Kids find lesson in animal tracks during DNR program at New Ulm Library
NEW ULM–Saturday morning a group of children and their parents learned the basics of identifying animal tracks as part of the Public Library’s youth programing.
The presentation was given by DNR Naturalist Scott Kudelka. Kudelka has given a similar several times each year and it always attracts a crowd.
Kudelka said there are a lot of animals in natures humans do not see. The animals view humans as a threat and run away, but they do leave behind evidence. This evidence takes the form of scat, disturbed vegetation and animal foot prints.
Kudelka created re-created 15 animal foot prints in flour boxes for the kids to identify. The animal prints included deer, turkey, chipmunk, beaver, porcupine, squirrel, duck, wolf, rabbit, snapping turtle, pheasant, raccoon, fox, bison and woodchuck.
The foot print of the white-tail deer is the track most likely to be seen around New Ulm and was one of the easiest track to identify. The kids were able to easily identify the bison tracks as well due to its size, but Kudelka said the only bison in the area live in Minneopa State Park.
Wolf and fox can be a challenge because they look similar a dog. The main difference is size as the wolf is large. A full-grown wolf could leave a paw print the size of man’s hand.
Kudelka said the best way to tell the difference between wolf tracks and large domesticated dog is whether other prints are near. Wolf tracks are typically alone, dog tracks are often paired with human foot prints.
In the New Ulm area wolves are still rare, but coyotes are common.
The children had greater trouble identifying the porcupine and snapping turtle track.
“The porcupine is the only one not around here,” Kudelka said. “They’re located more north of us.”
The snapping turtle is common to the area, but because the turtle is low to the ground its tail wipes away any foot prints. In nature a snapping turtle trail is usually identified by its location near water.
In nature animals rarely leave a clean print. The smaller animals like the squirrel or chipmunk might not leave any print unless snow is on the ground.
“Fresh snow is the best chance to see tracks,” Kudelka said.
With spring around the corner the snow will be gone, but for those paying close attention the signs are there.