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.




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.




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




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.




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.




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.




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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