Taking an Autumn Hike and Looking for Signs of Mammals

Have I been studying nature or have I been studying about nature?

“The free open air is the best background for all work in nature study. The conventionalities of the schoolroom fall away. The artificial distance between teacher and pupil disappears, and as friend to friend the group talks. It is this that makes work in nature study at its best so delightful.

The wealth of material is very great, and the suggestions that come from things in their proper places are much more abounding than those that arise in the artificial conditions of the school room.”
Excerpt from The Study of Nature – by Samuel Christian Schmucker. 1908.

Getting outdoors and looking for signs of mammals is an excellent way to learn more about their habits and ways of living. We decided to take a family hike to look for signs of mammals as part of the Outdoor Hour Challenge. The weather was perfect for a little hike to the river so we headed out the trail, keeping our eyes open for various signs of mammals. We have had quite a bit of rain over the last few days so the ground was actually quite soft and muddy.

Only dog tracks were found….disappointing.

We did see some scat on a log but I restrained myself from taking a photo. It looked like fox scat which is fairly common in our area.

We made it to the river and soaked in the moment while we discussed the lack of tracks. Deciding to shift gears and look for other signs we took another trail back up the to the car. We saw a few cones that the squirrels had munched and few suspicious looking holes among tree roots.

We finally found a spot that had some definite animal holes so we stopped to explore the area a bit.

There were a few holes around three feet apart at the edge of an open area. We didn’t see any distinguishable prints around the holes. They appeared to be around 3 inches wide.

As the boys investigated, they found quite a bit of fur scattered around the area. This is one of the fluffs.

This reminded me of the rabbit fur we found on another trail….but I am now not convinced that it is the same kind of fur. I wish I were better at identifying things.

One thing is for sure. This walk has led to much internet research about our local mammals and narrowing down the possibilities. There is always something to be curious about and something to learn. I keep reminding myself that Anna Botsford Comstock said that we don’t need to feel ashamed when we don’t know something….that makes me feel so much better.

Interesting Link: Ground Holes 


  1. I am nowhere near as restrained as you on the animal-dropping front! :)

    We came across, yesterday, what we thought was fox scat but couldn’t agree on entirely, so we diseccted it with a couple of sticks and took closeup photos.

  2. i love this post, barb, ‘cuz i love days and hikes and hunts like these! thanks so much for sharing it!! ;)

  3. Thanks for the reminder that we don’t need to know everything! It looks beautiful where you live.

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