By Sydney Chandler
Unique footprints mark the snow. They are in the parking lot, along the Green Heron and Ridge Trail, at the bog, under bushes near Three-Mile Drive, and by open water. Prints first made in slushy snow were frozen in time with a temperature drop. They tell the tales of the Arboretum Opossum.
Checking for a Snack
On the Green Heron Trail, the opossum favors the side of the trail. But a stone bench is a curious diversion. Perhaps the opossum checked beneath for a quick snack of insects, snails, or plants. As the opossum treks onward, its path crosses that of deer, raccoon, squirrel, and turkey. The high traffic shows that many animals favor the efficiency of using the hiking trail.
Climbing Around at the Bog
Just off the Green Heron Trail, the adventurous opossum makes a daring climb. At the bog, front prints, resembling starfish, show that it slips as it reaches up onto the boardwalk. The mitten-like hind feet finally follow as the opossum’s footing is secured. Perhaps the bog has been a good source of food in the past, and the opossum is using its strong memory to return for a feast.
An Opossum-Eye’s View
Multiple opossum trails weave on and off hiking trails. Imagine the view this opossum has on its cold hike: the crisp white ground, a wide open trail ahead, and evidence of other animals all around. What other hints about an animal’s life do tracks provide? What stories do you see on the land?
Sydney Chandler is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.