Who Done It?


These tracks were found in December in a meadow along the North Fork of the Flathead River which forms the western boundary of Glacier National Park. There were several inches of powder over a soft base.

Photo by Dennis Deck

Who made both sets of tracks? [ View Answer ]


Try the easy tracks first. The short-long-short-long pattern moving from left to right should suggest an ermine (aka short-tailed weasel). From a distance that pattern stands out even though you are not close enought to see the diagonal lope characteristic of the weasel family. The narrow trail width relative to the long intergroup distance is a further clue that that this is a small weasel. Following his tracks we saw evidence that when he found holes in the snow he would crawl down to the subnivean region to look for mice and voles.

The other set of tracks were clearly made by a larger animal too heavy to stay on the surface of the snow. The track is really a furrow, suggesting an animal with relatively short legs.

My first thought, peering down at the pigeon-toed gait in the furrow, was porcupine. However, we had not seen any signs of tree damage in the area. Plus you can not see drag marks from quills so something wasn't right about this furrow.

Following the trail further we had our surprising answer. This fellow was a serious digger. At every hint of a rodent burrow this badger would dig down under the snow looking for a winter meal.

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