Unseen animals can be just as interesting as those seen

I went on a hike a while back hoping to find turkeys, deer, hawks, or anything else to photograph. I didn’t find any flesh-and-blood animals to take pictures of, but I found something just as cool, if a little less photogenic.

There’s always something to see out in the woods, even if you don’t find what you originally went out there to find.

Some years, wildflowers are starting to appear by now. That’s certainly not the case this year – at least not where I went last weekend. But I figured there would at least be some wildlife to take pictures of. Unfortunately, all I saw were some robins, some ravens, and a few geese flying over far overhead.

But then I looked down. On the snow everywhere around me were animal tracks. Deer tracks, mouse tracks, grouse tracks, rabbit tracks, and squirrel tracks. It was pretty cool to see the wildlife super highway laid out right in front of me. Most likely, those animals had all been there at different times, but a few of the trails looked like they were going toward each other, then veered away suddenly, as though their makers had seen each other and altered their routes.

But then I ran across a new set of tracks that really got my attention. They were shaped like small dog prints, but they didn’t have claw marks. They were bobcat tracks.

I followed them for several hundred yards, then I lost them when they left the snow and went into the leaves. There was an area of roughed-up leaves, though, and then the tracks continued in the snow again. This time, there were also patterns that looked like paintbrush strokes along with the bobcat tracks. I think the cat had caught a grouse or a rabbit, and then had dragged it off to dine on it in a more protected area.

Keep your eyes open out in the woods. Watch for wildlife, but don’t forget to look down. Sometimes the animals you don’t see leave a more interesting story than the ones you do see.

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