Learn about the animals!
Brown bears are top-of-the-food-chain predators, but much of their diet consists of nuts, berries, fruit, leaves, and roots. The largest brown bears in the world are found in Alaska and coastal British Columbia, Canada. Brown bears are enormous and can weigh up to 700 pounds, but their padded feet make them extremely fast. When they’re running, they can be clocked at speeds of 30 miles per hour! The brown bear also uses its large, strong paws and claws to catch and kill its prey. They can be dangerous to humans, particularly if surprised or if a person gets between a mother bear and her cubs.
Deer are herbivores, which means they eat only plants and vegetable matter. A deer foot is made up of two elongated toes that help them walk, run, and jump. Each toe is covered by a hard toenail, which we call the hoof. Hooves are made of keratin, the same material that forms our fingernails. Hooves are hard and strong to absorb the shock of running and jumping, and they also provide traction on soft and wet surfaces. When deer kick to defend themselves against predators, they use their hooves as weapons. Deer rarely slip or fall under normal conditions, and they are even outstanding swimmers!
Fox tracks show four toes and claws. Foxes have fur on the bottoms of their feet, and it shows in their tracks. Depending on where they live, this thick fur provides traction and insulation and protects their feet from winter snow or the hot sands of the desert. Their tracks commonly run in a straight line, one print in front of the other. Only foxes and members of the cat family walk this way. Foxes are omnivores, which means they eat a little bit of everything: small mammals, birds, insects, eggs, fruit, nuts, grains, and even human garbage!
Geese have palmate feet, where only the three front toes are webbed and the hind toe (called the hallux) is small and elevated. Their large, flat feet are natural radiators, so to minimize heat loss, the arteries and veins in their legs work in tandem to retain heat. While swimming, geese push both backward and downward with each stroke of their webbed feet. This helps them move through the water with remarkable speed and efficiency. The feet of water birds are all structurally similar, but they vary among species. The most common difference is in the amount of webbing between the birds’ toes. Geese really put their best webbed feet forward when they fly. Ducks and geese lower their feet and spread the webbing between their toes right before they land. This helps the birds slow down. When geese really want to soar as they’re flying, they pull their feet into their feathers—just like landing gear on an airplane!
Mountain lions are also called cougars, panthers, catamounts, or pumas. No matter what name you call them, they are the largest wild cats in North America. Mountain lion tracks show four toes on the front feet and four toes on the hind feet. Their tracks can be more than four inches long, and their retractable claws don’t show in their paw prints. Mountain lions are good climbers and can leap more than 20 feet up into a tree from a standstill. They can also jump to the ground from as high as 60 feet up a tree. A single male mountain lion might travel 25 miles a night when hunting. Just like all cats, big and small, mountain lions walk very carefully. Their hind tracks often overlap the front ones, sometimes covering them up. They have padding on their toes, known as toe pads, and in mountain lions, these toe pads are teardrop shaped. Mountain lions cannot roar.
Porcupines are nocturnal animals, which means they are most active at night. They’re also vegetarians, and mostly eat trees. Porcupines move slowly and don’t see well. They will climb trees to escape predators, or release their pointy and painful quills if they have to. A single porcupine may have 30,000 quills, and these quills are a type of hair. Porcupine tracks show marks made by their long claws. Their heel pads have a texture that helps them climb trees. In mud or snow, porcupine tracks sometimes show the drag of their low bodies and bushy tail.
Storks live on all continents except Antarctica, but they’re most commonly found in tropical regions near water. Storks are wading birds, and they’re also very graceful when they fly. Long legs allow the stork to take long strides and wade into deep water or tall grasses and reeds in search of food, such as fish, small reptiles, shellfish, and insects, although some also catch small mammals like rodents. A stork’s toes are only slightly webbed, because they do not swim—they walk through the water!
Wild horses—also known as mustangs—have stronger legs than tame horses. They have hard hooves, so they may tolerate many different types of ground conditions. Wild horses do not wear horseshoes! Domesticated, or tame, horses need their hooves trimmed to keep them a proper shape to avoid lameness. In the wild, horses “trim” their own hooves by walking on rough ground, which wears them down. Wild horses generally stay together in groups, or herds, of three to 20 for protection.
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