Don’t get me wrong.  Carla and I weren’t stalking the wild vole together.  She lives way over yonder in Maine, and we’re in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. 

However, if you click on the above youtube video and watch Carla’s movie about stalking wild vole tracks and tunnels in the woods around her house, you just might happen to hear the name of this blog!  She posted this video on this morning and provided fair warning that Opening the door, walking outside was featured.

Honestly, she re-inspired me.  I approached today’s outdoor assignment with renewed vigor and confidence.  One didn’t need to look for hugely interesting subjects in the great outdoors.  One could search for small tracks, deep tunnels, miniscule droppings.  The Universe surely provides!

I started by looking for vole tracks.  C’mon, Carla and I needed to do this together!  However….no vole tracks.  No mice, chipmunk or squirrel tracks.  Little chickadee and nuthatch tracks scattered beneath the feeder, and deer tracks meandered everywhere.  A suspicious-looking path of tracks meandered from the driveway down by the house, but they proved impossible to identify in the deep fluffy snow.  Could they be coyote?  Only the full moon knows for sure….

I thought of an interesting shrew story.  It might have been a vole story.  Close enough!  Here goes:  a couple winters ago my husband shared his garage with a blind little shrew.  He caught glimpses of the fellow scurrying hither and yon.  They co-existed peacefully for several weeks when suddenly, one evening, my husband decided to take off his jacket and throw it on the garage floor.  Unbeknown to him, the shrew ran up the sleeve of his jacket and perhaps settled for a nap.  Later, as Barry put on his jacket, the shrew dove up under his shirt, attempting to escape.  Imagine that scenario!  Barry was leaping around, trying not to injure the poor creature, tearing off his jacket, trying to shake the shrew out to safety.  Fortunately, both survived.

Remembering that story brought a chuckle, but I continued my search for tracks.  Up a steep slope, through calf-deep snow, peering around, trying to figure out where a vole might live in these woods.  No vole.  Suddenly an interesting animal “track” appeared.  See for yourself:

Mysterious animal track in snow

Mysterious animal track in snow

I’m sorry you can’t see this to proper scale; you would probably be able to identify immediately.  Give up?

It’s the “track” of where a deer rested.  He or she cuddled in a round ball in the snow and snoozed or slept or simply paused for some time.  He rested long enough to melt the snow all the way down to the undercover of leaves and debris.

When I went to the Tom Brown Jr. Wilderness Survival School back in the ’90’s, we learned quite a bit about identifying animal tracks.  We learned that expert trackers can fathom amazing details about the person or animal just by examining the tracks.  In Tom’s words from his book “The Science and Art of Tracking”: 

 “When we track, we pick up a string. At the far end of that string a being is moving, existing, still connected to the track that we gaze upon. The animal’s movement is still contained in that track, along with the smallest of external and internal details. As we follow these tracks, we begin to become the very animal we track. Our awareness expands from the animal we have become to the landscape it reacted to and is played by. We feel the influence of all things that surround us and our awareness expands from our consciousness to the mind of the animal and finally to the very cosmos. In tracking and awareness, then, there can never be a separation. One without the other is but half a story, and incomplete picture, thus an incomplete understanding. It is the track that connects us to that grand consciousness and expands us to limitless horizons.”

Tom also knows something about the wild vole.  It has a voracious appetite, having to eat at least its own weight every day.  A good acre of grassland can support about 400 voles, but excellent acres can support populations of over 10,000 per acre. They do have a storage instinct, and their caches can be located along the trails of their feeding areas. 

Carla, did you see any vole caches?