Nature Diary: Read animal tracks and signs

Make rural walks more interesting by seeking out the presence of wild animals

The  footprint of a badger’s forepaw in mud. Photograph:  Arterra/UIG via Getty Images

The footprint of a badger’s forepaw in mud. Photograph: Arterra/UIG via Getty Images

 

 The lull between Christmas and the New Year is a perfect time for a winter stroll. One way of making a rural walk more interesting for children is to seek out the presence of wild animals.  

So, if you’re walking in a wood and see descaled pine cones lying around, you can be sure there are squirrels nearby. Gnawed bark on high up branches is also the activity of squirrels.  

And, if you’re walking in snowy or muddy ground, you can do some detective work to identify the paw prints of foxes (similar to a dog’s six-padded footprint but narrower with pointy ends and usually in a straight line), rabbits (two oval shaped pads), deer (two larger oblong shaped pads) and badgers (look for the marks of the five toes, squat palm and long strong claws). Then, see if you can follow their trails to rabbit holes, fox dens and badger setts. 

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