Walk in the Woods

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The boys and I went for a walk in the fresh snow today and followed these 'Tracks' for about a 1/2 mile up a hill.
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Could it be one of those snow bikes?

Not quite Watson, if it was a bike and turning like that you would see two tracks because the rear tire cannot follow the exact path of the front tire. It could however be a snow unicycle.

I'm quite stumped actually. Looks like something being dragged but if so there must be some accompanying tracks.
 
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I didn't see any prints and couldn't make out any even when it went up and over a blow down. The slide headed towards a massive beaver pond.

I've seen trails like this on a hill before. They went from a boulder field to a hemlock grove so I assumed they were porcupine. The length of these sent me to the books and came up with otter, but why would an otter get that far away from water?
 
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I've seen otter slides a long way from water. That's what it looks like to me, except there should be the occasional set of feet in there somewhere.
 
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Could be a beaver. That looks like a beaver tail drag. They don't hibernate, and sometimes get about in a warmer spell. Don't know where you live and how harsh it is there though. How high was the windthrow? Second year young get a hard time from the adults and split. Maybe things got bad for one rebellious young buck beaver. Usually they bail in the spring. But.....


 
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The Beaver here are overachievers. They have nine levels of dams and tried to build a habitat in a wet field, they dug canals out from a central lodge.

But I don't think a beaver would climb that far and high.
 
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Dispersing young beavers can and will do a half mile easily. At least here they do. I live in mountains, and new colonies often are at the end of an elevation change that 99% of the human population will decline on a day hike: down one fork and up another, or over the point in some cases. There are no other routes. Our beaver works lie in the relatively level heads of high valleys. Major tributaries usually join below that elevation, so to get to another suitable drainage they must go down and then up again, or they must go over the point between. Somewhere in my mental archive is a note about a beaver cutting in an odd upland location, but right now I don't have any more on the incident than this.

What might be unusual in your case is the time of year. But the book on beavers has not been completed. Or at least I haven't read the latest edition.

I've heard of snapping turtles in the uplands going from one creek to another or dropping eggs well away from one. You'd never guess that they'd get so high up such little streams and then haul out. So far from the kind of place where you'd usually put them.
 

Glenn MacGrady

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If the trail is going into a beaver pond, chances are good it's from a beaver, I'd guess. A dragging beaver tail could also wipe out the footprints. Beavers learned this footprint-obliterating survival trick around 1720 from Chingachgook.
 
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:eek:Looks like a beaver, sounds like a beaver, smells like beaver........

In my own earlier post I said that beavers travel down and upstream to reach good sites for new colonies. What I did not say was that below the headwater valleys here the streams are so steep, fast, shallow, small and rocky that movement might mean a lot of overland going, at least some of it well away from the water because the ravines get so narrow and steep sided, with plenty of high ledges.
 
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I went out today to check the lower section of the track, they stop at the bottom of the 1st pic with the dogs and then the actual track of the animal are wiped out by mine and the dogs tracks. I searched between the end of the track and the beaver dams and found no more slides or tracks of the 3 possible animals. I walked all down into the beaver dams and found the same slides over the dams most of these had tracks in them from animals returning up over the dams.

On the way home I saw Porcupine tracks down a steep hill. The tracks were in both directions but didn't look any thing like the ones in the picture.

I guess I'm going to have to spend more time up on the hill.
 
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Sweeper,

You do have a nice puzzle to work thru.

Look for hairs. They sometimes pull out when an animal rubs an obstruction while going over, under or around.

How wide is the track?
 
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The track is 8-10" but we're getting 1-3" of snow tonight. I had hoped to get to the top of the hill today to see where the track started but I got called into work.

It's still early, there's a lot of winter to go.
 
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8-10" is about what would happen as a beaver's body sinks in enough to make the groove you saw. The dragging tail covers up the paw prints.

And you might be right about ".....a lot of winter left to go."

The 7 day forecast for here looks the same as it's looked for the past 30 days, one little storm after another.
 
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If the second picture is downhill, I would guess a family of otters and the last one down the hill took advantage of the smooth trail and was able to glide without the aid of it's feet for propulsion.

Is there open water downstream of the beaver dams?
 
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Yes, the brook enters a gully just below the dams and runs less then a mile to a river.

The zig zag is typical of what I saw which is why I researched my original feeling that it was a porcupine and now think it was an otter.
 
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The snow missed us and I got dismissed from jury duty so I figured I should get the boys out for another walk and get to the "Top" of this track.

I followed this track this time and found a few more clues.

First in the flat sections there was no slide only obscure wind blown footprints

Second at the top the slide disappeared and prints obscured by wind and dogs

Third In the first pic where it went over the log there is a break in the slide and the snow is not packed on the uphill side of the log.

Fourth in the second pic the turn to the (our) left the outside of the turn is unweighted and then again the outside is unweighted as it went over the log and turns to the right

Fifth the track is about 7.5" wide.

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