"Have you entered into the treasures of the snow..." (Job 38: 22a)
Winter is one of the best times to explore outdoors at Beacon, despite the snow and cold. The animals that didn't migrate and aren't hibernating are still around camp, working hard at surviving the winter. But now the snow provides a record of their activities. Take a hike on snowshoes or cross-country skis to find their tracks and discover something about their everyday (and night) lives.
A straight line of oval tracks leading along the edge of the road, then down into the soccer field, are likely those of a fox. Follow them to learn something about where and what it was hunting - meadow mice in the soccer field, and deer mice in the woods.
Mice leave their own tiny tracks in the snow, often leading from one small hole to another as they surface and then disappear back down into their subnivean world beneath the snow. That is where mice spend most of the winter - on the ground under the snow. When they venture out from there they leave a trail of tiny prints that look something like a series of dots on top of the snow. Meadow mice prefer open areas such as Beacon’s soccer field, while the tracks of its cousin, the deer mouse, are more likely to be found in the woods.
Either location may also reveal the tiny, bunched tracks of a weasel. They resemble mice tracks, but have a longer stride between their tracks. More common than is known, the weasel's white coat and small size keep it hidden.
Squirrels, on the other hand, are easily seen around Beacon. Their galloping tracks, with hind feet placed ahead of the front feet, are found throughout the woods, criss-crossing amongst the trees as they move quickly from one to another. Beacon is home to red, gray (including the black) and flying squirrels. Flying squirrels are harder to find, being nocturnal. They spend most of their waking time gliding between trees, so don’t often leave tracks on the ground.
The waterfront is another location where tracks are in abundance. House-cat sized prints along the shoreline are those of a mink. This dark weasel hunts in and around water, leaving a trail from its wanderings.
Another member of the weasel family, the otter, may also make an appearance around, and in, the lake. The otter’s tracks are easy to identify because it often slides its body along the snow when it travels. These slides are about 20 – 25 cm wide and vary in length, though they always begin and end with a set of large tracks. Look for these and other otter signs along the shoreline, and on the ice of Beacon’s lake (but check first about the thickness of the ice!).
Winter tracking gives an understanding of an animal's activity more than at any other time of the year, even though these animals live at camp year-round.
God is also always present, though not visible. But His 'signs' - His Word, and His Creation, especially at camp - are how He reveals Himself to us.