Tracking Quiz website

Tracking Quizzes

Quiz #35 - Answer

1. The mystery animal is MUSKRAT

This may be a bit of a surprise – a muskrat walking down a paved road in a housing development, next to a very dry-looking cornfield. But if you notice in Photo 35A, there’s a retention pond. The photo shows it full of geese, but it’s also an ideal spot for a muskrat to set up camp.

With the hind foot much larger than the front, 4 toes showing in the front foot and 5 widely-splayed toes showing in the hind foot, these are pretty classic tracks for a muskrat. The ½ inch thick tail helps identify it as a muskrat too.


2. This gait is an overstep walk. (Walking fast enough that the hind tracks land forward of the front tracks.)

3. This muskrat was walking at a good clip. This stride of up to 10 inches is the longest I have ever measured for a muskrat. Perhaps this muskrat was a bit nervous being on the pavement, away from the safety of its pond.

4. The tracks are old. A muskrat is not a very heavy animal, and the tracks were pretty clear, so that means the mud was pretty soft when the tracks were made. But when I discovered the tracks, the mud was dried, cracked, and rock-hard. A couple key clues was the location (northern Illinois) and time of year (October) – autumn weather here is cool enough there that it would have taken quite a while for the mud to bake. My first guess was the tracks were at least 7 days old. (Upon researching the weather almanac, I learned that the tracks were actually 31 days old, as that was the most recent significant rainfall.)

I enjoyed the opportunity to show my nephews these signs of wildlife in their neighborhood. The tracks made for a good puzzle.



Quiz #35 - Question      ...on to Quiz #36

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