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Nature Detective

May 27, 2012

Something I love to do is Animal tracking or playing Nature detective. What I mean by that, is to examine a scene you may come upon while out on the trails. For instance……while out Hiking recently, we came upon this scene of a small hole in the ground, with what looked like egg shells around it.

We started our detective work by first understanding that the trail we where on was a sandy, wide trail, that followed the river below, down a ridge. It was all forested between our sandy trail and the river down the ridge.

Around the hole in the ground we found what looked like Raccoon tracks and claw digging marks. So we assumed a Raccoon was digging for something. Since there were no trees overhanging the trail and no apparent birds nests anywhere, our next assumption was that this was a turtle clutch of eggs and remnant shells.

Had the turtles hatched and where being chased by the Raccoon? Probably not. When turtles hatch underground, where the eggs are normally laid by the mother, they leave no egg shells behind. They hatch underground from the eggs and then dig their way to the surface. So that meant that a Raccoon had dug up these turtle eggs and had itself a nice meal.

We examined the eggs closely and took some pictures as well. When returning home and to some of my ID books, I believe the eggs to be from a snapping turtle. A species known to be plagued by the Raccoon decimating their underground nests by sniffing out the egg clutch, digging them up and having a nice meal of them.

So our little Nature detective work had worked quite well here. We now know that there are Snapping turtles in the river the Trail follows. We also know there is a healthy supply of Raccoons in the area with ample food sources and water. And we also know there will be fewer Snapping turtles in the river this year.

Try this the next time you head out on the trails. Observe an animal track, and then take a picture of it and possibly follow the tracks and see the critters activities. Or when you come upon something you may not understand out on the Trails…..stop and observe all around you. You maybe quite surprised at what you can learn about the local animals, birds and other life, just by looking a little closer at what you discover.

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