On Monday we went to Alutaguse to look for bears’ winter dens and found ideal conditions. The snow that fell last week had not melted and a warm April sun was shining from the sky. The wild animals were active. In the course of three days we saw the tracks of at least sixteen animals: bear, wolf, lynx, elk, wild boar, roe deer, fox, raccoon dog, badger, pine marten, polecat (Mustela putorius) (and/or American mink), least weasel (Mustela nivalis) (and/or stoat Mustela erminea), beaver, squirrel (and/or flying squirrel), mountain hare and brown hare.
It is almost impossible to distinguish between the tracks of a polecat and a mink. You can only guess from the habitat. Mink tracks are mostly found near waters, the polecat’s also further from water.
I have always explained on hikes that the hind paws of the mountain hare are like snow shoes. This photo shows clearly that the snow crust carried the “snow shoes“ but not the paws.
We found about 10 different bear tracks and winter den. There were so many bear tracks that at times we didn’t understand who was running where. Large males, females with cubs, tracks widths from 11 to 17 centimetres. From the tracks we could see that the great waking up was at the end of last week. The first days were spent near the dens, making “mischief“ and lying about; the more active movements began yesterday. All at once, as if it were orchestrated in advance.
These photos need some imagination. A large male bear was standing with his back against the tree and scrubbed the trunk with the scruff of his neck – bear classics. So male bears mark their territory, because they have their scent glands at the scruff of the neck.
We will see bears, their winter dens and doings after waking up at the bear safaris
that start right away: