Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What a Drag - Part 2

Lars has added photos from the "What a Drag!" site. I privately quizzed Janet with these first two photos included here because I was uncertain regarding the animal. I was struck by the roundish nature of the print and wondered about bobcat. Again, this is in the Heath Hen conservation area on Boxboro Rd/Flagg Hill Pond in Stow. The site of this added track is about 30 feet from the dragging print. The area is newly regrown forest next to an open meadow and a large apple orchard. There were rabbit prints and even more squirrel prints. I had followed the drag track but could not find a kill site. The drag track came from the meadow and orchard.

I'd love people's thoughts to put together this mystery. I like Janet's idea of bobcat dining on bunny or squirrel. See her comments on the previous post. I like spending time on/around Flagg Hill Pond in the winter with my skis on the ice. I see lots of fisher, otter (when I can tell the difference), mink, fox, coyote and deer.


  1. I think there are five toes in some of those photos. One of the prints from your previous set has the characteristic "ice-cream cone" shape that I associate with fisher. The third picture today shows a 2x2 bounding pattern rather than an alternating walk. If all six of these photos are of the same animal, I'd guess fisher.

  2. Very interesting - you could be right, Dan. But are the tracks too deep for a short legged fisher, whose body would be dragging, I think, if the feet sunk that much. I kind of think it's a longer legged creature. Also the feet seem to be entering the snow more vertically than I would expect for fisher.

    Could the 5th toe be there because hind foot stepped into front track?

    The ice cream cone appearance is also really common in lynx tracks, and can be made by other cats who are splaying their toes, which they might do in deep snow. My 8 month old cat made ice cream cones yesterday, because he hadn't yet learned to walk on the shoveled walkway.

    I puzzled over the trail pattern in the 3rd photo, too. The 2-2's are funny. Seem one behind the other, not at all side by side. Maybe it's the angle of the camera, and we see only 3 groups. I was wondering if it could be a bobcat loping.

    I'm hoping to get out to that area sometime soon and take a look around myself. If I find anything definitive I'll post pics.

  3. I just came in after following fisher tracks through the woods. I saw both the 2x2 bound and 3x4 walk patterns, and at no point did the animal leave a body drag in the snow. The only deep tracks I see in Lars' photo set is #3 above, which is the one that most resembles a 2x2 bound of a short-legged animal trying to negotiate fluffier snow.

    The interesting part of my morning was finding a log that had fallen into a steep gully, and both fisher and fox had chosen to walk down the log (at nearly a 45 degree angle) rather than jump into powder. One animal (probably fisher?) followed the other for quite a ways after that.

  4. I went out there this morning, and think I found exactly where Lars was. If so, then Dan is correct, it's a fisher. Those tracks didn't look so deep, after all, once I was looking at the real thing. There were no rabbit tracks where I was, though, so if there were really rabbit tracks where you were, Lars, then I was not in the right area. Lots of squirrel though.

    There were fisher tracks absolutely everywhere. I walked through the woods just outside the fence, skirting the orchard and came upon a fisher trail with a drag mark alongside it, just like in Lars' picture. There were ski tracks right there, so I figured it was probably the right spot. Definitely fisher.

    I followed the trail and saw that the animal slipped under the fence a few times, carrying its prey. Only once did it appear to have to struggle a bit to fit its baggage through the 3 inch high openings between the wires. I was impressed that at other times it was able to penetrate the fence without even breaking stride, all along carrying its catch.

    Anyway, I was curious as to why it was staying so close to the fence with its prey, as if it wanted to get someplace within the orchard but did not feel comfortable running out in the open. Within that fenced in area there were also some young conifers. When the fisher got close to a particularly dense stand of young pole sized conifers within the fence, it went under the fence again, into the orchard, and made a bee line across the open area and disappeared into that dense stand. Probably to eat or cache its prey in a safe spot. Really wish I could have followed it, but don't know the area well enough to disregard the no trespassing sign.

    So definitely fisher if I was in the right spot. Many tracks were indistinct but some were very clear, and the changing gaits unmistakable. No question.