Flooded meadow

Riversearch March 2016: mysterious tracks

I chose a beautiful morning for my March Riversearch survey. The sun was shining, and, being a weekday, I had the stretch of river to myself.

It had rained heavily over the weekend, and, as I looked down from the bridge to the meadow, I wasn’t sure I would even be able to get down to the riverside. Once again, a large area had transformed from meadow to pond. But, thanks to my wellies and my intrepid stick, I was able to get through, staying dry and upright.

Flooded meadow
There’s a meadow under there somewhere!

The river level was high, and the water turbid. Some of the pipes were discharging a bit of liquid into the river, and in one place the flooded field was draining back into the river.

In the wood there were signs of spring. Wild garlic leaves were plentiful, but the flowers weren’t yet out, so their pungent aroma wasn’t noticeable.

The advantage of surveying just after the water level had somewhat receded was that any patches of earth were blank slates. Instead of the usual muddle of prints from dogs and their owners, there was a smooth, soft surface. This enabled me to spot a clear track in the woods following the river bank. What’s less clear is what made it.

Mystery pawprints
Mystery pawprints
Mystery pawprints
Mystery pawprints

Looking at my track id guide, they look to me like large rat prints. But fellow mammal group members think they’re probably mustellid, either mink (which we know are present on this stretch), or, more excitingly, polecat or polecat-ferret. What do you think?

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2 thoughts on “Riversearch March 2016: mysterious tracks”

    1. Thanks! I wasn’t aware of polecats in Surrey, but Vincent Wildlife Trust have just released a report on polecats, which showed a few records (the only verifiable ones were polecat-ferrets, rather than polecats, but apparently some captive bred polecats have been released in the county). I’d love to see one in the wild, but suspect these prints are more likely to be mink, as I’ve seen them in the area.

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