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“Nature in the Little Finger Lakes” by Angela Cannon Crothers

Snow Tracks

By Angela Cannon Crothers

January 2015

A day or two after a snowfall what was hidden is revealed; a secretive world around us materializes in transects of tracks on a fresh white slate. Suddenly there are daily routines lit up across the yard and stories in the snow. I love coming upon the star-like prints of opossum rooting under the spruce, the excitement of finding an otter’s bound and slide near Honeoye Inlet, discovering a pair of travelling coyotes or the long, delicate line of a fox trail stretched across a wide field.

The other day, out in the woods, I came upon a deer trail and decided to follow it. I wanted to figure out how and why they chose such a path as it traversed up a steep slope, how they must have stepped lightly through the old abandoned farmer’s dumping ground buried in briars. Here they ducked beneath some limbs and paused to catch a breeze from the western slope opposite. I should not have been surprised then when I came upon two doe, whom, as startled as I, flipped up their tails and bounded off.

Do we consider who shares our habitat with us? A friend recently assured me her brother found the wide, round nail-less, four-toed prints of a bobcat track at Canadice Lake a couple weeks ago. I believe him. Bobcats should be here, but they are elusive. According to a study done seven years ago by the Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council, bobcat have been extripated from this area. But the Department of Conservation is seeking Citizen Science outdoors people to help document, monitor, and track wildlife throughout the region and the state. We don’t know everyone who lives with and around us, mostly because we aren’t looking. Trackers with the DEC often times use digital trip cameras, live traps, GPS and other technologies, but primitive tracking skills are an irreplaceable art.

What tracks do we humans leave behind? More than the obvious roads and buildings, more than wind turbines and jet trails in the sky, more than our trappings and waste. What prints do we scatter into the natural places with our hunting, our recreation, our very breath, or even our minds? We go to the wilder places to let go of some of the modernity of our lives or to reunite with our connection to the Earth. Surely we leave these tracks of intention there as well, not so removed, just a yearning to remember the trails from whence we came, and the indivisibility of our very nature.

Editor’s Note: Angela Cannon Crothers is a naturalist and writer who teaches at Finger Lakes Community College and with The Finger Lakes Museum. Here are some columns that she has written about the Little Finger Lakes. Her columns also appear in the Lake Country Weekender newspaper.

Visit Angela’s website at: Angela Cannon Crothers

Read the Lake Country Weekender at: Lake Country Weekender