As most of you know from my previous stories, I not only raise chickens, I AM a chicken. I don’t lay eggs or have feathers, but a few animal tracks in the snow can make me run squawking into the house. Last summer, I saw signs of a bear in my yard, but armed with the knowledge that bears hibernate in the winter, I am not too afraid of Mr. Bear this time of year. The winter snow leaves impressions of the night’s visitors, and each afternoon, I check to see if there are any new tracks to investigate. At first I would look up the tracks on the internet, trying to match the each to the corresponding animal, but the descriptions such as “catches prey by pouncing on them” made me more than a little nervous and I no longer wanted to know. The deer tracks are easy. There are apparently several deer of all sizes who cut through the back yard to get to the corn field behind the garden and the forest behind the corn field. There are smaller squirrel tracks and some a little larger that could be a weasel or a mink, neither of which would be welcome in the chicken coop. Rabbits hop, even in the snow, so rabbit tracks are easy to figure out. The tracks get even bigger. I think there is a fox that crosses back and forth every day as well as a medium-sized coyote. I think they are fox and coyote tracks, because there are no loose dogs in the area. With the first snow of the season, there were the unmistakable large tracks of a wolf, and they were too close for comfort, in my book. They travel in packs, too, so there was probably more than one. Although I haven’t seen signs of the wolf or his buddies in a while, I know that they must be lurking nearby, waiting for dinner, which will hopefully be a young and tender fox or coyote rather than a plump but tough Farm Woman. There are also some fairly large tracks that are unidentifiable because of the deep snow. These tracks could be from either a huge mountain lion with long sharp fangs or the neighbor’s cat. I’m not sure which, but one wouldn’t want to make the wrong assumption on that one. Both of them catch their prey by pouncing on them. A coworker wants to put his trail camera back there, but I’m not sure I want to do that. In most cases, the imagination is worse than the reality, but in this case, the reality could be so much more frightening. I haven’t investigated the rustling sound in the cornfield yet, and I’m not sure I want to. It could be the brisk winter wind rustling the dry stalks, it could be the deer searching for a leftover cob, or it could be a creature of the north woods stalking his prey. By the way, does anyone know what Bigfoot’s tracks look like?