Mammal Tracks

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On this page you'll learn how to recognize animals common to Missouri based on their tracks and other signs. 

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Getting Started

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.
  • Notepad
  • Smartphone or digital camera for recording tracks
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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?

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More Signs to Observe
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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?

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  • 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.
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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.

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Tracks by Species
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Check the field guide entries below to see full track details. 

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Illustration of nine-banded armadillo tracks
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  • Front track: 1¾ inches long; 4 toes
  • Hind track: 2¼ inches long; 5 toes
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Illustration of American badger tracks
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  • Front track: 3½ inches long; 5 toes
  • Hind track: 1 7/8 to 2¾ inches long; 5
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Illustration of American black bear tracks
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Track size varies greatly between younger and older individuals
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  • Front track: 3¾ inches long; 5 toes
  • Hind track: 8 inches long; 5 toes 
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Illustration of bobcat tracks
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Front and hind tracks:
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  • 2 inches long
  • 4 toes
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Illustration of eastern cottontail tracks
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  • Front track: 1 inch long; 4 toes
  • Hind track: 3½ inches long; 4 toes
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Illustration of a single coyote track
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  • Front track: 2½ inches long; 4 toes
  • Hind track: 2¼ inches long; 4 toes
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Illustration of a single feral hog track
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Front and hind tracks:
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  • 2½ inches long
  • 2 hooves
  • Dewclaws sometimes show beside and behind hoof prints
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Illustration of a single gray fox track
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  • Front track: 2 inches long; 4 toes
  • Hind track: 1¾ inches long; 4 toes
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Illustration of American mink tracks
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  • Front track: 1 inch long; 4 (or 5) toes show
  • Hind track: 1–2 inches long; 4 (or 5) toes show
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Illustration of mountain lion tracks
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Front and hind tracks:
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  • 3 inches long
  • 4 toes
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Illustration of common muskrat tracks
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  • Front track: 1½ inches long; 4 toes usually show
  • Hind track: 3½ inches long; 5 toes
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Illustration of Virginia opossum tracks
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  • Front track: 2 inches long; 5 toes, widespread
  • Hind track: 2 inches long; 5 toes, thumb at right ang
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Illustration of North American river otter tracks
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  • Front track: 2½ inches long; 5 toes
  • Hind track: 2½–3 inches long; 5 toes
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Illustration of raccoon tracks
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  • Front track: 2½–3 inches long; 5 toes
  • Hind track: 3¾–4 inches long; 5 toes
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Illustration of red fox tracks
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  • Front track: 2–2¼ inches long; 4 toes
  • Hind track: 2 inches long; 4 toes
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Illustration of eastern spotted skunk tracks
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  • Front track: 1 to 1 5/8 inches long; 5 toes
  • Hind track: 7/8 to 1 3/8 inches long; 5 toes
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Illustration of spotted skunk tracks
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  • Front track: 1¾ inches long; 5 toes
  • Hind track: 2¾ inches long; 5 toes
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Illustration of deer tracks
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Front and hind tracks:
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  • 2½–4 inches long
  • 2 hooves
  • Front track is larger than hind.
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Illustration of a single gray wolf track
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  • Front track: 4¼–5 inches long; 4 toes
  • Hind track: 4 inches long; 4 toes
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Illustration of a woodchuck track
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  • Front track: 2 inches long; 4 toes
  • Hind track: 2½ inches long; 5 toes
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Illustration of long-tailed weasel tracks
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  • Front track: ¼–¾ inch long; 4 (or 5) toes show
  • Hind track: ½–1 inch long; 4 (or 5) toes show