It was a bit of a slog walking, or even snow-shoeing, through the white stuff for several days. But for me it is worth being out and about to see who or what has been there.
Some critters are so small they can skitter across the top, tiny clawed footprints close together with barely leaving an indent. All shapes and sizes go every which way; sometimes there is evidence of “playtime” or perhaps a scuffle.
Often around those areas of major activity I see the design that tells me that it was dinner time for a bird. Their wing tip feathers, stretched apart to help keep them aloft, leave imprints not unlike a hand with the fingers spread out.
Sometimes there are sprinkles of red on the snow, but not always. Occasionally a feather remains as more attractive evidence.
I have always thought myself terribly clever because, while I recognise very few tracks, I know when a rabbit has been around. Its small front feet and much larger back feet make a triangular landing in the snow. Recently, I realised the largest part of the triangle showed the direction “Thumper” was proceeding.
Looking closely, I had noted scratches on the wide, foremost part of the track. A fairly large penny dropped – these markings were made by the toenails of the hind feet. The small front feet land first, but the back end then passes the front end. Now I just need to have one of those critters come hopping past me so I can confirm my theory.
To remind me that all indents in the snow are not made by living things, a tree dropped a sizeable snowball onto my neck recently. Needless to say, this sent chills down my back – as much from fright as from the icy drops inside my jacket. The rising wind soon sent lots more snowballs flying.
The above descriptions refer to outings during this not-quite-winter-yet, but here are a couple of left-over yarns about expeditions taken in past years and later in the season.
How to identify fox tracks
Visitors braved the February weather to come from Kaslo to Clearwater.
“You have to see the waterfalls here in winter,” we insisted. “You’ve never seen anything like them.”
After walking the cleared trail to see Helmcken Falls with its remarkable cone, we persuaded them to just tough it out to wade through the snow to reach Spahats Falls. Here, after once again watching the falling water disappear into a snowy, icy cone, John pointed out some fox tracks.
“These are distinguishable because of the two pointy toenails at the front,” he showed us.
“See, their steps are about a foot apart, but the marks from the toenails and the foot fur distinguish these tracks from those made by cats and other doggie critters. Wolves have extended toenails too which drag on top of the snow,” he informed his interested audience, before we dragged them back to the house and hot chocolate.
The mystery track
Winter was almost over. Jake the long-legged, curly-haired, black poodle and I chose to walk on the solid surface of local roads so we wouldn’t sink through the softening snow. Except it didn’t happen quite like that.
Jake sensed something nearby and took a running leap over the snow that had been pushed up by the ploughs – and down he went into the depths of the ditch beyond.
Not even the world’s best trackers would be able to identify the “track” left by his nose-plant!
A handsome dog
One more dog story: John and I were leaving our motel room in Quesnel to attend a funeral. A gentleman with his excited and excitable small dog was approaching.
I had to say Hello to Pooch, so the man picked up the snuffling wee critter for me to pet him. “You’re a handsome chap,” I said.
“Thank you,” said the owner. “So is my dog!”