A coat of fresh snow in winter makes animal tracking easier, but do you know how to identify the tracks?
The excellent Tracking & the Art of Seeing: How to Read Animal Tracks and Signby Paul Rezendes is an illustrated guide that shows you exactly how to distinguish between a dog and a coyote, or a domestic cat and a gray fox, and many other animals you are likely to find on Greenbelt reservations.
A common confusion seems to be distinguishing between a big dog and a mountain lion. The news often reports accounts of mountain lion sightings, but in almost every case the tracks found belong to a different animal, sometimes a dog or a bobcat.
“Other than two confirmed cases, all reports of Mountain Lions in Massachusetts that include tangible evidence have turned out to be other kinds of animals," a post by the state department of Energy and Environmental Affairs called "Are there Mountain Lions in Massachusetts?"reads.
"These animals have usually been misidentified because they were seen under poor conditions or by someone not familiar with the species," the post goes on to say.”
A look at the illustration below from Mammal Tracks in the Northeast, available on Amazon, shows the track of a common dog can be confused for a mountain lion and the differences between them.
DOG MOUNTAIN LION
So before heading out to examine animal tracks, you might pick up a copy of Rezendes' book.
The picture at the top of the page is a mountain lion track.