Tracks from members of the dog family vaguely resemble those of cats, with one especially distinct difference. Cats have retractable claws, and normally don’t leave claw marks unless they lose their footing. Dogs generally have fixed claws, and almost always leave claw marks. The animal above was walking across stable ground, and left claw marks indicative of a dog. The dog in question was most likely a coyote (Canis latrans, Canidae). With coyote tracks, the space between the foot and toe pads typically forms an “X” shape. Domestic dog prints generally lack this distinct shape. Red foxes, also common in this area, tend to leave smaller chevron-shaped marks with their foot pads.
While out along the banks of the River Raisin in southeast Michigan, I came across a lot of these tracks. The coyotes seemed to cover a lot of ground, probably in search of food or mates (breeding season here is January through March). In some places the tracks intersected those of squirrels and mice, and there appeared to be signs of struggles. Small mammals are the preferred prey of coyotes.