Another outdoor mystery: What kind of paw is this?

Over the past several months I’ve received phone calls and emails from readers that have shed new light on my chosen occupation.

Wonder what an outdoors editor does?

What kind of paw is this? (Photo courtesy of Barbara Bate)

What kind of paw is this? (Photo courtesy of Barbara Bate)

Well, I’ve learned that sometimes, we share trail camera photos of things that look suspiciously like werewolves. Or we might field a call from a teen who watched in dismay as a beaver stole his hunting rifle. Or we could share photos of strange circles in the ice of a stream, or odd tracks in the snow, or weird noises that are coming from the woods.

Today, though, I’ve got a new twist to add to the old “outdoor mystery” genre.

With all the odd tales I’ve shared over the past year, I guess it was just a matter of time until someone decided we ought to play a game of “name that paw.”

Here’s the backstory:

Earlier this week, I received an email from a woman who, through no fault of her own, was in possession of a paw. That’s right, a paw. And she wasn’t quite sure what kind of critter it belonged to.

Here’s what Barbara Bate had to say:

Flip-side of the same paw. (Photo courtesy of Barbara Bate)

Flip-side of the same paw. (Photo courtesy of Barbara Bate)

“My husband suggested I contact you for assistance in identifying a paw my 2-year-old yellow lab found in the woods today near our house on the South Road in Holden,” Bate wrote. “I am thinking it is a beaver although we don’t really live near any ponds.  Can I email photos somewhere? It was detached at the wrist, had five digits, webbing almost up to the long finger nails, black with hair on top, no real pads on the ‘palm.’”

The fact that people are sending me photos of animal parts says something about me, I suppose.

The fact that I immediately replied with an enthusiastic “Send ‘em along!” probably does, too.

The fact that I didn’t ask her to send the paw itself? I think that says I haven’t completely lost my marbles yet.

Upon receipt of the mystery paw, I tend to concur with Bate. Looks a little beaver-y to me.

Of course, I’m not an animal podiatrist, so you’ve got to take my word with a shaker of salt.

I passed the photos along to John DePue, a furbearer biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

It didn’t take long for him to solve the mystery … and Barbara is right: The paw belonged to a beaver.


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John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.