It may be possible to tell the difference between white-footed and deer mouse tracks, but I certainly can’t. The only clue that sometimes works is to note the habitat in which you see the tracks– they are somewhat more likely to be those of a deer mouse if they are in a coniferous forest, but not always! White-footed and deer mice often travel on top of the snow. They are bounders, leaving tracks that resemble those of a miniature rabbit, with the larger back feet landing in front of the smaller front feet. There is often a tail mark, but not always, as they can and do hold their tails vertically at times.
With two new inches of fresh snow on the ground, my hopes were high for discovering some tracks this morning, but something even more unusual met my eyes – worms crawling on top of the snow! Not our familiar earthworms, but skinny and relatively short worms ( one to two inches in length when not moving). There are such things as “ice worms,” but they are found only on glaciers. Our “snow worms” are in the class Oligochaetes, and in the family of Enchytraeidae, just like earthworms, so are members of Annelida, or segmented worms, but that’s about as far as I can go with their identification. According to worm specialist Professor Crawford at the University of Wasington, members of Oligochaetes can’t be identified based on appearance alone. Whatever species they are, if our snow worms are like ice worms, they live off of snow algae and are most active at night. These worms are studied by scientists interested in seeing if their proteins exhibit the right characteristics to be of use in transplant surgeries where keeping an organ cold without freezing is key. I welcome any additional information on these creatures that anyone chooses to post! (Snow flea was included in photo for size reference.)