Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Scent Mark or Back Scratcher?

Lars was out at Delaney this morning. Lots of fresh tracks in the inch of new powder. I saw a variety of fox, coyote, rabbit, squirrel, deer, snow tunnels from mice and a long-meandering fisher trail. I still scratch my head over the differences between otter and fisher, but this seemed fisher to me. Following the track through the woods and over the eskers, I found three piles of scat and pee, and lots of nosing into trees and bushes.

These three pictures are the most puzzling. I'll stick with my very first impression as I skied up to it. With an evergreen sprout bent over stuck in the snow, and the body impressions in the surrounding snow, all I could picture was a fisher rolling around over the evergreen scratching his back (or scent marking). It seemed just like my old dog used to do in the grass on a summer day, or in the snow. A final parting gift was left, as you can see in the middle of the second photo. The track leading away is found in the third photo.

This was found in one of my favorite spots, a wooded wetland just off the trailhead on Finns Rd cutting through the middle of Delaney. It's a place that I've found what I think are Dan's boot prints, too. Size 11? So, for the panel of experts - Fisher? What on earth is he doing?


  1. Great photos, Lars. Does look like fisher scent marking to me. That little sapling would have been a great place to look for hair snags from the rolling fisher.

    Yesterday morning was indeed excellent tracking. In Bolton, I found a couple of fisher scent stations, and fisher-mouse encounter, and a kill site. Photos are unimpressive due to the poor lighting, but will try to post sometime soon when I have more time.

  2. Oh, and as to the question of scent station or back scratcher, I think they are one and the same. Back scratching could be the proximate cause (why the animal feels motivated to do it, in the here and now),and the benefits of scent marking the ultimate cause (why this behavior evolved).

  3. I found something very similar several years ago. A fisher had bounded up to a sapling that had been bent over by the snow so that just the arched stem was visible above the snow pack. The fisher had rolled, writhed, and done figure-eights around the bowed tree, leaving body swishes everywhere. Bounding fisher tracks exited the scene.