Living on a farm we have to protect our animals from predators. In winter the snow helps us know who is around and who is hunting on our farm. We often see hare tracks and lemming tracks, sometimes fox, moose and lynx tracks. If we think there is a predator on the prowl we follow the tracks through the icy fields and into the forest to see what story they can tell us.
Last week we found some very unusual tracks. Little paw tracks were jumping everywhere. They were fast and slow, pouncy and turny. Was it a hare? No, because the tracks had a long streak in between the paw marks indicating an animal with a long enough tail to drag on the ground. Could it be a fox, a wolverine or even a martin? We followed the tracks through fences and in and out of fields. We came to a section where another animal had joined in – a crow.
It left big beautiful wing marks on the ice. Both sets of tracks curled and whirled over the field. Could the animal have caught the crow? (For prints to be created like this in the snow, a new layer of soft wet snow needs have fallen, the animal then walks/flies across it and after, the temperature gets cold very quickly which freezes the snow to ice, capturing the markings.)
It suddenly dawned on us that we were tracking the prints of our own Norwegian forest cat, Gråbein – doh! Forest cats are a very large breed and could take out a hawk. But he certainly hadn’t caught the crow for dinner. The crow tracks were in and out and sliding along the ground. The print in the picture above demonstrates a full flight of wings and tail feathers.
We followed some more and then found some tiny, tiny little tracks under the cat tracks. It was a lemming.
The story became clear to us. The cat was on the field chasing a lemming under the snow. The cat dug it up and must have let it go. The crow thought he could catch the lemming and so the cat and crow weaved and dived and slid around each other to catch the lemming. We found tuffs of little black and ginger fuzzy fur at the end of the trail (from the little rodent) and then the full print of the crow. We’re guessing that the crow got ahead of the cat, pounced on the lemming and then took off, leaving its prints, to find a place to eat its well-earnt meal.