Snow puzzle

UPDATE: I’ve put Christopher’s response below in the comments; it’s #20.

Reader Christopher Moss sent this snow conundrum, and I’ll supply the answer in the comments at 11 a.m. Chicago time. Here’s the picture and the query, whose answer of course involves an animal.

My front deck with two inches of fluffy snow that fell yesterday. Ignoring the holes from drips off the roof that are seen at the bottom, do you see the chain-like raided elliptical blobs of snow, each with a longitudinal fracture down its centre? That’s the puzzle!
pc130509-1

43 Comments

  1. dargndorp
    Posted December 13, 2016 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    Looks like something small and hectic scurried about under the snow. Maybe a rodent of some sort.

    • Posted December 13, 2016 at 8:20 am | Permalink

      A snow mole-bile.

      • Torbjörn Larsson
        Posted December 13, 2016 at 8:50 am | Permalink

        A vole herd that gopher’d’it while snow’s fresh.

  2. GBJames
    Posted December 13, 2016 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    sub

  3. GBJames
    Posted December 13, 2016 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    sub

  4. Posted December 13, 2016 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Swordfight. At least one person was left-handed.

    /@

    • darrelle
      Posted December 13, 2016 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      Inconceivable!

      • Posted December 13, 2016 at 9:51 am | Permalink

        “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die” 🙂

        • darrelle
          Posted December 13, 2016 at 10:14 am | Permalink

          As in completely dead? Or just mostly dead?

      • Posted December 13, 2016 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

        Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!

  5. Posted December 13, 2016 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Chipmunk?

  6. Posted December 13, 2016 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Vole or mouse under the snow.

  7. Posted December 13, 2016 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Sub

  8. Alpha Neil
    Posted December 13, 2016 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Looks like Frosty could use some fiber in his diet.

    • ploubere
      Posted December 13, 2016 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      Nailed it.

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 13, 2016 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      😀

    • Posted December 13, 2016 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      You have my vote.

  9. DrBrydon
    Posted December 13, 2016 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Mouse?

  10. Craw
    Posted December 13, 2016 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    They look like cloven hoof prints. So theory 1 : they are older than the snow around them as they were compressed, froze, the surrounding snow melted/blew away, and then a light snow fell. Theory 2: beelzebub, he of the cloven hoof, walking on the roof of hell, leaving indentations that poke through.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted December 13, 2016 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      I like it

      Pathway is not regular enough I think

  11. Craw
    Posted December 13, 2016 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Snake skin that has been shed?

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 13, 2016 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      The ovals with the longitudinal lines do look a lot like some snake scales, don’t they?

      Don’t think they’d ever line up that way on a snake, though.

  12. Dominic
    Posted December 13, 2016 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Cloven hoof? The very devil himself! As we do not know the country it is tricky. Very close together for a deer – even a muntjac or Chinese water deer that we have in parts of England now. Small though…

    I give up!

    • Dominic
      Posted December 13, 2016 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      Is it deep snow or shallow? If deep a hopping bird?

      No idea…

  13. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 13, 2016 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    It is small mice traveling under the snow. Sometimes after a lot of snow has finally melted you will see the trails on the ground where the mice traveled under the snow.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted December 13, 2016 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      I think I see that after our snow melts. Little tunnels thru the grass, with the grass arcing over.

  14. darrelle
    Posted December 13, 2016 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    I’m going with the small critter beneath the snow hypothesis. Doesn’t seem like they could be foot prints on top of the snow. The marks are pretty much single file instead of double file as you would expect for foot prints on top of the snow.

    Instead the marks look like something moving beneath the snow with a gait that involves repetitive arching and extension of the spine, leaving regularly spaced hollows that are large enough in relation to the thickness of the snow to partially collapse.

  15. Posted December 13, 2016 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Fell off an overhanging wire?

    • Posted December 13, 2016 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      Shaken by a bird or squirrel. That is the animal part.

  16. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted December 13, 2016 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    I would go with the tunnel under the snow hypothesis, where the critter intermittently pops up a little. There is a thin crust of snow on top, so the effect is to pop up an oval bit of crust, which fractures down its length.

  17. Posted December 13, 2016 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Sorry to come here for an issue not related to this topic. When I tried to access the comments about the Saudi Arabian woman who was arrested, I was not able to access them to read or leave a comment.What am I doing wrong?!

    • Posted December 13, 2016 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      I also got “Not found” when I tried to access it. I will try again later, to make sure there isn’t more to this than a temporary glitch that needs to be addressed!

      • Claudia Baker
        Posted December 13, 2016 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

        Same here. “not found”

    • darrelle
      Posted December 13, 2016 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      It may be that Jerry accidentally posted the article before he was done with it, noticed it, then took it back down. I vaguely remember something like that happening once in the past. If that’s the case it will likely be back up shortly.

      • Diane G.
        Posted December 13, 2016 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

        Or even the next day. Yes, these things happen when you’re subscribed by email. Patience! 🙂

  18. rickflick
    Posted December 13, 2016 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to withhold judgement until more evidence has been gathered. 8)

    • stuartcoyle
      Posted December 13, 2016 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      You are supposed to say, “we don’t know what it is, therefore Goddidit.”, and forget about bothering to gather more evidence.

      • rickflick
        Posted December 13, 2016 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

        Evidently.

  19. ethologist
    Posted December 13, 2016 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    A mouse that pokes up to the surface once in a while. I frequently find mouse trails under deep snow in Michigan

  20. Posted December 13, 2016 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Here’s the answer from the photographer:

    The answer lies in the way they start from and return to the depression at the bottom left, which is where my barbecue sits under a cover. I’m afraid mice use it as shelter and I try not to disturb them. One brave mouse has exited the barbecue, tunneled under the snow and being soft snow he has been able to run along with the usual ‘lolloping’ motion, with his back pushing up a mushroom of snow at each little jump. So we can see he went out for a circular walk and then returned home. The snow is soft enough that it probably collapsed behind him as he went along, but further into the winter it is commonplace to find mouse tunnels in the snow when shoveling.

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 13, 2016 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      “…the usual ‘lolloping’ motion, with his back pushing up a mushroom of snow at each little jump.”

      Great description! 🙂

      I was sure it had to be a burrowing rodent but was hung up on the longitudinal fractures you pointed out. Interesting that whatever forces act on those “mushrooms” split the snow so precisely. Gonna be on the lookout for that in my snow-rodent-burrows from now on.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted December 14, 2016 at 9:14 am | Permalink

        I also was hung up on the fractures running along the centre of the mounds, which make each lump look like the cast of a ladybird-like beetle; the type with two wings on their back. I thought that might be what the central fractures were, but obviously they’d have to be pretty damn big beetles, so that ruled that out.

        Anyone know why those fractures are there then?

  21. Mike
    Posted December 15, 2016 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    The Devil!


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