Friday, March 12, 2010

Mountain Lion tracks, or dog tracks? (From Duxbury, MA)

Is this track canine, or feline? What features make you confident in
your decision?

Here's a link to the newspaper article reporting the mountain lion/dog
sighting in Duxbury, MA.


  1. Since I've seen my dog's tracks right along side lion tracks, I feel pretty darn confident that the track in your photo is a dog track. The first thing that caught my eye was how narrow the track was relative to its length. In a lion track, the width almost matches the length. The second thing that caught my eye was that the individual paw pads aren't spread out and the toes look symmetrical arranged relative to the long axis of the paw. In a lion track, the toes spread way out, and don't look symmetrical at all. Next, I saw that it looks like the front of the largest pad has a single lobe, rather than two. I can't tell if there are claws but it doesn't really matter given all the other factors.

    Jeez, I sound definitive... but I feel sure that it's a dog track. Now, I'll go read that article that you cited and probably find out that I'm wrong!!!

    Actually, I have a post from last winter where I had a dog track next to a lion track -- I wonder if I can find it...

  2. This is a poor track, and I would not commit to anything based on it alone. When all the tracks are poor, I use trail pattern and trail measurements to help determine species. There is no opportunity for that here. Here's what I will say:

    Look at the 2 leading toes at the right edge of the track. The classic feline track shows no claw marks, as we see in this one. But a classic feline track has only one leading toe, not two, and the overall shape is round. The classic canine track does have two leading toes, and the overall shape is oval, as in the above track, but it should also show claw marks. So, this doesn't fit exactly with either canine or feline.

    To me, those two leading toes look more like a deer hoof than anything else. But what are those other toes behind/overlapping them? Maybe another animal stepped onto a deer track.

    ...But I would need more than this one track to say anything with certainty.

  3. Who posted this question, by the way?

  4. Dunno who posted, but canine claws could easily not show in a hard old deer track - and now that Janet said it - deer is the strongest impression.

    PS: Salamanders starting to head to their natal pools on these stormy nights.