Diane Becker, "Country Life"

One good thing about all of the vast whiteness of snow in our yard is seeing the interesting tracks made by animals that we hadn’t known were walking around our farm.

We have a miniature beagle who doesn’t usually step through snow more than 4 inches deep, so it’s not Howie making all these tracks, which makes us wonder what animals are roaming around our home.

Looking out through the window onto the front of our house, I can see lots of rabbit tracks. At one point it looks a rabbit must have been trying to make a snow angel as there’s a circular snow pattern next to one set of rabbit tracks. According to all the tracks, we either have a lot of rabbits or a few very active ones.

There are deer tracks where we hadn’t known deer usually traveled. It is easy to tell a deer track from, say, a grizzly bear track but I’m no tracker. If we had a muddy yard, it wouldn’t be too difficult to figure out that a raccoon with its five toes was walking across our yard. I could also identify chicken tracks but that’s the extent of my tracking ability.

I should really become more proficient in reading tracks. Case in point: This summer my husband Tom showed us a photo he had taken of a large cat track near an irrigation well. Its shape and measurements matched the photos of mountain lions’ tracks on a wildlife website.

He had taken the photos of these tracks back in August and the well is about 8 miles away from our farm, but you never know how far a mountain lion might travel looking for food. If it wasn’t so cold last week, I might have been out taking a closer look at the bigger tracks traversing across our field.

Now that it’s warmed up, I’ll never know what sort of big game has been wandering around our farm.

We’ve watched old Westerns where the sheriff can look at tracks and tell if a shoe was loose on one of the horses, if the horses were trotting and how many riders were on each horse. I don’t see them reading many tracks in the snow, though.

I do know that the tracks in our yard that looked like a heavy-footed person dragging a body through the snow was actually me taking a shortcut from the shed from which I had given up carrying a bag of softener salt and was pulling it behind me. You can’t always know what these tracks mean. Once the weather was over 30 degrees, our little dog was happily hopping through the deep snow making tracks like a caribou.

Even though the snow is melting and the tracks are disappearing, it has been interesting to see all of the animal activity on our farm that we never had a clue was happening.

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