Identifying animal trails in Nuuksio

The spring sun shines warm during the day, but often at night the temperature drop to the frosty side. March is a great time to observe the tracks of the animals as they are more active as the mating season approaches. For two consecutive days, I took short walks in Nuuksio and photographed some of the most common tracks to come.

The main picture shows a swan couple.

Moving in Nuuksio during the winter

I find it wonderful to ski in Nuuksio´s lakes and the surrounding fields. Of course, walking is also possible, as several rather small paths in the Nuuksio National Park area are well trampled, although there is no winter maintenance.

Snowshoeing is a convenient way to go to the forest. Especially in the afternoon, the hard surface of the snowpack may already start sinking, but snowshoes keep the walker on top. If you find a fresh trail, you can follow the trail through the forest and wonder about the routes of the fox, for example.

Identifying animal traces

When identifying traces, you should pay attention to the shape of the trace set and their size. This makes most mammals fairly easily identifiable.

The trace of hares are easy to identify on the snow. The traces are a familiar sight cross fields, icy lakes and in the forest. The traces of a the two hare species are almost impossible to tell from apart, when seen the European hare stays brown all year and the Arctic hare is all white during the winter.

Another frequently identified trace is the “pearl necklace” of a fox. The pearl-like imprint is due to the fact that the fox mainly moves the trot, so that the hind leg hits exactly behind the forefoot. The diameter of the fox’s paw is 5-7 cm.

The trace of a raccoon dog is very similar to that of a fox. However, the raccoon dog has a slightly smaller foot (about 4-5 cm) and is more oval in shape than a fox. In addition, the pearl necklace left by the raccoon dog is tortuous and often shows traces of tail or hair if the snow is soft.

The third most common scavenger is the squirrel. The trace of a squirrel is very easy to identify, as the trace runs from the root of the tree to the root of another tree. The foot of the hind paw is about 6 cm and the forefoot about half of it.

Below the traces of hare, fox and squirrel.

When moving in the forest, hoof tracks of different sizes are often encountered. The traces resemble each other and the shape makes it difficult to judge which animal it is. Clarity is obtained by measuring the length of the hoof. The length of the roe deer hoof footprint is just around 4 cm. The hoof size of the white-tailed deer varies between 7 and 10 cm. The footprint of an adult moose is the largest, its length is 12-16 cm.

This spring, the badger also seems to have woken up a little early from hibernation and was actively moving. The footprint is fairly easy to identify. The badger has five toes and the trail looks like of a small bear. Badgers usually moves after sunset and preferably stay in the woods.

Last weekend we found traces of a swan couple on the ice of the lake. A better picture of the acceleration traces can be found at the beginning of this post, but the picture below shows the magnificence of the swan’s fin’s foot. Next to the 39 size shoe imprint.

With these tips, you can go a long way in identifying traces. The website, maintained by the Natural Resources Center, has clear pictures and descriptions of the animals, as well as good diagrams of the traces of the various animals.

Below a badger and a swan print in the snow.

– Anna