Squirrel Toes, a clue to squirrel tracks in deep snow.

Grey Squirrel


Squirrels often leave confusing tracks in deep snow.  Below is an example of a Grey Squirrel’s tracks that don’t match what is typical for their bounding gate pattern, the snow or other factors causing all four feet to leave only the two “holes” in the snow.  I have noticed a particular feature that seems to be a consistent clue to help confirm squirrel tracks from other similarly sized animals also capable of leaving this tracks pattern such as weasels and rabbits.

Grey Squirrel tracks in deep snow

squirrel tracks in shallow snow


Some foot morphology is in order before I explain my observations. Above are all four feet of a squirrels track.  Notice the arrangement of the toes of the hind feet (upper feet). The middle three toes of each foot group together in a line, while the outer toes seem separate.  When the toes are splayed, which often happens in deep substrate, this separation becomes even more exaggerated.


Squirrel tracks


Here is a clear example of splayed hind tracks of a squirrel (in this case the lower tracks in the image). This snow was not very deep so the toes are rather clear and identification is not a problem even though it is not the typical squirrel pattern.


Grey Squirrel tracks in deep snow



The images above and below are trickier.  However, take a look a the image above and one can see on the outside of each mark the edges show the effect of the outside toe of each foot splaying.  I have attempted to mark this with an arrow in the text below.  I very often see this effect of the clawed spayed toe and have come to use it as a quick identifier of otherwise less than obvious squirrel tracks.

This is also evident in the example below, though much harder to see.  Its more of a widening of the track in that area.  Try comparing the more clear tracks above to these to identify which part of the foot leaves what part of the track.

grey squirrel tracks in deep snow

I am interested in feedback from other trackers.  Is this consistent and do other animals tracks ever look similar? Please leave your feedback in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Squirrel Toes, a clue to squirrel tracks in deep snow.

  1. This is interesting, but I find an easier way to distinguish squirrel from rabbit in deep snow is that rabbits leave a drag mark at the mid-line, due to the front feet being close together. Squirrels on the other hand, leave the drag marks at either edge of each group as you can see in your final photo. Your observation might be more helpful for distinguishing weasel from squirrel, when weasels are using 2-2 lope and the two tracks in each group appear almost side by side, rather than one of them noticeably ahead of the other (as is typical with larger weasels, such as fisher).

    1. Thank you Janet. Yes I agree there are other ways to quickly distinguish squirrel from rabbits and even with weasels the toe thing will only be necessary on occasion.

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