Animal droppings: Grouse and mouse

2019 April 7

Ok, I just got back from snowshoeing in the woods today (April 7, 2019). The snow is still pretty deep [1], so it will be a while before I get much in the way of new critters or plants to photograph. But, the upper layer of snow has melted away to expose what is underneath. And much of what is underneath, is animal droppings.

These, for example, appear to be from a grouse.


As you can see, there is quite a pile of droppings, just below a somewhat filthy socket in the snow. Apparently what grouse do in the winter, is hide under a thin layer of snow, which makes them pretty much invisible. Their body heat gradually melts down into the socket so that they don’t stick up, and the poop accumulates behind them. It looks like they stay in one spot for quite a while, that pile looks like enough accumulation for several days at least.


Stumbling across a grouse in the winter can be pretty startling. You’re just walking along, minding your own business, when suddenly you step too close and this big bird noisily rockets up out of the snow. Enough to give you a heart attack.

There was also evidence of a small rodent of some sort. Maybe a mouse, maybe a vole, possibly a chipmunk. Here’s his droppings,


and here’s his hole in the snow. Rodents in the woods spend a lot of time running around just under the surface, where nobody can see them. So, things like foxes and owls have to find them by sound rather than by sight.


So, anyway, this is the sort of stuff that emerges from the snow as it melts off. Maybe next week, we will actually see some soil!

[1] On the left is my walking stick driven down into the snow until it hit the ground. On the right is how long the stick actually is (I just stuck it into the snow enough for it to stand up).

Snowstick.down Snowstick.up

I should really put some graduations on it to use for measuring, but anyway, that stick is six feet long. Even though it has been close to a month since our last serious snowfall, and it has been melting a lot the last couple of weeks, the snow most places is still a good two feet deep.

Oh, and while we are on the topic of animal droppings, here’s one last picture from New Mexico. Rosie tried to stop me from taking this. “No, Dad!” she cried. “Don’t take pictures of poop! Bad dad!” But I did it anyway.


This particular one was from the Prehistoric Trackways hike, but we saw these pretty much everywhere. Having spent many years shoveling manure when I was a kid, I think I know cow droppings when I see them. We didn’t see any actual cattle around, but it sure looks like they run around pretty much free-range at least part of the time.

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