Winter Mammal Study – Tracks, Scat, and Signs

Tracks Scats and Signs Nature Book Club

It’s another month of nature book fun here on the Handbook of Nature Study. Last month we were learning about birds using the fantastic resource, Backyard Birds. This month I’m again joining with the same group of bloggers for another fun nature topic: small mammals!  We’ll all share a book and activities that go along with that theme.  You can use the links at the bottom of this post to see all of our books/activities.

Use the link tool below to share your own small mammal related links this month too!

Don’t miss the giveaway at the bottom of this post!


Nature Book Club Mammals Feb 2018

Tracks, Scats, and Signs: So many people have this book on their shelf but have never actually used it for their nature study.  (It’s part of the Fun With Nature Take Along Guide as well!) I’m hoping to help you use the fantastic information in this book to get outside and look for some signs of animals in your yard and neighborhood.  Look for the book at your local library!

(Note there are affiliate links in this post)

Simple Idea for Using Tracks, Scats and Signs for Your Nature Study

  • Read the book Tracks, Scats and Signs with your family before you go on a nature walk. Keep it light and enjoy the words and illustrations, noting any animals you may have in your local area. Each topic in this book shows an illustration of the tracks and the scat that each animal makes so you know what to look for during your outdoor time.  You will need to explain the word “scat” to younger children; expect giggles as they realize it’s just a fancy word for animal poop. Along with each selection, there’s a short description of where to look for each animal and a little bit about their behavior.


tracks in the snow


  • Take a nature walk looking for tracks, scat, and signs. We were always excited when we found animal tracks in the snow, mud, or ice!  Take photos of any animal tracks you find as you explore.  You may wish to bring along a ruler to measure the size of the animal tracks you find for future reference.  Take a few minutes to use your imagination about who made the tracks and what they were doing.
  • When you get back home, make a nature journal entry recording any observations you have from your nature walk. I have used the illustrations in the Tracks, Scats, and Signs book to help me draw the tracks and scat into my own nature journal.

elk scat

I’ve written a few Outdoor Hour Challenges that you could use along with the Tracks, Scats and Signs book.

  • Winter Mammal Tracks: Use the idea during the winter months to learn more about the animal tracks you observe during your outdoor time.
  • Signs of Mammals: We’ve found in our family that many times we don’t actually see small mammals but we observe signs of them during our outdoor time. This challenge helps you do some research about signs you find and then make a nature journal entry.

Tracks Mammal Activity

Look for these additional books at your library:  Track Finder by Dorcas Miller and   Whose Tracks are These? by Jim Nail.

Winter Nature Study ebook @handbookofnaturestudy

I’m hoping you will consider using my Winter Nature Study ebook with your family in the future. There are many more winter nature study ideas for you to include with your outdoor time each week during the cold winter months.

NOTE: There are ebooks for each season here on the Handbook of Nature Study. You can find a complete list of the ebooks in my library here: Join Us! Right now I’m offering a $5 discount for every level of membership. Use the discount code OHC10 at checkout.

Handbook of Nature Study Subscribe Now 2

Make sure to subscribe to my blog to follow along with those mammal-related nature study activities.


Link Up Guidelines

        • Choose an engagingnature book, do a craft or activity, and add your post to our monthly link up.
        • The link up party goes live at 9:00 a.m. EST on the 20th of each month and stays open until the last day of the month. Hurry to add your links!
        • You can link up to 3 posts. Please do not link up advertising posts, advertise other link up parties, your store, or non-related blog posts. They will be removed.
        • By linking up with us, you agree for us to share your images and give you credit of course if we feature posts.

      The Nature Book Club The Nature Book Club 2018 Topics  




  • See all the great posts from The Nature Book Club’s co-hosts in February:
























Outdoor Hour Challenge – Winter Bird Study 2018

First, a quick reminder that the Great Backyard Bird Count is February 16-19, 2018. This is a perfect way to learn more about your winter birds!

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Winter Bird Study 2018

From the Archives and the Winter Wednesday ebook

You can use the link above to look at the winter bird study activity in my archives.  Your family may be interested in learning more about feeding your own backyard birds in the winter. To help you do this, I put together a page that explains how to keep Birdfeeders in Winter.

Downy Woodpecker Bird Birdfeeder suet (3)

In winter, birds still need the basics: food, water and shelter.

Learning About Birds 3D cover

Plus you may be interested in taking a look at my Learning About Birds With the Outdoor Hour Challenge ebook for a more in-depth study of backyard birds. For the month of February, I’m offering a $5 off coupon for every level of membership here on the Handbook of Nature Study. This ebook is in both the Ultimate and Journey levels of membership. Take a look at all of the benefits of having a membership!

Discount Code: $5 off any membership on the Handbook of Nature Study by using the code FEB5 during the month of February 2018.


If you have access to the Winter Wednesday ebook in the Ultimate Naturalist Library, there is a custom notebook page available to use as a follow up to your nature study.

Winter Wednesday ebook NOtebook pages

Join us for the Winter Wednesday series of challenges here every FRIDAY. You can find them under the winter tab on the blog or if you have an Ultimate Naturalist Library membership, you can find the ebook there for downloading.
You may be interested in following my Bird Nature Study Pinterest board for lots of bird nature study ideas.

Outdoor Mom- February 2018

Outdoor Mom – February 2018

It’s been unusually warm here in Central Oregon; some days the thermometer rises up to temperatures that are to be expected in spring. Well, you know that just makes me want to be outside and continue exploring!

tree silhouette

During our outdoor time this month we went….looking at tree silhouettes.

We don’t have a huge variety of trees in our area, mostly pines and a few aspens. I absolutely love the aspens and the big gorgeous ponderosa pines. The Outdoor Hour Challenge for winter trees helped us get to know our new habitat better.

tree bark

Side note: It’s hard to take a good tree silhouette photo.

winter grasses

I’m dreaming about….the green grasses and plants of summer.

The Outdoor Hour Challenge for winter weeds focused our attention on the plants we see during our river walks. Mostly dried and packed down by the winter snow, the winter weeds we observed are pretty much done for the season. But, on closer inspection, we can see new green growth starting to sprout underneath….that is exciting.

Our outdoor time made us ask….who made the trails in the weeds?

I noticed last month there appear to be “trails” under the weeds where small animals are moving around beneath the matted grasses. Some of the trails lead to holes and have fresh dirt at the openings. Could these be the subnivean zone trails of our local rodents?

rodent scat

I even found a spot that has a pile of scat, small little droppings sort of like mouse scat but much lighter in color. Fascinating!

feb kayak

The most inspiring thing we experienced…seeing beaver bank dens.

The ongoing hunt to actually see our beavers down at the river continued this month as we took to our kayaks and floated over to the opposite side of the river to check out some activity we could see going on over there.

beaver slide

On this warm afternoon, we spotted lots of signs of beaver activity like gnawed willow branches, beaver “slides” where they enter and exit the water, and trees that the beavers cut down.

beaver cut tree

We spent an hour or so traipsing around the willows and trees and along the river bank trying to see where they are living. We found a spot on the bank that looked like it was a possibility so we got back into the kayaks and checked it out from the water side.

bank den beaver

Could this be it? When we got back home, we researched bank dens of beavers and discovered this is exactly the kind of place they create for shelter. We’ve been looking for the typical beaver lodge with its big mound of branches and a dam. But, we have learned that they will create hollows in the river bank to make a series of dens for living space.

Now we need to get out there at a time they’re active which is typically an hour before darkness or at sunrise. I have a friend who lives down river from us and he says he has seen the beavers out in the late afternoon and he’s heard their tails slapping on the water so that gives me a glimmer of hope that we may see our beavers if we’re persistent.

february elk

One more image….our elk!

Finally, the elk have returned to our neighborhood. We had visitors from California that were keen to see them and we spotted them not too far from the house. Then the next week, we had four elk right behind our fence in the early morning hours. It was barely light enough to spot them but they stuck around for a little while and I was able to get an image. They are such beautiful animals, much larger than expected, and so agile as they move along. I’m looking forward to observing them until the late spring when they return to the mountains.


Instagram OutdoorHourChallenge

Follow me here: Instagram – outdoorhourchallenge. If you would like me to take a look at one of your images on Instagram, use the hashtag #outdoorhourchallenge

Want to join in the Outdoor Mom post?

Answer all or just one of the prompts in a blog entry on your own blog or right here on my blog in a comment. If you answer on your blog, make sure to leave me a link in a comment so that I can pop over and read your responses.

  • During our outdoor time this month we went….
  • The most inspiring thing we experienced was…
  • Our outdoor time made us ask (or wonder about)…
  • In the garden, we are planning/planting/harvesting….
  • I added nature journal pages about….
  • I am reading…
  • I am dreaming about…
  • One last image…