Trail markers as whetstones?

Some interesting toothwork on trail markers in North Alabama: Almost every metal sign on the trails at the Land Trust of North Alabama’s Monte Sano Preserve is incised with dozens or hundreds of striations.

IMG1978 IMG1980 IMG1983

The artist? Gray or fox squirrels? We saw plenty of grays. Perhaps night-working flying squirrels? I’d welcome your thoughts!

Rodent incisors grow continually through their lives, a self-renewing mechanism necessitated by the walnut cases, seed husks, and other rock-like coatings with which plants so inconveniently wrap their progeny. These ever-growing teeth need continual shaping and sharpening. Might this be the reason for the rodents’ attention to the trail markers? I’ve seen similar markings on horn and bone. But these biological remnants are calcium-rich, unlike aluminum trail signs. It would be interesting to hang some files in the woods and watch the evolution of dentistry.


13 thoughts on “Trail markers as whetstones?

  1. Scott Hardage

    I saw these same markings on aluminum tags at Dr. Evans’ chestnut oak study plot in Sewanee. Some of the tags were completely gone or had a small scrap left where the nail held the tag on the tree.

  2. Todd Crabtree

    I’ve observed this mammalian vandalism on Corps of Engineers boundary markers around Percy Priest Lake near Nashville.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s