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.
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.
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.
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.
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.