Jan 24

Footprints in the Snow

by Amanda de Boer, Board Director

After a snowfall, I’m eager to get outdoors early. This is one of the most fantastic times to discover who is living in your backyard. Tracking footprints in the snow can be particularly exciting for folks like me who crave sightings of wildlife. Originally from Calgary, I grew up the lush green community of Woodbine and would get excited to see small critters like squirrels, hares, and porcupines out the window. Still, despite my love of wildlife, I kept a pane of glass between us.

Connecting with nature is an important way to learn about respect for our environment. Allowing nature to scare you, fill you up with adrenaline, and provide for your basic needs only, is how we teach our children to feel alive. But what is out there? What about in the park across the street with the small pond or further, to the outskirts of the city where the farmers work, or further still to the grassy valleys and to the never-frozen river? These places are where one must venture to breathe in nature and set themselves up to explore it.

Tracking footprints can be an awesome activity for you and your spouse, or your kids. Download an app, put on your snow pants and boots, and start walking. If you are aware, you will see tracks right away, and give yourself credit for all the footprints you recognize.

As you begin to get better at recognizing who the track belongs to, then determine if the animal was running, trotting, or standing still. Was it eating in its spot, or standing astute to potential predators? Which direction did the animal come from, and travel to? Was there just one, or a pack?

Doing some research can enhance the adventure; what animal tracks might you find in your neighbourhood? Hares, rabbits, muskrats, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, voles, sparrows, grouse, owls, bucks and does, cows and horses – can you find them all?

In your tracking you will no doubt be duped by your own dog; and do not forget to look up once in a while because that buck you are tracking could be standing right before you.

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