Nature Notes: Feline vs Canine Tracks

It’s finally snowing which means animal tracks are highly visible. But what kind of tracks are you seeing? You can generally tell your dog’s tracks from your house cat’s but can you identify a mountain lion print from a your dog’s or a bobcat track from a coyote’s?

When you see a track you first want to determine if it is from a canine or feline.You can start by looking at the shape of the print. Is it more of a rectangular shape or square? In general canine tracks are longer than they are wide (rectangular) while feline tracks are more even in their height to width ratio looking more square.

Can you see claw marks? Canine tracks will have visible claw marks which are usually not seen on feline tracks.  But careful!  Just like you put chains on your car, felines will keep their claws out for extra traction on slippery surfaces.

Now look more closely at the heel pad. If it is a canine track the heel pad will be triangular shaped with two lobes on the back and coming to a single lobe at the front. A feline heel pad will have three lobes on the back and two at the front; the heel pad almost looked like a very blobby “M,” for “meow.”

A final identifier can be the toe arrangement. In a canine track the toes are symmetrical and you can draw an X between the outer toes and the heel pad. In a feline track the toes are in a similar pattern to the fingers on your hand. There is a prominent front toe, much like your middle finger and the outside toe is dropped back slightly on the track, kind of like your pinky finger.

Ok, so you have figured out whether the track is from a canine or feline, but now you want to know exactly what animal it is from. This is where the size of the track can be important. The larger the track the larger the animal that left it!

Can you tell what animal would make tracks like these?

Click to find the answer!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Photos: 
snow dog print: http://www.bedlamfarm.com/2010/02/11/dog-prints-in-the-snow/
canine vs feline print: http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10370_12145_43573-146656–,00.html
paw prints: http://www.pictures-of-cats.org/images/mountain-lion-tracks.png

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