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This weekend, I was hiking in the Spanish Sierra de Guadarrama. On a small trail north of Navacerrada (used by only a handful of people each day at the moment), at 1905m height, I encountered the pawprint you can see below. It was set in a patch of old snow directly on edge of the path. I actually recorded the precise location on my GPS, you can see it here.

The print

Another picture with more context

After measuring my hand at home, I calculated the the pawprint to be about 16cm in length.

Now, according to my research so far, this can either be a wolf or a very large dog.

What makes me believe it's a wolf is that

  1. Dogs of that size are pretty rare.
  2. There is actually a wolf pack in these mountains (source).
  3. Perhaps most importantly: There were a few more prints on the same patch of snow but nowhere else. The trail was mostly snow-free, but there were a few more snow patches in both directions. Some of them covered the whole path and I could not see any more pawprints on them. They may have been covered by the human footsteps, but I looked pretty closely and could not see any trace of paws, so it appears whoever caused these prints went off the trail.

Still, I'm not sure, so if you see any further indicators pro or versus wolf, please help me out.

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    Prints in snow get larger as the snow melts, which it is obviously doing in this photo. I own retrievers and I've seen their prints appear this large after a few days of mild temps, so whatever made that print isn't necessarily very large. – Carey Gregory Apr 25 '16 at 23:15
  • Good point! Still, there is the missing tracks in other patches of snow that could make this a wolf. – helm Apr 26 '16 at 13:58
  • I've asked a related question Is it possible to differentiate between a dog print and wolf print? – user2766 Apr 27 '16 at 7:52
  • Random thought: Hmmm... you were on a hiking trail and thus dogs may not be that seldom. – OddDeer Apr 27 '16 at 11:00
  • @CareyGregory I think you should add that as an answer? – user2766 Apr 28 '16 at 15:39
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That snow clearly isn't fresh and has been slowly melting and refreezing for a few days. The thing is, prints get larger as the snow melts. I own retrievers that weight about 34 kg (75 lb) and I've seen their prints appear that large after a few days of mild temps even though they're significantly smaller than the average North American wolf. So whatever made that print isn't necessarily very large. In fact, if that were a print of the animal's actual paw size, that would be a huge wolf.

In order to determine what made that print, you're first going to need to find fresh prints in new snow to get an accurate idea of size. That print could have been made by an average sized dog, a large wolf, or anything in between.

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