First Snow

by Carl Strang

 

December 1 brought the first covering snow of the season, an event I anticipated because it would provide my first opportunity to get a broad brush picture of mammal activity on Mayslake Forest Preserve. I learned a few things, but mainly I was blown away by the beauty.

 

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This was a sticky snow that coated the branches of the trees and all the tall herbaceous stems in the meadow. Woodland trails became intimate tunnels.

 

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The snow was sticky and wet because the temperature was not much below freezing. Mays Lake was largely open.

 

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A single deer had moved through a large part of the preserve early on December 1, ultimately heading into the area where I saw a single buck in late October. I wonder if it will prove to be the same animal.

 

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On the night of December 1-2 a coyote covered almost the entire preserve, taking advantage of the open trails and human footprints to conserve its energy.

 

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In several places I saw tracks of long-tailed Peromyscus mice, almost certainly white-footed mice, here crossing an open area on the mansion grounds among fallen weeping willow leaves.

 

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Tracking is an art that has not been sufficiently exploited in scientific inquiry. Beauty of landscapes may not be a scientific topic, but it has relevance to the inquiry experience. These will be topics for future posts.

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