Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Track of the Week 21

Setting: Just east of Snoqualmie Pass this weekend. Unfortunately my snow photography could use some practice. I think I've got the tracks showing up pretty well, but at the expense of the ruler (which is about 6 inches long).

1. What gait?

This is a classic bound. Notice the two (hind) feet at the top inline with each other (though they can be a bit offset) and the two staggered (front) feet at the bottom (though in general the fronts of a bound can be inline or even more staggered).

2. What species?

This is the classic track pattern of the lagomorph family. While the toes show up a bit here, often all that is visible is the outline of the feet (though in some substrates all you might see is the claw marks).

One of the reasons I wanted to put these tracks up for a track of the week was to show an example of how useful gaits can be in identification. Looking at individual tracks of these species can be deceptive: it is possible to confuse them with anything from a squirrel up to a cougar or a dog. But pull back and if you can see the track pattern it is almost unmistakable.

Because of the location and size we can identify this as a snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus).

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