A ‘signature’ stump bears tell-tale signs of beaver teeth.

ISLAND WILD: Animal tracks and signs are all around us

It’s been said that ‘life’s a beach,’ when truthfully, life is more often a zoo

It’s been said that ‘life’s a beach,’ when truthfully, life is more often a zoo.

We’re surrounded by wild animals, day and night; we share their environment, and while we may not always see the actual critter, they leave behind distinctive signs of their presence.

Large and small, animals that visit backyards, forests and beachfronts leave tracks, scat, gnawings and other indications that show us where and how they live their lives.

Identifying animals by their markers begins with a basic knowledge of the imprints made as they move – known as tracks.

Each species has a distinctive track pattern and size (front and rear), with spacing to show whether the animal was walking (cats and raccoon), loping (weasels and voles), trotting (dogs), bounding (rabbits and rodents) or galloping (deer).

Identifying animal tracks is an exciting pastime for young and old alike, especially when you bring home a plaster cast of the imprint.

Make a simple cardboard frame around the track, pour in plaster of Paris (milk shake consistency), wait half an hour until it dries and voila!

Another way animals leave a trail is by gnawing on branches, nuts and other organic matter.

It’s easy to identify a squirrel’s picnic table by the pile of discarded cone scales – their midden.

Rabbits and deer browse on tender branches, and these chewed-up twigs tell us they’ve been dining.

Beavers, with their large, powerful teeth, gnaw through tree trunks to build dams, leaving behind tooth marks in the stumps.

Learn more about the signs animals leave behind in Duane Sept’s newest book: Animal Tracks and Signs of the Northwest.

Calypso Publishing $14.95.

E-mail Christine Scott at: wildernesswest@shaw.ca