Finally, Some Winter Tracking

I’ve recently been on the lookout for a solid example of gray squirrel striping. Gray squirrels tend to utilize the most gnarly tree in their territory to use as a scenting/marking post, so you’d expect they would be hard to miss. Perhaps my search image is not quite developed enough yet… The only other tree I’ve found in the area with this sign is the distinguished (and diseased) American Chestnut on the Center Trail in Stony Hill which is a very distinctly shaped tree that is hard to go unnoticed, especially being adjacent to the trail. However, I only noticed the gray squirrel striping on its main trunk last winter after I was introduced to this gray squirrel-specific behavior. Below is another example of this behavior that I found in Stony Hill on an oak (also diseased) with a very distinct, large burl. Notice the reddish color on the underside of the burl as well as the darker tint beneath the burl on the lower section of the trunk.

photoUpon closer inspection, I found the reddish color was actually gray squirrel teeth marks exposing the inner bark. The darker coloration below that is believed to be the result of the squirrel rubbing the side of it’s mouth/cheek on the bark for scenting purposes. 

Further along on my adventure, I spotted a gray squirrel scat at the base of another oak, along with some tracks and an exposed acorn cash giving it away.


This may be the most fresh squirrel scat I have found yet.


Along with lots of gray squirrel, perhaps the most abundant track and sign was that of white-tailed deer. Below is a fresh antler scrape on a sapling with the tracks of the buck continuing up the hill to the left. I apologize for the picture quality…


Here, you can see the bark shavings freshly scattered on the snow beneath the sapling. photo-3

I’m going to do my best to keep these tracking posts coming, especially when we have snow.

Wildlife Track and Sign Workshop – May 14, 2016

Trackers investigate the small trail of a diamondback terrapin hatchling. 
Larger turtle track lacking a drag mark of the plastron – likely a snapping turtle.
terrapin hatchling.JPG
A diamond back terrapin hatchling made an appearance. 
Shorebird tracks of a willet, showing partial webbing between toes 3 and 4.
Measuring the willet track length – not including the 1st toe.

Reading Wildlife Track and Sign Workshop

Reading Wildlife Track and Sign Workshop

Saturday    May 14, 2016      9:00 am – 4:00 pm.
Instructors: Mike Bottini, Juliana Duryea, Callie Velmachos.
Location: Sagaponack – Sag Harbor area.
Fee: $40 ($36 for LINO members).


red fox trot

The Red Fox’s typical hunting gait: direct register trot.

This field workshop is designed for naturalists, environmental and outdoor educators, amateur trackers and citizen scientists, professional biologists, and students (minimum age of 16) seeking to increase their wildlife tracking and observation skills, and sign knowledge.

We will visit three different sites in the Long Pond Greenbelt area, including a pond shoreline, beach, and a river otter latrine site.

Topics that will be covered include:

– how to examine tracks (habitat, trail patterns, print details)

– understanding gaits

– distinguishing various feeding and marking sign

– identifying scat and tracks of over dozen wildlife species.

racoon walk
The Raccoon’s overstep walk track pattern.

For more information or questions contact Mike Bottini at or 631-267-5228.

Some Winter Tracking


We trailed a pair of red foxes to this fresh deer carcass (which had a fractured femur – most likely hit by a car). Delicately placed on top of the hind quarters of the deer was this fresh scat, perhaps the red fox’s claim to its food source.


While trailing these foxes, we found several scent marks (confirmed as they have an unmistakably skunky, wild canine smell) as well as several dens (one of which will be used to raise their young during the next few months). The photo above depicts a possible sit spot where this individual fox (the smaller of the two) may have stopped to preen itself and/or be still and observe it’s surroundings.
The deer carcass shown above also had a raptor feeding on it. This red-tailed hawk print is one of many tracks directly surrounding the site.
Front (top) and hind (bottom) prints of  one of our most ancient species: the Virginia opossum.
This trail was confirmation of a suspected inhabitant we documented several days before: the southern flying squirrel. Notice the landing spot (bottom) then bounds toward the base of the tree where it likely climbed back up into the canopy.
This small rodent track in a bounding pattern, most likely a vole or mouse, was found meandering around the base of trees and in and out of small shrubs and holes in the snow.
Here is where the same rodent trotted down a small snow drift adjacent to a tree.



Sunday July 19, 2015

8:30 am – 4:30 pm

(sponsored by Long Island Nature Organization)

Location: The Walking Dunes, Hither Hills State Park
Fee: $130 ($117 for LINO members).


These courses are taught by George Leoniak (, one of the six CyberTracker evaluators in North America, and provide participants the opportunity to pursue Track and Sign Certification from CyberTracker Conservation, a globally recognized non-profit that established the international standard for assessing wildlife tracking and sign skills. Participants in the one-day course will have the opportunity to test for Level I certification.

In wildlife research and monitoring, natural sign surveys are an effective means of collecting data on the presence, range and distribution of animal species. However, there are concerns about the integrity of the data from these types of surveys. In response to these concerns, the CyberTracker Conservation Evaluation System was designed to establish reliable, standardized tracking skills.

These workshops are open to naturalists, environmental and outdoor educators, amateur trackers and citizen scientists, professional biologists, and students (minimum age of 16) seeking to increase their wildlife tracking and observation skills, and sign knowledge. Over 60 wildlife biologists, natural resource managers, educators and interested naturalists have taken this popular program on Long Island since March 2014.

LINO founder and wildlife biologist Mike Bottini took this workshop in New Hampshire in February 2014, and invited instructor George Leoniak to Long Island that spring to offer it here. “This is the best field naturalist workshop I’ve ever taken,” says Bottini. “George is an amazing instructor. I realized its potential to train naturalists on Long Island to help document the distribution of rare and elusive species here, such as the gray fox, river otter, and some day soon a breeding population of coyotes.”

“I enjoyed the course a very great deal. It opened my eyes to the richness of information that tracks and signs can reveal–if you know how to read them. I look forward to learning more.” Betty Borowsky, PhD, Associate Professor of Biology, Nassau Community College

For more information or questions contact Mike Bottini at or 631-267-5228.



River Otters on Long Island

River otter at Mashomack, Shelter Island
A river otter photographed with a wildlife camera at Mashomack Preserve, Shelter Island, NY as part of the Long Island River Otter Project.

Saturday, March 14, 9-11 AM 

at the Nature Conservancy’s Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island

Otters can be found at Mashomack! Join Mike Bottini, wildlife biologist, for a talk and short field trip to learn about the natural history of the river otter, its history on Long Island and in NY and the current research efforts on behalf of this fascinating mammal.

For more information on the Long Island River Otter Project, visit Mike Bottini’s website here. 

otter entrance
Mike Bottini measures the entrance hole to a nesting den used by a river otter in Southold, NY.

River Otters on Long Island

Saturday, January 31, 2015 @ 7:00PM

South Fork Natural History Museum (SOFO)

377 Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike

River Otters are slowly making a comeback on Long Island. Join Mike Bottini for a talk about the natural history of this fascinating creature, its history on Long Island and in New York State, how to survey areas for this elusive animal, and current research efforts on behalf of the river otter.

River otter at Mashomack, Shelter Island
River otter at Mashomack, Shelter Island – Mike Bottini photo

Reservations are necessary through SOFO. Please call (631) 537-9735. Members of SOFO admitted free. Non-members charged $7 per adult, $5 per child under 12 years.

Coyote update!

The photo below was taken with a remote camera by a hunter in the Bridgehampton area this week. Hopefully we’ll get some snow this weekend and do some tracking…

Coyote caught on camera in Bridgehampton on January 20, 2015
Smile! Coyote caught on camera in Bridgehampton on January 20, 2015.

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