There were animal tracks all over the place at the Study Area, but apart from a few squirrels, we really had to search to see anything with fur on it. There were the footprints of all sizes of dogs along the walking/skiing trails, deer tracks crossing those trails, and muddy raccoon footprints leading from one muddy melted-out patch to another. Luckily, Rob knew just where to search, and how. We focused on porcupines.
One of the sure places to find porcupines is up in the cedars and spruces on the wooded slope falling away to the north. We had to go off-trail for this, wading through heavy, wet snow as much as knee deep. The litter of fallen green twigs on the snow gave the animals’ locations away, and seven times a search of the thickly branched, crowded treetops revealed a solitary porcupine, high up. The eighth time, the signs on the ground only told us that one had been there recently.
Our search brought us out to Pond VI and a beaver lodge. Farther up the shore freshly cut cedar stumps and drag marks of cedar branches on the snow suggested that the beaver is getting hungry. Rob, in the lead, was the only one to spot the animal as it dove from the shore into a beaver canal running under the ice.
As for squirrels, we watched a black-phase Gray Squirrel running through the treetops in a maple woods, getting closer and closer to a scraggly bundle of twigs high up in a White Birch. It paused to one side, then entered the bundle – a nest! There are so many of these clumps of debris up in trees, and one never knows whether they’re active or old.