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How to identify animal tracks in the snow

A good fall of snow is perfect for showing up the tracks of animals. And after just such a fall AJ, the Forest Ranger at Keldy in Yorkshire, has been busy catching some memorable shots. He talks us through his magical night time walk…

Walking with prints

“It was Sunday evening and, after a long day, I was relaxing in front of the TV. The curtains were slightly open and something caught my eye from outside the window. I pulled back the curtain and much to my surprise it had been snowing heavily. I felt a surge of excitement. This was too good to miss! Bella, my dog, sensed my excitement and within minutes we were ready to go out into the snowy wonderland.

 

 

 

Prints to rule out: Bella the dog and AJ, size 9

Not really knowing where our path would lead but wanting to look for any animals that might be braving the snow, I set out along Keldy’s blue walk. It wasn’t long before we came across our first tracks. Crossing from the forest to the meadow were deer prints. I lifted my binoculars to have a look and, sure enough, in the meadow about 30 yards away, was a big roe deer.

 

 

Our first find: Roe deer

The snow was still falling and I didn’t want to disturb him so we walked on. We headed up to the Secret Path which runs from 5ways path, right up to Tallulah path, and then on to High Muffles. It didn’t disappoint.

In the dim light of my head torch, I could see many tracks in the fresh fallen snow. Most were rabbit, and a few were deer, which must have moved off when they saw my torch beam.

 

 

Rabbit tracks in the centre of the picture

I also came across mouse tracks, coming from under a holly bush going into some heather. When I reached High Muffles the depth of snow was about 3 inches, so spotting tracks would be hard. I walked on, to end up on the Keldy loop.

Then, a little way ahead, were more tracks. When I got to them I could see they were fox prints, very fresh as the falling snow had not filled them yet. The tracks were going from right to left and on to the road side verge. As I looked, I could see where the fox had gone just a few moments before.

 

 

Male fox print.

After a while, I moved off, along the forest road. It had started to snow again.

It’s times like this I wish I could show everyone the peacefulness and tranquillity of the forest. There wasn’t a sound in the air, just the soft dull crunch of the snow under my feet and the slight rustle of my jacket as I was walking.

As I turned right onto the downhill leg of Keldy loop, again I could see prints of something in the fresh snow. As I got closer, I could see they were very small, medium and large fox prints. I guess, this year’s young, last year’s young and mum. It was nice to see that the weather was not going to affect the night’s hunting lesson!

 

 

Fox with young

The rest of the walk was just Bella and me. The snow was falling hard and Bella loved it, trying to catch the falling snow flakes as they danced in the sky.  As I joined back onto High Muffles road leading down to Keldy, I used my spotlight to see if I could pick up any eye reflections, but nothing.

The snow had stopped again as I reached the gate on to site and as I walked back through the Gruffalo Trail, the clouds parted and stars began to twinkle in the night sky. Looking at the silent, snow-white forest under the clear starlit sky made me feel lucky to be here, on this wonderful planet.”

Join AJ at Keldy Forest for one of his forest walks and understand what it feels like to be a part of this ever changing natural world. Whether it’s sunshine or snow, AJ will bring the forest to life before your eyes.

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