Who Done It?


I found this set of tracks in a muddy bank along the Sandy River near Portland, Oregon, one morning in May.

Photo by Dennis Deck

What species made all these tracks? Use the boot tracks in the upper right corner of the photo for scale. [ View Answer ]


Let us start with the most obvious tracks. Down the center of the photo are two sets of tracks from a bird with a fairly large webbed foot and a slow pigeon-toed gait. The size of these tracks should suggest Canada geese. They walked along the bank toward the camera, probably looking for grass or aquatic plants on which to graze.

If you look closely at the tracks on the right, you will note that these are not the same animal. The hind foot is quite large while the front foot is small. A small beaver climbed out of the water, probably in search of young willows.

Next look at the tracks on the left moving away from the camera. The alternating right front - left hind, left front - right hind pattern is very diagnostic of raccoon. They often patrol the river's edge.

Finally, for extra credit, note the small partial prints along the water's edge in the upper half of the photo. This was a mink bounding away from the camera. Earlier I had watched him chasing some rodent in the grass along the road up the hill from this beach before he disappeared into the forest.

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