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Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency Year Seven: Case File No. 39-351

unknown wildlife track in the snow next to Amber's hand for scale

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Where We Left Off:

In our last case file, we had physical and video evidence of our most common cryptid in New Jersey.

Tread Softly Stranger:

Late January 2024, New Jersey finally had decent snow. The problem living in it was that it was mixed with rain and ice making roads treacherous. Our driveway was a glacier for over a week. I shoveled, but I was not going to try and chop ice three-inches thick. For the Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency that meant days stuck inside, but when we did get outside, we had some wildlife tracks to examine.

Gus has been interested in the private road and trying to sneak over the border ever since he discovered the pigs. He politely waited for me to put out birdseed before we headed up the road and paused at the entrance to The Boulevard Trail. On the way, Gus had to sniff all the branches we passed.

I had unfortunate problems with trailcam2 and it has missed capturing photos and videos for a few months. I changed the batteries, but then I think the problem was the card. I made sure this last time I checked it, that I not only deleted the card’s contents while I had it plugged into my computer, but I also formatted it when I put it in the trailcam. I thought the one card had old images on it because they were showing as September 2022; so I deleted them. I tested another card including deleting all its contents and formatting; got the same result of images all dated September 2022. That means I probably deleted some evidence. It sucks, because based on the tracks, we had some interesting visitors and we need those recordings to validate what animals have come through here.

The Grumpy Old Man saw tracks by the compost pile that he believes are bobcat tracks. They have to be sorted out from the multiple deer creature tracks which are plentiful. Gus and I found the others on the opposite side. I was pretty confident Gus and I found bobcat tracks in the snow. This was after some melting.

I uploaded my photos to iNaturalist and was surprised that someone corrected it to “canids” instead. On this app, you can click “Agree” or wait until more people give their input. I commented a reply to this user (who has over ten thousand observations) and explained that it was my understanding that feline footprints will be more square and canines’ would be oblong; and also that felines don’t have claw indentions because they have retractable claws.

“Claw imprints are left by dogs and their wilder cousins (coyotes, wolves, foxes), not by cats.” U.S. Fish & Wildlife

After I read the suggested change to a canid rather than a bobcat, I stared at the photos so more. Gus had given the tracks a quick sniff, but he wasn’t interested in them. He was far more interested in signals and scents of creatures that either confuse him (the pigs) or he’s sees as intruders (all the free-roaming cats). He isn’t threatened by sharing the yard with large creatures who are passing through. You may not remember when Gus tried to befriend a black bear, but he was fortunately on his leash and could be held back from making a new friend that might accidentally kill him with a handshake.

foreground is black cat Gus at the end of his leash while a black bear lies down under a small tree in the background
2022 Gus and Silly the Bear Volkolak

After even more research back at the office, we still weren’t sure about the tracks in the snow. I purchased a PDF file from Mountain Hiking (link below) and it’s still unclear. I also saved images from Princeton University (link below) called track cards. Those files are made up of illustrations—helpful, but doesn’t completely confirm these tracks as bobcat or coyote.

Case Findings:

We could use some keen expert help on this case! We know we have photographic evidence of a “dog size” creature, but what was it? Bobcat, Coyote, or something else?

Case Status: Open


Mountain Hiking

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Princeton University: Outdoor Action

four critter paw prints in the snow, possibly squirrel
Wolpertinger Tracks

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