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Quiz #32 - Answer

Photo 32H

1. The mystery animal is CANADA GOOSE (Photo 32H).

The way to tell this is it is a waterborne animal with large, webbed feet (notice the webbing in Photo 32E). The fact that the tracks suddenly disappeared indicated it went airborne, so it must be a bird. There are three toes seen, and the feet are pointed inward, consistent with birds in the duck and goose family.

2. The goose that was on top of the sand bar was running at full speed, preparing for takeoff. The long stride of 25 inches is roughly double that of a goose moving at a fast walk. Unlike marsh ducks, geese cannot spring directly from land or water into the air they must run and propel themselves with both their feet and wings to get enough momentum to take off.

Although Canada Goose is a common bird that is found in many places, it is not very common in the mountains in winter. These tracks were a challenge for me because I know this area well and was not expecting goose to be a possibility at this location at this time of year. I first thought it was a trumpeter swan, because the feet and stride were so large. But after studying my field guides later that night, I realized that as large as these footprints were, geese can have feet that large, and the tracks of swans are significantly larger there is no overlap between geese and swans. Additionally I did not put 2+2 together and realize that the goose would have to be running prior to taking off -- I was originally interpreting the tracks on top of the sandbar as a walking gait.

These tracks humbled me. Once I realized how easy they were, I felt a bit foolish that I had initially guessed wrong. But I was glad for the experience, as I will try to analyze the big picture more broadly, and ask more questions next time.

At any rate, it was a beautiful day to be snowshoeing in one of my favorite tracking areas in Washington, and I was glad to share it with you.



Quiz #32 - Question      ...on to Quiz #33

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