Thursday, February 18, 2010

Animal Activity in Mowed Field

In the mowed field, the few shrubs left standing are really noticeable and have influenced the deer traffic pattern. The shrubs are Deerberry, Vaccinium stamineum, a relative of the blueberry. The deer change course to visit each shrub as they cross the field.

Deerberry can grow to be several feet tall if it gets the chance. It seems to be a favorite deer browse and receives a severe pruning each winter.

The deer don’t chew it down to the ground. They prefer to eat the tips of the newest growth. If food is scarce, they will begin to eat the older wood.

The tracks look as though a passing deer detoured to make a quick loop around the shrub. The shrubs respond to the loss of branch tips by producing more side branches. This results in more branches for the deer to eat the following season.

Mouse tracks were everywhere in the field. The owls must not be hunting here.

Here’s the classic tulip imprint of a mouse hopping through deep snow. These tracks are either from a Deer Mouse or a White-Footed Mouse. Both species are common in the field.

When I saw the distance this mouse jumped, I began to wonder if the tracks were from a Meadow Jumping Mouse. The tracks coming in from the bottom of the picture continue near the top. The tail imprint is rather long which is also a characteristic of the Jumping Mouse. The problem with that identification is that the Jumping Mouse is supposed to spend the winter in hibernation and should not be out running in the snow in the middle of February.

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