Animal Tracks

Just when we thought that we had considered every aspect of the park, another one became very apparent.  With all the rain we’ve had, animal tracks now stand out.  The tracks pictured above belong to Javelinas (Collared Peccaries).

Especially after rain, animal tracks become quite prominent, and many kinds can be seen around the park if you keep your eyes open.  Sometimes they can be difficult to identify, as the one pictured here.  At other times identification is easy, as with the Javelina prints shown above.

We have been able to identify tracks from a raccoon and from a scaled quail.

Even though tracks show up more easily when there is mud present,  tracks can be found at any time of year, as sand can hold them well.  Examples of this are Javelina tracks and Bobcat tracks.

There is so much to see in the park that it can be easy to miss animal tracks.  It is worth looking out for animal tracks because you can then know what animals frequent the area.

We have seen Coyote Tracks.  We have heard that Mountain Lions have been in the park, and we now have evidence of their presence with their tracks.  We saw the latter in the mud after major rains.  The prints in these photos show that the tracks could not belong to any other animal, based on their size.  We photographed them next to a quarter (one inch diameter) to give an idea of their size.  We saw these on the path that parallels the road, near the restroom on North Mountain (just before the gate).

Not all tracks are made by paws.  This photo shows Rattlesnake tracks.

More than footprints can be used to track the presence of animals.  At the Interpretive Fair in October 2013 we saw this clump of coyote fur caught on a cactus right next to the park headquarters.  Scat (animal droppings) is another way to track animals.  This photo is of Javelina scat.  It is easily recognizable because it always has one end that looks truncated; there is no pointed end.  Javelina also have a very recognizable scent: if you think you are smelling skunk, it’s really javelina.

Bird nests are yet another way of tracking the presence of animals.  If you see a nest in a cactus with an entrance hole on the side, it belongs to a Cactus Wren.  The nests of Cave Swallows are also easily recognizable, as you can see in the photo below.  These are usually up high on the rocks, on the under side of overhead rocks.  In the same locations, one can also see the nests of Mud Dauber wasps.

As you can see from this photo, barn swallow nests look entirely different.  (Photo courtesy of Maria Valles)

We found this nest at eye level in a Netleaf Hackberry tree, right next to the path in Mescalero Canyon.  It belongs to a Black-chinned Hummingbird, the only hummingbird species to nest in this area.

Another way we have detected the presence of certain animals is seeing the holes in the trails made by nesting digger bees.  They like the well-packed earth of the trails, and make perfectly round holes about ¼ inch in diameter that look as if someone had stuck a pencil into mud and drawn it out.

The bottom line is that you’ll want to keep your eyes open as you walk around the park, because you will see all sorts of signs of the creatures who live in the park.

The prior sentence is worth paying attention to.  On December 25, 2015, we were leading a tour that went to Comanche Cave.  On the way back we passed this prickly pear, as we always do.  Only this time it had clearly been recently eaten, and the big bite you see at the bottom right of the photo, could only have been made by a Javelina.  Given the location of the plant, on the rocks above the level of the top of the dam, we think we can now be certain the Javelina can navigate the rocks.  

There are additional photos in this album.

© Susan L. Stone 2015