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December 2018 Natural Mystery Answered

posted Jan 11, 2019, 2:08 PM by Jonathan Poppele   [ updated Jan 12, 2019, 3:32 PM ]
The December Natural Mystery was an extremely challenging track. At first glace, it looks like a deer, and indeed there were deer tracks in the area. But this is not a deer track. Rob Grunewald was the first to point out that there was something strange about the drag marks into and out of the print. They are broad and flat, rather than showing a pair of groves that we might expect from the tips of a cloven hoof. Kim Cabrera picked up on this as well, and takes it from there with her correct interpretation:

Domestic dog. There appears to be some sort of drag heading into the track, which is headed to the right. At first, I thought it might be a set of squirrel tracks going to the left, but it looks more like a dog to me. There are some faint indicators of claw marks to the right side. The points are the two leading toes, with the claw marks. Nearer the 1 inch mark on the ruler, there are the outer two toes of the dog's track. I think it slipped or just dragged the foot a little bit as it made this particular track

Yes, this is a domestic dog track. Kim is exactly right that the outer toes (2 & 5) are faintly visible in the print--just much fainter than the impressions of the middle toes. I came across this track on a day I was out looking for deer trails to follow. The entire outing was a reminder in how much dog tracks can resemble deer tracks in the snow. On some of the harder packed trials, I was regularly finding dog tracks that only clearly showed toes 3 & 4 and looked surprisingly like deer tracks. This track was the most extreme example, but I was doing a lot of double takes that day!

Thanks as always to everyone who offered answers to this Natural Mystery.