Thursday, October 18, 2012

Footprints and Furbearers

Dishing the dirt
The Springfield News-Leader ran an interesting front page article entitled 'Long-running footprint study shows how furbearers are doing."  For those outside the Springfield area, I wanted to give you a peek at how wildlife populations can be measured.  Game cameras featured on this blog recently are one way but another is "dishing the dirt" by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Wes Johnson's photo essay describes one method of comparing furbearer populations annually.  Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) biologists Jay Steele and Wesley Schnake sifted dirt onto an area and left a scent device to attract curious mammals.  The animals in turn left their prints in the soft soil.  This allowed the biologists to determine the species attracted to the area.  By comparing this annually for the last 35 years, they can develop population trends.

Possum tail draws the line
On this day, they found a large male possum which explored the scent, leaving a trail of wide spread tracks that helped determine its size.  You can make out the line where the tail dragged behind in the dirt.  Whether the animals come randomly or are attracted by the scent, the information is equally valuable in compiling a census.  Other sites found prints of raccoons, possums, coyotes, skunks, woodchucks, foxes and a weasel. There are many pictures of the track process on the News-Leader's News Gallery site.

The "GO! Get Outdoors" section of the News-Leader is a welcome addition to the newspaper, filled with good features and pictures including the online galleries.  We will continue to feature the articles of Wes Johnson and his guest columnists from time to time.

1 comment:

  1. Missouri's Outdoor Information Channel. Missouri Outdoors Network .Trapping. A controlled aquatic furbearer trapping program allows the harvest of a valued renewable resource.Remember, take only memories, leave only footprints.
    Don Blankenship