Last week I noticed something strange on the driver's side front door of my car. A paw-print. Actually two paw prints. One was very clear, while the other was smudged as if whatever had made the mark was scrambling or slipping a bit. It was rather large. Too large to be a stray cat. It was large enough to make me think that whatever made the print was looking into my car window.
And what was it?
My first thought was feline. The pads are more round than oval, in particular the centre pad. There is also no evidence of a claw register. Now, a claw register likely wouldn't show up on a print left on a car, but the complete absence of one made me think cat. The reason why the claw register is important is this: a cat retracts its claws when walking, therefore leaving no claw impressions. A canine doesn't, and the claw registers in a print.
A visit with my granddad confirmed my suspicions. He believes it was a bobcat, too.
Now. Do I really think a bobcat was roaming around by my house and looking in my car? I don't know. There is certainly plenty of bobcat habitat around here - but why would one come so close to our house, and what would it want with my car.
But was else could it be?
In referencing my tracking book (Tracking and the Art of Seeing: How to Read Animal Tracks & Sign by Paul Rezendes), I concluded that by the size of the prints, it could be one of three things: the aforementioned bobcat, a large fox or a domestic dog. The prints measured 2 1/4 inches by 2 1/4 inches.
We have plenty of fox, and they do come close to the house, so it certainly could be that. There aren't many dogs around, though, so I'm hesitant to say it was a dog. There is also the shape of the print to consider. It is quite round and symmetrical (as evidenced by the measurements!). Cat prints are typically more rounded than canine, and there is still the issue of no claw register.
I suppose I will never know what left the prints on my car that morning, but I will always wonder, and be aware, in particular when I am leaving to go anywhere in the dark!