Pharyngula

We are all impressions in the snow

Let me tell you a story.

i-9f654e18bd678775e9beea22d26d0e5c-snowprint.jpg

Depending on the point of view, it’s either a bit of daily routine, or a tragedy.

(via My Confined Space)

Comments

  1. #1 MorpheusPA
    December 21, 2006

    Once there was a man who went everywhere with his dog. One day, they flew in the man’s private plane through the mountains.

    The plane crashed. Lying there, broken and bleeding, the man saw the unharmed dog approach him, grab his intestines, and start eating.

    “Good,” the man thought. “At least one of us won’t starve.”

    Morph

  2. #2 Jeremy
    December 21, 2006

    That’s pretty awesome. At first, I thought someone made a snow angle or something like that. It also sorta looks like stylized bird’s wings.

  3. #3 beepbeepitsme
    December 21, 2006

    I’d say that the bunny is, as we speak, being converted into eagle poo.

    Either that, or it is a snow angel whose head was run over by a snow plough.

  4. #4 Sophie
    December 21, 2006

    I had the same story to tell a few years ago :
    http://sophie-g.net/photo/nature/joux/oiseau.htm

    Except my bird must have been smaller than yours, and yours looks like if some kind of feline might have been involved.

  5. #5 Ernst Hot
    December 21, 2006

    Cruel and beautiful at the same time.

  6. #6 phil
    December 21, 2006

    Many years ago, I came across a similar snowprint (hawk vs. a mouse, I believe). No camera, more’s the pity.

    Thanks for the picture.

  7. #7 Francis
    December 21, 2006

    for the illiterate (waves hand), please explain a little more.

    I see a vanishing bunny track from top to bottom, what looks like human footsteps from right to center and then this weird semi-circle. what’s that about?

  8. #8 PZ Myers
    December 21, 2006

    No human footsteps. The semicircle is the imprint of an owl’s wings.

  9. #9 afterthought
    December 21, 2006

    We had a barred owl on our basketball backboard earlier this week. Could not get a picture.
    Owls are lovely birds, but then, I have a soft spot for all birds of prey.

  10. #10 Dan S.
    December 21, 2006

    No human footsteps. The semicircle is the imprint of an owl’s wings.

    Although if they had been human footprints, that would be . . . interesting.

  11. #11 llewelly
    December 21, 2006

    Although if they had been human footprints, that would be . . . interesting.

    Indeed. Despite its name, the Giant Man-eating Owl of backwoods Minnesota generally prefers moose or sasquatch.

  12. #12 Ronald Brak
    December 21, 2006

    Judgeing by the tracks, I’d say a trilobite passed by here.

  13. #13 Torbjörn Larsson
    December 21, 2006

    either a bit of daily routine, or a tragedy.

    Neither; that was beautiful! (OK, it may be the owl’s daily routine, though.) A silent owl would be one explanation why the prey didn’t have time to change step or posture.

  14. #14 Torbjörn Larsson
    December 21, 2006

    either a bit of daily routine, or a tragedy.

    Neither; that was beautiful! (OK, it may be the owl’s daily routine, though.) A silent owl would be one explanation why the prey didn’t have time to change step or posture.

  15. #15 Scott Belyea
    December 21, 2006

    I don’t mean to be cynical, but I am skeptical. I’ve come across the imprints of a good number of such encounters over the years, but have never seen one that was so neat and tidy.

    And if those are bunny tracks, it must have weighed about 25 pounds …

  16. #16 Brian
    December 21, 2006

    At first glance it reminded me of Spriggina

  17. #17 Dave Hone
    December 21, 2006

    Scott has point. The obvious deer prints on the right are very light compared to the ‘bunny’. Plus the owl must have met the rabbit directly head on, in the open in daylight that is a very unwary rabbit.

  18. #18 M
    December 21, 2006

    I swear those are the prints of a toddler in wellies. Checked the papers for any missing child notices?

  19. #19 Ted H.
    December 21, 2006

    The problem is scale. There is no real good reference to tell how big anything in the picture actually is. The ‘obvious deer prints’ could be a smaller creature. The rabbit may have been a different creature, bigger or smaller. Without a picture or eyewitness account of the event, it is hard to say. I would assume the encounter happened at night. Isn’t that when owls usually hunt?

  20. #20 Steve_C
    December 21, 2006

    If it had been human footprints people would be claiming it was proof of an angel landing.

  21. #21 CCP
    December 21, 2006

    IMO: Real deer tracks on the right. Human prints frum UL to center and back out again. Fake bird impression done with the side of a mittened hand.

    But for a while, I believed.
    It’s a metaphor, see…

  22. #22 CCP again
    December 21, 2006

    …except maybe they’re the real tracks of a jumping mouse or squirrel (“Natasha! Get mouse or squuddle!”) instead of a deer.

  23. #23 Hank Fox
    December 21, 2006

    This is the mark of the Were-Bunny. It changes into an owl on full moon nights and terrifies the other bunnies. Then at dawn, replete with the flesh of small woodland creatures, it lands and changes back.

  24. #24 Ted H.
    December 21, 2006

    I think we’re all missing the obvious explanation here…

    The aliens got tired of making shapes in crops and moved to snow.

  25. #25 PZ Myers
    December 21, 2006

    Good ol’ Pharyngula skeptics. It warms a fella’s heart here on Cephalopodmas Eve.

  26. #26 Hank Fox
    December 21, 2006

    The “deer tracks” are some kind of squirrel. See? They go to/from the tree. The snow is very light, accounting for the depth of the prey tracks. The long shadows show this to be an early-morning scene.

    I think it’s just what most viewers think it is: An owl caught an unwary prey animal at night.

    The one thing that confuses me is the prey animal tracks. A rabbit would usually show a hopping/bounding pattern, with feet together. The tracks show more of a walking motion.

    I’m wondering if this was a snatch-and-fly, or a land-while-killing and then taking off after. There’s no blood visible, and I’d expect more wingbeat prints if the owl landed and took off, so I’m guessing a swoop, grab and fly. The tail feathers grouped to one side make me imagine the owl canted slightly onto its left side.

    I wish I could have seen this with my own eyes — something interesting is happening out on the wingtips, and I wonder whether it’s just snow blown up by air pressure, or something else that the wingtip feathers do.

    Just FYI, the best track-identifier I ever met personally is Carl Buell/Olduvai George. His early outdoor experience and extensive knowledge of animal anatomy unravels even the most confusing tracks. (Out on a hike, I’d see “squirrel” tracks. He’d tell me what species.) I once watched the guy give a two hour, completely off-the-cuff talk about animal tracks. And it was riveting.

    Maybe he’ll weigh in?

  27. #27 Torbjörn Larsson
    December 21, 2006

    I thought of a fake too, but I initially rejected it since the side tracks goes to the base of a tree suggesting a squirrel and a slightly smaller scale than footprints. OTOH a fake is the more probable event here, and the scale could still fit. I guess I will have to be an agnostic in this – after all, this is a real quandary.

  28. #28 Torbjörn Larsson
    December 21, 2006

    I thought of a fake too, but I initially rejected it since the side tracks goes to the base of a tree suggesting a squirrel and a slightly smaller scale than footprints. OTOH a fake is the more probable event here, and the scale could still fit. I guess I will have to be an agnostic in this – after all, this is a real quandary.

  29. #29 Nerull
    December 21, 2006

    While I’m not saying its not fake, those “obvious deer prints” are on top of the snow – a deer can easily weigh 150-200 pounds. Its not going to walk on top of the snow.

  30. #30 Evolving Squid
    December 21, 2006

    Fake or not, it’s still kind of cool. Birds of prey are inherently cool, in fact.

    This picture could only be better if there was a slime trail of tentacle marks up to where the squid grabbed the owl.

  31. #31 Andrew Staroscik
    December 21, 2006

    Some fuel for the fire, This is what bunny prints typically look like. As Scott said, that is one big bunny!

  32. #32 Chelydra
    December 21, 2006

    I completely agree with Hank Fox- the tracks to the right seem to be a squirrel, since they lead directly up a tree (each ‘deer track’ is a pair of feet from a bounding squirrel). I also agree that the owl’s prey was not a rabbit. A skunk or a small opossum trudging through the snow makes more sense. It seems unlikely, but it almost gives me the impression that the owl landed on the ground and walked off to the left with no prey involved.

    The owl looks real- I think an artist would have made the tail feathers more well-defined, and the tips of the wings aren’t perfect- it looks like they dug into the snow a bit and flipped some forward. Also, the leading edge of the patagium only imprinted on the left side- once again I would expect a human artist to be more symmetrical.

    To give people a sense of potential scale, a Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) has nearly a 4-foot wingspan.

  33. #33 Hank Fox
    December 21, 2006

    Chelydra, interesting. I’m getting some new thoughts from your comment.

    How about this? Considering the length of “bound” in the squirrel tracks, and the fact that they seem to end too soon for the visible edge of this photo, what if the owl caught the squirrel in mid-bound? And the walking-away tracks are exactly that — only it’s the owl walking away with the squirrel in its beak?

    On the gripping hand, I can see the owl backwinging and landing after a missed grab at the squirrel, which saw the owl and leaped clean out of the picture. Again, it’s the owl walking away.

    (Then again, one of the squirrel prints seems to be on top of the wing print, so the two sets of tracks may have been separated by hours.)

    I love animal tracks, by the way. They’re windows into the natural world. Mysteries without mysticism. The signs of real creatures doing real things, with the unknowns being clues to greater understanding.

  34. #34 Carl Buell (OGeorge)
    December 21, 2006

    Hank Fox sent me over. Hard to tell from just this photo, but it looks to me that you have a squirrel (size) bounding animal on the right. Animals that spend much of their time in trees set tracks that are paired because they work their legs in unison.

    As for the bird/prey thingie…someone’s pulling our combined leg. 1. An owl dropping on prey in such snow would leave a body mark indentation. They have to put their weight on the prey animal and bend their legs to get the full impact of their claws involved. 2. The feathers are a little too well defined and even, with no “throw” (ejected snow) from inpact. 3. Those are either the tracks of a human biped or if my scale is off, a bizarrely built breed of dog like a basset hound…and I don’t thing a basset hound could have faked the wings or have been carried off by an owl or an eagle or even Argentavis! ;-)

  35. #35 Warren
    December 21, 2006

    All together now:

    It’s the ciiiir-cllllllle of liiiiiiiiife…
    and it moooooooves us alllllllllll…

    Apologies to those who are now mortally infected with earworms.

  36. #36 Robster
    December 21, 2006

    I didn’t look nearly as close at this as others did when I first saw it. I just thought, cool, and left it at that. A few years ago, my dad saw a hawk swoop down at a squirrel. It didn’t work out well for the hawk or tree rat. The hawk didn’t deliver an instantly killing blow, and the squirrel bit one of the hawk’s legs, breaking the bones, leaving a pretty nasty gash. Long story short, the hawk didn’t make it, and my parent’s pulled a trick from our ancestors and had squirrel for dinner.

  37. #37 Chelydra
    December 21, 2006

    Hmmm…

    On one hand, a number of people have commented on various suspicious aspects of this scene. The feather impressions are very well defined, and it seems that at the very least an owl carrying such a heavy prey item would scrape the snow again as it lifted off. Olduvai George points out the lack of an impression from the owl’s body, and several people argue that the ‘prey’ tracks look human.

    On the other hand, the picture was (apparently) presented as a real photo of an owl catching a rabbit. The snowprint has a number of irregularities that make it seem real, such as a bit of snow thrown up around the tips of the wings, tail feathers much less defined than those of the wings and the leading edge of the wing only visible on one side. Obviously this is conjecture, but I would expect a casual artist to have created a much more symmetrical owl, to have chosen a snow ‘canvas’ that didn’t overlap with squirrel prints, and to have made some attempt to erase their tracks as they backed away.

    On the gripping hand (sorry, Hank started it), perhaps the print is real but is being misinterpreted. I don’t care much for my own walking owl theory, but the animal on the right being the prey item isn’t a bad idea (its tracks do seem to disappear). Perhaps someone (the photographer?) was following the prey animal’s tracks from the left and walked right up to the owl print, then backed away and came around from the other side to avoid disturbing it more. This would mean that the prey animal could have been much smaller than the prints woud have us believe since its own tracks have been obscured.

    In the end, I suppose it’s too difficult to be absolutely sure from the photo, though any of us would be able to easily tell whether or not it was a hoax up close.

  38. #38 Mike Kaspari
    December 21, 2006

    Depending on the point of view, it’s either a bit of daily routine, or a tragedy.

    Dawkin’s took this very observation to generate the “Life-Dinner Principle” which explains why prey tend to have the upper hand in the predator-prey arms race.

    When the prey loses, it loses its life; when the predator misses, it loses its dinner.

    Getting things done in Academia
    toward building your intellectual infrastructure

  39. #39 atomic dog
    December 21, 2006

    Or to follow up on Chelydra, perhaps it’s a semi-hoax: someone found the owl and squirrel prints, and decided to shuffle up to the owl print and back to make it look like something much bigger had been carried off.

    The work of faking the owl prints would leave evidence itself, no? You’d have to at least semi-squat down and be pretty good at it… And if the owl was just picking off a squirrel, or perhaps missed the squirrel entirely, could that account for the lightness of the owl print?

    Still can’t explain the absence of throw, though.

  40. #40 barroco
    December 21, 2006

    It is a fake. There is any blood, hair, feathers or fight tracks

  41. #41 windy
    December 21, 2006

    Not sure about the “prey” tracks, but the tracks on the right could be a weasel-type animal instead of a squirrel. Squirrels’ front feet usually leave separate prints behind the back feet:

    http://mercury.bio.uaf.edu/courses/wlf201/lectures/lab8_i3.jpg

  42. #42 MTran
    December 21, 2006

    Okay, since we’re all hypothesizing here…

    The large tracks sure look human-oid to me. They also seem to have been retraced as the person backed out of the scene.

    The bird impression looks as if it were formed from a stuffed owl nicely placed on the surface of the snow. Placed there by the same person who backtracked from the site, no doubt, shortly before snapping the pic.

    As to the “amateur artist” hypothesis: I think you’ve got that backward. It’s generally more difficult to make symmetrical shapes of this non-geometric sort than to make shapes with some variation. At least that’s what me and my hundreds of fellow students at art school learned some decades ago.

    But given scenes like this… I start to miss the snow country. Not enough to move back, though.

  43. #43 YuppiTuna
    December 21, 2006

    I’ve personally partaken in a bit of winter-time falconry, and I see that sort of print all the time. There’s really nothing too unusual about it, although admittedly it’s an especially nice print…

    (and the prey is probably a skunk, not a bunny… that is the Great Horned Owl’s preferred food, anyhow…)

  44. #44 atomic dog
    December 21, 2006

    MTran’s explanation covers everything, albeit it suggests someone with a lot of time on their hands — walk out with the appropriately-taxidermied stuffed owl, stoop briefly to make an imprint (you could do 20 of these and pick the best one) and backtrack. No thrown snow that way.

    The prints of the wing tips are also odd, especially if you make the picture bigger. I don’t think this was someone drawing with a stick but it also looks to my untrained eye too flatly even for a bird-in-flight snowprint.

    Do we know it’s an owl? Any bird-feather experts?

  45. #45 YuppiTuna
    December 21, 2006

    I’ve personally partaken in a bit of winter-time falconry, and I see that sort of print all the time. There’s really nothing too unusual about it, if a bird makes a really clean successful kill, it’ll look like that. Although, admittedly it’s an especially nice print…

    (and the prey is probably a skunk, not a bunny… that is the Great Horned Owl’s preferred food, anyhow…)

    and to the atomic dog, I’m pretty sure it’s an owl, not a hawk…

  46. #46 YuppiTuna
    December 21, 2006

    and it’s embarassing to have posted twice, but I swear the internet told me the first post failed, and I took it’s word for it…

  47. #47 Graculus
    December 21, 2006

    3. Those are either the tracks of a human biped

    I agree, but that doesn’t eliminate the possibility of someone walking up to the scene and then circling around for a better shot. It may have been a mouse (they travel under the snow), which would not necessitate a hard strike and take off for a large bird. It *may* just be one of those “once in a lifetime” shots, rather than a fake. Definitely squirrel to the right, and an owl taking a bunny or fat winter squirrel would leave drag marks (take-off is a bitch).

    It is a fake. There is any blood, hair, feathers or fight tracks

    You’d be suprised how often there is no physical evidence left at the scene. Prey animals are often killed or stunned on the strike, no fight, and little/no blood if the bird doesn’t reposition the grip.

    I’ve seen plenty of owl strikes in the snow, the lack of blood, etc doesn’t suprise me, but I’ve never seen an imprint that *uncomplicated*. It may be faked, but it may be a one in a million.

  48. #48 ekzept
    December 21, 2006

    what’s interesting is that the raptor caught the prey head-on. i have watched many hawk-prey chases, and the prey is always trying to run away. it’s futile, but it does. i’ve even watched hawks pick off pigeons and starlings from a flock, and the prey tries to fly away, never succeeding.

    i saw an interesting case on the Massachusetts Turnpike a few weeks ago. i noticed a couple of dead hawks on the road. odd, i thought, they were either sick or by chance? but, later, i was fortunate enough to observe a hawk pursuing a mouse. the mouse opted to run into the busy traffic making what, in contemplation, is probably a rational bet that its chances getting across 2 lanes of 65 mph traffic were probably better than facing the hawk one-on-one.

  49. #49 ekzept
    December 21, 2006

    oh, i don’t think it’s fake, either. in midwinter a few winters ago, a local hawk caught a pigeon and consumed it 10 meters away from our front door.

    it flew away when finished and, after it was, i inspected the scene. there were a toss of feathers about, but nothing else, no bones, no blood.

    that’s what i call efficient eating.

    indeed i learned something from that. i knew owls ate prey whole, later to cough up their indigestible parts. i didn’t know it applies to hawks, too.

  50. #50 MTran
    December 21, 2006

    Graculus said: I’ve seen plenty of owl strikes in the snow, the lack of blood, etc doesn’t suprise me, but I’ve never seen an imprint that *uncomplicated*. It may be faked, but it may be a one in a million.

    Yeah, owl strikes can be pretty impressive in their “lack” of struggle evidence. Sometimes the only “evidence” is the skunk smell and abrupt disappearance of skunk tracks. I remember some of these cool tid-bits from my field bio days. But my father was the best unschooled naturalist I’ve ever met; he could identify and track just about any creature. Wish he were still around to send that photo to.

  51. #51 Tina Rhea
    December 21, 2006

    “When the prey loses, it loses its life; when the predator misses, it loses its dinner.”

    Until the predator misses a certain number of times– then the predator loses its life. Or its children do, first. A lot of young predators don’t make it to adulthood because they miss a few too many times.

    I’m surprised that no one has yet mentioned the Far Side cartoon that had human tracks and bear tracks going along on opposite sides of a dense line of trees. At the end of the trees there was a big scuffle mark, and then just the bear tracks….

  52. #52 Azkyroth
    December 21, 2006

    “We’re all impressions in the snow” is certainly a humbling metaphor for our mortality.

    Though it’s worth noting that many people seem to be impressions specifically in yellow snow… x.x

  53. #53 Torbjörn Larsson
    December 21, 2006

    i have watched many hawk-prey chases, and the prey is always trying to run away. it’s futile,

    Not futile. I once had the fortune to watch a young sparrowhawk chasing a small bird around a rather dense but small young spruce grove. It had to give up when it missed a turn near the ground to land hard. Probably lack of experience, but still.

  54. #54 Torbjörn Larsson
    December 21, 2006

    i have watched many hawk-prey chases, and the prey is always trying to run away. it’s futile,

    Not futile. I once had the fortune to watch a young sparrowhawk chasing a small bird around a rather dense but small young spruce grove. It had to give up when it missed a turn near the ground to land hard. Probably lack of experience, but still.

  55. #55 Azkyroth
    December 21, 2006

    Given the enormous energy requires for flight, you would think that if bird predators were really that efficient they would have eaten all the mice by now.

  56. #56 Rey Fox
    December 21, 2006

    “but it also looks to my untrained eye too flatly even for a bird-in-flight snowprint.”

    As long as we’re talking owls, I’ll point out that owl flight feathers are very fuzzy at the edges to make for silent flight.

  57. #57 Sophist
    December 21, 2006

    After careful examination, I don’t think the mark on the left was made by the front edge of the wing. It looks to me like the trailing edge of the wing briefly made contact a second time. If you look at the end of the wing impressions both on the right and left it looks as though the full trailing edge made contact once, but the wingtips made contact a second and perhaps third time.

  58. #58 beepbeepitsme
    December 21, 2006

    The reason the bird of prey met its dinner head on might be because the prey froze and was trying to rely on lack of movement to avoid capture.

    This means it could have been a young animal, maybe a very young bunny, which is why the “buny tracks” are not distinct pawprints.

    You may all go, “Awwww poor widdle bunny” at this juncture.

  59. #59 Crudely Wrott
    December 21, 2006

    I’d guess the prey to be a domestic cat, or a small dog. A fat one. Coming from left to right, you can see how his hind limbs swung wide its fat sides. If the width of its track is 4 to 3 inches then I’d guess the wingspan print shown to be 2.5 to 4 feet across. It looks like the prey was dragging its belly a bit so I’m thinking a dachshund. Or a fat but not large cat. The squirrel prints to the right are significant in the time line.

    The surface texture of the snow and the detail of the wing print says that it snowed twice since yesterday. There was an initial fall of snow with some wind and temperatures just at or below zero. This snow was moist enough to pack down and show the squirrel’s for and hind prints as overlapping. The day probably cleared and had a few hours of sunshine and warm wind. This would have melted the edges and deepened these prints

    Later that day, or overnight, a second snowfall occurred as the result of a cold front. Dryer and much colder and driven by brisk winds, this light dusting was blown across the surface of the earlier fall, collecting in the prints of the squirrel to produce their ungulate features. It also provided a thin layer of dry powder over a thicker substrate, just right to capture the detail of feathers from the light impact of a bird in full spread.

    Just before seven AM Mrs. Green lets Jingles out the door for her morning business. The little bell on her collar sounded so cute and festive as Jingles bounded excitedly into the new mantle of pre-Christmas snow. She turned back inside to answer a question from Mr Green about who was coming for Christmas dinner.

    At quarter past and there was a distinct absence of tinkling bells, and Jingles. She opened the door and called, then stepped out and followed the set of tracks that showed a low-altitude bounding gait. After a time she returned and said to Mr. Green, “You’ve got to see this. Bring the camera.”

    Later, over an unusual third cup of coffee, they talked about what they had seen and how it must have happened. Mr. Green opined, “That’s just the way these things happen.”

    Mrs. Green nodded slowly with a sad smile. She kissed him.

  60. #60 Tim McCormack
    December 21, 2006

    I’m surprised that no one has yet mentioned the Far Side cartoon that had human tracks and bear tracks going along on opposite sides of a dense line of trees. At the end of the trees there was a big scuffle mark, and then just the bear tracks….

    – Tina Rhea

    Like the famous “Footprints in the Sand” poster, only in this case, it’s more like “And that is where I ate you.” :-P

  61. #61 uri
    December 22, 2006

    About 25 minutes work in Photoshop.

    http://img84.imageshack.us/img84/2460/owlprintkj6.jpg

  62. #62 Graculus
    December 22, 2006

    Given the enormous energy requires for flight, you would think that if bird predators were really that efficient they would have eaten all the mice by now.

    Well, there’s a reason that mice breed like rabbits. As do rabbits.

  63. #63 Tim McCormack
    December 22, 2006

    @uri: What exactly are you trying to demonstrate?

    I’d say the original was from here, found in the comments on the My Confined Space page.

  64. #64 uri
    December 22, 2006

    Tim -

    I was not trying to demonstrate anything — apart from the fact that I had about half an hour to spare and access to image manipulation software.

    I googled “owl+print+now” for images and found the original, then spent a few — fruitless — minutes looking for some suitable “yeti” or “sasquatch” footprints to composite into the image, before settling on the shod prints that I used.

    I am not suggesting that the image posted on My Confined Space is a fake, but given a little more time, and a lot more will, it wouldn’t be very hard to fake up the wing print.

    If there is any editorial content to be inferred, it is that it would be trivially easy — if pointless — to create the image of a raptor print in the snow, or to modify an image of a raptor print to make it more “poignant”.

    But really, I was just seeing if I could make an image that told the same story about something other than a (purported) rabbit.

  65. #65 CCP
    December 22, 2006

    People. It’s fake. I stand by my comments above, including the squuddle modification.
    This could be tested by someone with the time and reference-access to look up how many primaries a GHO should have. I’m going to guess a lot more than are shown here.
    It’s mittenwork!

  66. #66 YuppiTuna
    December 22, 2006

    I can tell you off-hand a GHOW has 10 primaries… all raptorial birds have ten primaries. However, I’m not sure how many secondaries a GHOW has – I’ll go count for science sometime…

  67. #67 elusiveat
    December 22, 2006

    Creating a fake owl print from scratch strikes me as pretty pointless, though the photoshop hypothesis is far more viable to me than the “mitten” hypothesis (go try it, and take a photo, I think you’ll find it’s not as easy as you think). To artificially create dog prints like that would border on impossible.

    Here’s my take: *if* it’s fake, they took a photograph of the tracks of a running dog, and copied and pasted it with a bit of blurring onto a photograph of the owl print *or* onto the image of the snowy landscape and edited a photograph of the owl print in separately.

    The picture looks darned real, and my initial instinct was to accept it as legitimate, but I feel less certain now. The thing that didn’t sit right with me originally was the total lack of any apparent change in gait or pressure at the site of the alleged capture. I initially attributed this to the general obliviousness of domestic dogs, but it still doesn’t feel 100% right. It’s perhaps also worth noting that neither the owl prints nor the dog prints overlap with the tree shadows in the background, permitting more wiggle-room for stitching photos together. The other thing that bugs me is that while it’s an awfully large bird print, I’m still skeptical about it being large enough to take a dog that would leave the size of track depicted. I haven’t seen any real-life examples, though, so my instincts could be dead wrong there.

    On the other hand, the type of scene depicted *does* occur, and someone somewhere is *bound* to have a legitimate photograph of the snowprints a raptor taking a small dog. With that fact in mind, it seems pretty lame to try to fake such a photograph, and I’m more inclined to say that it’s legitimate.

    Thoughts?