It’s that time again, and now it’s a contribution from the Mammals/Carnivores folder. This is also from the Indian River Lagoon, but you need to understand: when I first obtained the loaner camera, that was the area I went to for experimenting. It was convenient and capable of providing plenty of subjects. In this case, we have some tracks in a saturated area of sand – I seem to recall that it was a small sandbank, something that would appear and disappear with every significant storm.
The collection of tracks was, almost certainly, less than 12 hours old, a record of activity in this tiny patch of sand. It’s easy to imagine that the two primary players were present together, but that’s unrealistic – for a reason I’ll get into shortly.
In fact, I’m going to let you determine what those tracks are from. One set I was certain of while the other had, in my mind, three possibilities with one prominent. That one was correct; when I double-checked the shapes of the suspects’ tracks, the other two looked significantly different than what’s seen here. So you tell me.
Give up? Then highlight the blank space below to reveal the answer.
The long, three-toed tracks are of course from a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) – slim chance it was a great egret, they’d leave about the same tracks with a trivial difference in size, but the great blues were far more numerous in the region. The smaller tracks, which is why this sits in the Mammals/Carnivores folder, are from a raccoon (Procyon lotor.) The other two options, in my mind, were opossum and river otter, because I knew both were prevalent in the area, but neither of those produce the same shape. Opossums leave tracks with stubby toes, almost like someone with their fingers curled a bit, and otters leaves tracks a lot more like a dog, without prominent ‘fingers.’ Not a hard one to figure out, but I realized I wasn’t exactly sure what otter tracks looked like.
And the reason why they likely didn’t occur at the same time? Raccoons are largely nocturnal, while herons are largely diurnal. Either can be present and active at other than their ‘preferred’ times, but it’s uncommon. We’ll go with the odds on this one.