A snow story

It’s frustrating and fascinating to encounter a story, have an idea of the plot and characters, but not enough vocabulary to really pin down the details.

Such is this story…written in fresh snow a week or so ago. Naturalists, trackers, hunters, trappers, storytellers, help me out here.

Skiing  along the edge of a big open field, my neighbor and I encountered a funny trail:


Looks like…what?… a beaver with an outrigger instead of a rudder?  Somebody dragging a stick? It headed over the hill toward a tiny vernal pond, disappearing entirely where the snow had drifted just right:


My neighbor and I both count five toes. Isn’t is funny how the 3-d effect pops back and forth?

This field is bounded by woods on three sides, with a beaver meadow and open brook on the fourth. Lots of habitats, and lots of wildlife: turkeys, partridge, deer, coyotes, and small stuff as well. We often find evidence of their goings-on. And while warmer seasons might really be busier, winter snow reveals more to me. Somewhere I have a wonderful shot of the imprint of an owl’s wings, fully extended in the snow as it dropped on some small prey. So we keep our eyes open.

A bit later and a hundred yards away along the other side of the open snow, there was the same trail again, going into some woods.  A clue! Then,  just down along the brushy margin to the right, was another trail:


Those swishy lines made more sense…and not far away, here’s where they originated:


A scuffle, and tiny bits of fine, grayish fur.  Looks like someone met their death here, and was carried off into the underbrush.

And just beyond was clearly where predator and prey came together:

So, the plot seems fairly obvious. But who are the main characters? Cottontail, right? And the five toes? A fisher? The thing my Petersen Field Guide doesn’t say is whether a fisher’s track would necessarily show claws. We didn’t see any sign of claws.

Fisher seems likely. But can anyone explain the original track, of footprints beside  single, fairly substantial and continuous drag-mark? Ideas? Different narratives? I’m curious.

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