July 2022 Natural Mystery Answered
We received one correct answer to our July Natural Mystery. Congratulations to Kirsten Welge for identifying the maker of these tracks, and interpreting the track pattern.
These are the tracks of a woodchuck (Marmota monax), traveling in a bound. I'll turn it over to Kirsten, for her excellent interpretation:
"Four tracks are present in this pattern. The tracks below the 57” and 63” marks show four distinct toes in a 1-2-1 configuration with clear prominent claws, a robust trapezoidal metapodial pad, and carpal pads. These two tracks are curved inwards, towards the center line of the animal, and measure 2 1/8 ” L x 1.75” W.
The tracks registering at 66” and 67” show five toes, a wide metapodial pad, and a clear cone-shaped “heel”. Toes on these tracks appear to be in a 1-3-1 configuration. These tracks measure 2.25” L x 1.75” W.
This is a bound track pattern, registering FR FL HR HL (photo L to R).
The 1-2-1 front toe and 1-3-1 hind toe morphology narrows our candidates to a rodent (mice, rats, or squirrels).
The strong inward curvature of these tracks and prominent claw marks on the front tracks suggest a ground squirrel.
Ground squirrel tracks in this size point to Marmota monax, the woodchuck.
The story: This cute chonk of a ground squirrel was booking it!"
Exactly right. Woodchucks typically travel in a walk, but will bound when startled. These tracks were incredibly fresh when I found them--likely just a few minutes old. Given that, I was probably the cause of this woodchuck bounding toward cover.