Monday, March 1, 2021

Animal Tracks of 2021

We finally got some snowcover for a good month this year, unlike the past few years. Animals left all kinds of tracks, especially deer and squirrels, and coyote. Here are a few of the more interesting tracks left behind:

FISHER There were lots of fisher tracks near the Birchbank overlook. The tracks zigzagged through the steep rocks just below the overlook and went from tree to tree on the flat knoll just below the summit, then straight down the hill, crossing the blue/white connector and reappearing at the Aquarion recharge ponds at the foot of the slope, finally crossing Birchbank Road and heading south down the RR tracks. 

Fisher and deer at Birchbank

Fisher tracks at Birchbank

Fisher are large members of the weasel family, related to otter and skunks. They were once eradicated from Connecticut, but restocked in 1988 in the Northwest hills. They mostly eat small mammals like squirrels and mice and rabbits, and can climb trees. Although fierce for their size, their supernatural attributes have been greatly exaggerated as urban legends.  Screams attributed to fisher are usually that of the red fox.  These tracks were further corroborated by sightings of fisher by residents of the Birchbank neighborhood over the past several years. 

More fisher tracks, although less clear, were also seen off of Nells Rock Trail at Shelton Lakes. With territories of several square miles, one fisher can cover a large area, although these tracks were probably a different individual. 

OTTER  The most delightfully unexpected tracks were these slide marks from an otter at Boehm Pond. The slide marks criss-crossed the entire pond. Otter are extremely playful and slide just for the fun of it. Although the tracks were frozen solid when viewed, it looks like the surface was quite slick and slushy when the tracks were made. A video of the otter was later taken as the otter rested on the ice at a beaver lodge. The beaver keep the water open around the lodge. Otter are scattered about Connecticut and are not seen much in Shelton except perhaps along the Housatonic River. This otter probably swam up the Far Mill River to Isinglass Reservoir, which is near Boehm Pond. 

Otter slide marks

BOBCAT  One particular bobcat crossed Nells Rock Trail off of John Dominick Drive, then walked straight up a rocky cliff, crossed the top, and stopped to survey an overlook (photo). The bobcat then went down a very steep embankment and headed through the mountain laurel towards Buddington Road. Bobcat are well-established in Shelton and throughout Connecticut. Bobcat have rounder prints than coyote, and no nail marks. 

Bobcat at Nells Rock

FOX  Eklund Garden appears to have a resident fox who slips through the deer fence routinely and hopefully finds a meal of voles (voles damage the garden plants). Over the years, holes have been methodically chewed through the plastic fencing at ground level, which is fine as long as the deer can't get in. It's impossible to say who was responsible for these rather surgical holes, but fox are certainly making use of them. 

Slipping through the deer fence
Fox tracks

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