Spring 2024 Cedar Creek Story of the Day

Our Spring Cedar Creek Wildlife Survey took place on Saturday, June 1. Overnight rains wiped the sandy substrate clean of tracks—but that didn’t dampen the spirits of our small group, who spent most of the day exploring the bison paddock for animal sign. Indeed, after the rain passed the weather could not have been better. The sun was out, temperatures hovered in the 60s, and despite the light breezes, the mosquitoes scarcely showed themselves.

The rain let up around 6:00 AM—well after sunrise. Nocturnal animals had bedded down for the day, but the deer were still active. And so our tracking team began the day in the Lindeman Center parking lot studying the trail of a whitetail deer. The trail showed an extended gallop, with stride lengths reaching over 7 meters (23ʹ) and group lengths of 1.7 – 2.2 meters (66ʺ – 88ʺ)—longer than any reported in the tracking literature. This deer was flying. The trail offered a good study in high-energy deer locomotion, and in distinguishing front and hind tracks. Our group followed the trail across the parking lot to the edge of the woods. We also back-tracked the deer toward the road just north of Lindeman—but we were unable to interpret what might have caused the animal to take flight.

Following our study of the deer’s trail, we carpooled down to the southern end of Old East Bethel Dr., and set out to explore the bison paddock. The western end of the paddock is dotted with large wallows, which make excellent track traps. But with the overnight rain, the only prints registering in these sandy wallows were those of deer, wild turkey, and a few cottontails. And so our team spent most of our time puzzling over various digs, studying a flying squirrel midden, and recording sightings of toads, birds, a monarch caterpillar, and a vibrant red raspberry slime mold.

After walking through the western end of the bison enclosure, our team followed the roads back to our vehicles. Along the roads, we spotted tracks of American Robins, Sandhill Cranes, and some of the smallest deer tracks any of us had ever seen—barely 2 cm (just over ¾ʺ) long, with a stride of 51 cm (20ʺ).

Thanks to everyone who came out to join us for our spring survey. We’ll keep you all posted when we schedule future surveys.