If you want to try tracking as an activity, you'll need some gear. Collect and make a habit of carrying the following items when you go afield:
- Lightweight tape measure
- Field guide. A quick Internet search will yield the titles of several good track-and-sign field guides. Choose one that includes information on food scraps and other evidence of feeding, nests and burrows, scent marking, distinctive calls and sounds, and other helpful details.
- Smartphone or digital camera for recording tracks
Things to Look For
- Track size
- Pad marks
- Claw marks
- Marks made by fur or toe webbing
- Marks made by a dragging tail or belly
- Pad marks shapes
- Number of toes per foot
- Hoof shapes
Also note the average distance between the prints, and the overall pattern of the tracks. Are all the prints in a fairly straight line, or do the left and right footprints point distinctly away from an imaginary center line? Does the animal appear to have walked, or waddled, or hopped from place to place?
Where do the tracks go?
Do they lead to trees and stop, or do they lead to brush or rock piles? Do they lead in a straight path, or do they meander? Do they seem to follow an established trail made by other animals?
Cuttings and markings of plants
- Rabbits clip vegetation in a neat, diagonal cut.
- Deer tear steams, leaving ragged tips. They rub their antlers on small trees.
- Beavers gnaw at the base of tree trunks, leaving piles of wood chips on the ground.
- Cats sharpen their claws on the bark of trees.
Signs of scat
Note the shape and apparent contents, such as bones, insect parts, or seeds. The placement of scat is helpful, too. Some animals, for example, defecate in prominent places — such as on top of rocks or logs or the middle of trails — in part to mark territories.