Wild Animals/track print?

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QUESTION: hi
i found a large track and i need some help identifying it
i know it has to be a large animal because the print is almost as big as my hand  and we have a small barn dog but she a small dog no where large enough to leave this track she goes biserk at night and early morning hours like aggressive growling and barking
i live in southern Canada in listowel Ontario i live in the woods out in the country
we have had wolf sightings cougar sightings lots of coyote sightings but this is too big for a coyote
we also have not heard or even seen any stray dogs out here either so i was wondering if you could help me identify it ?

ANSWER: Dear Melissa,

The megafauna that inhabit Southern Ontario include wolves, cougars, wolverines, and bears. I think that the track is too large to be that of a wolf, coyote, or wolverine. Moreover, if the track came from a bear one would expect the palm to be broader and significantly larger than the digits. The track however is consistent with that of a cougar. Nomadic cougars will often prowl the various peripheries of the territories of other cougars in search of food and water. During these times of a cougar's life, they can grow emaciated, lacking a reliable supply of prey items. As a result, some cougars will resort to killing domesticated cats, livestock, dogs, and, albeit rare, occasionally attacking humans.

Given the information you've provided concerning your dog's size and her behavior during and just after nighttime, and the fact that cougars are nocturnal and crepuscular, I am concerned that your dog may be at danger of being attacked and killed by the cougar. I would contact local wildlife authorities and explain to them your situation.

Feel free to contact me again if you need further help with this problem.

Best Wishes,

Fady

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strides
strides  
another paw print
another paw print  
QUESTION: Awesome thanks a bunch
I measured the tracks at being just about 4 inches long by almost over 3 inches wide
ill send a pgoto of the stride pattern I think its werid though
ny parents don't think its a cougar they say its probably a big dog but I really don't think its a large dog
we have had no sightings of strays or even heard any barking from strays

ANSWER: Dear Melissa,

In light of that information, the tracks would appear to have been made by a canid. Cougar paws are wider than they are tall, while those of canids (coyotes, wolves, dogs, and the like) are taller than they are long. I also noticed in the first picture that the tracks show claws; this does not necessarily mean that they weren't formed from a felid, but often big cats will keep their claws retracted until just before ambushing their prey. However, the tracks would also appear to be rather large to have been made by a coyote, as they generally have measurements about half that size.

Perhaps the animal is a wolf or stray dog that only approaches your property at night? Canids are of course fairly intelligent animals and will generally avoid an area if there is a human presence. Are there any fruits, e.g. berries, growing near your property that would attract a canid? It is commonly believed that all canids are hypercarnivores but in fact wolves, dogs, and other members of the Canidae family will eat fruits when available. Perhaps the animal is looking to exploit garbage left outside? I am looking for whatever incentive the animal appears to have for returning.  

Best Wishes,

Fady

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

paw print
paw print  

brush wolf or hybrid
brush wolf or hybrid  
QUESTION: We actaully have a chicken farm that is maybe a couple hundred feet away from our property
our small dog kacies usually brings up the small dead chickens and eats them
We did how ever have a very large canine of a sort visit our property in may
We were tokd it was a brush wolf or wolf hybrid a few eeeks after we saw it a farmer came to our house saying a large brown animal chashed his cattle into our corn field we ssked if it looked like a wolf and he said xouod have been

Do you think it could it be from that ?

Answer
Dear Melissa,

On the basis of your past experiences and the tracks you sent me, we can safely establish that the animal that is frequenting your property is some relatively large canid. This canid obviously has an incentive for encroaching on your property or it would not do so multiple times, especially in light of the fact that all canids in North America have evolved to avoid humans. In almost all of these cases, the animal is exploiting a relatively easy food or is aware that there is such food in a nearby vicinity.

It can be very difficult to identify a canid as a wolf or coyote, much less a hybrid, on the basis of images, especially when viewed at a distance. However, most coyote tracks are about 2.75 inches long or less. Wolf tracks are about 3.5 inches long or more, while those of domestic dogs can vary considerably. It is difficult for me to believe that the animal is a domestic dog, or at least 100% domesticated, on the basis of the images that you sent. The specimen's prominently furry pelt, its barrel shaped snout and rather large size suggest that it is a coyote or wolf.

I suspect that the animal may be a nomadic wolf; because wolves that that do not belong to any pack are far less able hunters of megafauna than pack-dwelling wolves, a significant percentage of solitary wolves die within their first year of nomadicity. Of course, this would give the animal a strong incentive for frequenting your chicken farm and explain its pertinacious nature.

I hope that what I've written above is of some service, and I hope that you will deal the animal benignly. Feel free to contact me again if you have any more questions.

Best Wishes,

Fady

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Fady D. Isho

Expertise

I can answer general questions about any and all of the phyla within the kingdom Animalia. I am most knowledgeable on the predatory, reproductive, and intraspecific and interspecific behavior of megafauna, including but not limited to the big cats, ursines, hyenas, canids, and the like. I can also answer some questions about animal conservation, but please do not ask me how to rehabilitate feral animals. Virtually every state in America has a local animal shelter or rehabilitation center that serves that purpose. I would also prefer not to answer questions about hypothetical animal fights.

Experience

I've read about animals for the majority of my life, and have researched and studied them independently and academically.

Education/Credentials
I am a few semesters away from obtaining a B.S. in biology.

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