Visitor Stories: Animal Tracks

The Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park is located in Riverside, CA.  Because the park has wildlife that roams freely, the residents in the surrounding area regularly have critter sightings.   Many visitors have come into the nature center with stories of bobcats, coyotes, and various other animals being in their yards, on their doorsteps, patios, or in their houses.  Dave and Kathy Lehman have been enjoying the park for years and recently shared a discovery they made with the staff at the Ameal Moore Nature Center.

One morning after some water had washed sand into their backyard the Lehmans looked out and noticed some animal tracks.  Dave and Kathy are accustomed to the wildlife and were not surprised to find animal tracks.  Taking a closer look, their initial assessment was that they were from a bobcat.

Deciding to take a plaster cast of the prints, the Lehmans provided the center with these photos.  Mixing plaster of paris, they filled the prints and then allowed them to set and dry.  Once they were dry, the plaster prints were removed and cleaned, leaving the clear impression of animal tracks.  Their theory is that after the water had washed through their yard the animal came by and waited for the gophers to pop up out of the ground for a quick and easy meal.  Inspection by a curator at the Riverside Metropolitan Museum revealed the prints to most likely have come from a canine.

Animal tracking is an excellent way to determine what sorts of critters live in your area or might be walking through your property.  Historically used to hunt food, or to identify predators, animal tracking today is something both amateurs and professionals in various fields of study use to learn more about their surroundings.  If you come to the park there is a chance you’ll see evidence of the various animals that call the park home.  Making casts of prints you find on your own property is a fun activity to engage learners of all ages and encourage them to observe the natural world more closely.

The nature center would like to thank Dave and Kathy for their great story and images and would also like to remind residents near the park to keep an eye on their pets as the wildlife does tend to enter backyards.

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