Tuesday March 12, 2013 | 08:35 AM

It was only a few days ago that the kids and I spotted animal tracks in the snow on a trail near our house. It's always so fun to come upon a discovery on hiking trails like this one.

We find the winter is a great time to find animal tracks. But it is amazing what a difference a few days can make in late winter when warm temperatures start melting snow. The muddy mess of early spring makes animal tracking (at least for my family) a little more challenging.

The animal tracks we have been seeing for the past month or so in our own backyard are of a skunk. We know this because even though we don't always have tracks to follow, our noses can easily detect our (unwelcome) visitor.

I don't believe skunks hibernate but they do go into a resting period in the winter. Now, with warmer weather, we have found our resident skunk is becoming more active and a real nuisance. Seeing tracks in our backyard is even less exciting after discovering one of our chickens dead last week. My husband is sure the skunk killed it based on tracks and signs of his hiding spot.

My husband has a plan to encourage the skunk to move on. I haven't asked for details on this plan because I am afraid to ask. I will just hope it is effective and less Caddy Shack-like (his plans of times past have included some of both).

Which leads me to another almost-spring livestock happening - kidding season. My whole family has been spending more time outside this past week checking in on our pregnant goat, Angel.

I have been surprised, but not, about how naturally my kids have taken to raising livestock (the have been in 4H for 10 years). I think all the years we spent exploring trails when they were younger (and still do) has helped with their passion for animals. Because the truth is, you really do have to love the outdoors to have even a small hobby farm. Every morning and evening (no matter the weather) you have to be outside feeding your animals.

And that has made us all more in tune with the weather and develop a real appreciation for the little signs of the changing seasons.

My family definitely feels spring is in the air. I don't want to rush this season but I do admit to hoping the mud - and skunk - move along without too many hassles.

About the Author

Wendy Almeida has been writing about enjoying the outdoors with kids in her monthly Kid Tracks Outdoors column for the Maine Sunday Telegram for 10 years. Her kids have grown up exploring the trails of Maine on foot, skis and bikes as well as through the geocache and EarthCache games. The family has found treasures of all sorts while out on the trail and the journey continues to be as much fun now that the kids are teenagers as it was when they were preschoolers.

On Twitter and Instagram at @wea1021.

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