fit in it very well.

2. Which feet?
A badger's front tracks are noticeably larger than their hinds. So we have a front track on the right of the photo and a hind to the left.

On badger tracks the inner toe is the smallest and does not reliably register. That and the shape of the front claw marks indicate these are the left side of the body.

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ForestMusic said...

I don't really expect to be right with this...but I'll give it a shot.
Female coyote looking slightly to her left?

ForestMusic said...

Oh yeah, which feet.
On the right side of the photo I think it's the left front and then the left rear behind it.

Jonathan said...

Thanks for posting :)

Could explain what led you to those answers?

One of your answers is correct :)

I'll give a hint that there is a part of the track that is less obvious, but is a helpful characteristic for identification.

ForestMusic said...

Well, the track on the right seems a bit round for canine, so at first I thought it might be feline. But then I noticed the claw marks ahead of it. The fact that there are claw marks and the shape that they're in made me think it was definitely canine.
Also the track on the right is larger so I assumed it was the front foot, and the direction of the claw marks makes me think it's the left front.
What makes me think it's a female is that if that is the left front, then it seems that the left rear has fallen slightly to the outside of the front track.If I remember correctly, female tracks show up this way because their hips are wider than a male.
Finally, the reason I think she was looking slightly to her left is because the left toes on both tracks are slightly deeper than the toes on the right.

Jonathan said...

That seems like pretty good reasoning.

I'm glad you noticed the claw marks there. I would recommend looking through a field guide with those in mind as well as other observations you have of the tracks (e.g. that they seem a bit round for a canine). But I would say the claws are one of the big clues for this animal.

As for the hip/sexing thing, I've heard that as well. But none of the experienced trackers I've been out with have found it to be a good indicator. I would be particularly cautious to try and use it in a situation like this where you can't see much of the trail... But it's great to be paying attention to details like that to see if you notice any patterns.