The winter of 2015-16 saw little snow in
northcentral Pennsylvania and so far this winter has been the same; four inches
was the most snow we had at any one time, and then it all melted. A few days
ago a brief snowfall put about a half inch of the white stuff on the ground;
just enough to make it possible to follow tracks but not enough to produce many
really well defined tracks.
Tracks in the snow often tell interesting
stories, here’s an account of a two-mile walk on an old timber sale haul
road and the stories written in the snow.
This walk began at the log landing at the
end of the haul road just about two miles from the gate where the road emerges
onto the state highway – and here the stories in the snow begin. Two
white-tailed deer had pawed in the snow to get at the dry leaves and herbaceous
plants in the landing and an eastern coyote had emerged from the woods to cross
The coyote had headed up the haul road and I followed. The tracks of the coyote intersected with the much smaller tracks of a
gray fox –
The fox quickly left the road but the coyote had continued up the road without
It was soon joined by a
second coyote. The two animals traveled together, probably because January is
the time of year when coyotes become interested in making more coyotes.
The coyotes continued on together, usually
one behind the other, for well over a mile and never left the haul road.
Over all this distance there was only one
other set of deer tracks crossing the road. There are quite a few
Amish/Mennonite farmers and craftsmen, who
reportedly eat a lot of venison, living in the valley below - which may account for a low deer
population on this ridge.
After almost a mile and a half a flock of wild
turkeys had come down to the road from a nearby spring seep. Although it was
hard to distinguish one set of tracks from another, apparently there were 12-15
birds in the flock.
Only a couple of coyote tracks and
turkey tracks overlapped, but those indicated that the coyotes passed by after
the turkeys had been there.
The turkeys had walked along the haul road
for a couple of hundred yards before they left the road and entered an area occupied
by large white pine trees.
The coyote tracks continued along the road until
they were obliterated by the tracks of two people who had walked in
from the gate at the highway, then turned around and gone back.
Although the coyotes' story can be read in
the snow, the end is missing.
The climate is changing and our winters are warmer than they were 30 years ago, now all the snow has melted and the stories are unwritten.