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January Scavenger Hunt: Tiny Trails

posted Jan 7, 2020, 9:36 AM by Jonathan Poppele   [ updated Jan 7, 2020, 9:37 AM ]
Last month's Scavenger Hunt yielded a number of observations of tiny trails -- 2x2 bounding patterns left behind by long-tailed shrews, deer mice, and meadow voles. A number of these trails look surprisingly similar. Which brings up the question, how can we distinguish between the trails of our smallest mammals? This can be even more of a challenge when the animal modifies its gait to accommodate deep snow (well, deep for a mouse at least).

This month, I invite you to join me in search of tiny trails. Seek out and identify trails left by members of the following groups:

1) A Mouse (Peromyscus species)
2) A Vole (Microtus species)
3) A Shrew (Family Soricidae)

For an added challenge, search out and distinguish the trails of:

1) A Long-Tailed Shrew (Sorex species)
2) A Short-Tailed Shrew (Blarina species)
3) Similar Size Trails from Other, Unrelated Animals (e.g. salamander, junco, least weasel, etc.)

Since some of these trails can look nearly identical, investigate (and document!) them well enough that both you and other observers can feel confident in the identification. Look for scat or other sign along the trail. Find where the trail begins or ends. Look for changes in gait.

I look forward to seeing what you find, and learning more about how to distinguish the trails of our tiniest track-makers.

Share What You Find

Please share what you find to our iNaturalist project: Minnesota Wildlife Tracking Project: Scavenger Hunt. This is an open project, and anyone with an iNaturalist account can join and add observations.

You can set up an iNaturalist account here.
And join the project here.