Animal Tracking

Large Scale Sign

Landscape Tracking – reading the landscape to locate animals “Islands” where animals can be found Find best “islands” for herbivores and you will find carnivores. Areas between islands tend to be scarce of animals except pass through

Wildlife Needs
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Food Water Shelter (Cover) Space

Indicator Species

The presence of these animals is an indicator of the “value” of the habitat One present – good habitat All present – excellent habitat Vole, Rabbits, Deer

Types of Habitat
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Deep Forest Very poor habitat Little undergrowth and poor cover Vegetation not varied Raccoons, birds, rabbits

Types of Habitat (cont.)
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Fields Very poor habitat Little to no cover except at side of fields Middle field is open territory for hawks and owls

Types of Habitat

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Transition Areas (Edges) Zone of intersection between two habitats Excellent habitat Wide variety of vegetation and cover

Travel Routes
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Trails - super highways Species nonspecific Frequently used, rarely changed Animals know them intimately Troughs, no vegetation or battered vegetation

Travel Routes (cont.)
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Runs Less frequently used, subject to change Some definite wearing into the landscape Connect watering, bedding, feeding areas to a trail Species specific Good for trapping.

Travel Routes (cont.)

Escape Routes

Push Down – used only once, crashing through the brush from a trail Established Escape Routes – pushdown used repetitively, often leads to a hide

Animal Sleeping Areas
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Bed – consistent sleeping place Transit Bed – established bed used every so often Lay – used only once or twice, broken down and crushed vegetation Den – used only to bear and raise young

Feeding Areas

Varied Run Feeding Area – eat off trail or run further Single Plant Feeding Area – run ends at a single plant or group of plants Eat-through: animal eats through a patch of vegetation and comes out other side Patched- irregular nibblings along edge of trail or run

Medium Scale Signs

Rub – polished areas on the landscape

Unintentional – rubbing up against an object that protrudes onto the trail Intentional – specific area where an animal is rubbing itself

Medium Scale Signs (cont.)
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Hair and Feathers – loss Present at rub or snag Loss during molting May indicate a kill site

Medium Scale Signs (cont.)
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Gnaws and Chews Tell animal by size of teeth where a plant has been bitten off 45 degree clean cut – animal with incisors Serrated Edge – pull plant up against pallete and sickle it off by pulling neck Masticated – teeth marks with saliva – predator chew to get minerals Scratchings – digging

Medium Scale Sign (cont.)

Ground Debris – debris that is scratched, pinched, dented, abraded unnaturally, holes, stone rolls, broken twigs

Medium Scale Sign (cont.)
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Scat – feces of animal Determine species by size, shape, and consistency Determine diet of species Animals leave scat in “safe” places, often near lays

Scat Analysis

Tubular Shape
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Canid Family (Dog) Raccoon Skunks Oppossum Bears


Scat Analysis (cont.)

Oblong: may have nipple at end

Ungulates – Deer Family



Scat Analysis (cont.)

Tear Drop or Tapered

Feline – cat family



Scat Analysis (cont.)

Fattened Threads

Mustilids – Weasel Family



Scat Analysis (cont.)

Pencil Lead




Scat Analysis (cont.)

M & M’s

Rabbits and Hares


Scat Analysis (cont.)

Tubular and Tapered at both ends




Aging Scat

Greasy Scat – fresh meat or plants Chalky Scat – old, scat dries from the inside out, bacterial residue forms Hairy Scat – carnivore feeding on a old carcass, eating fur and skin last

Raptor Pellets

Raptor (hawks eagles, and owls) regurgitate pellets of hair, bone and feathers - undigestible

Small Scale Signs

Compressions – dust particles and grit on surface is either pressed into the surface or removed when animals walk over it Sideheading technique of keeping the track between you and the light source

Ghost Scale Sign

Dullings – morning dew is wiped away by animal, plant dull – not shiny Shinings – during day, animals press down shiny side of grass Leaf Depressions – leaves are compressed as animal walks, leaving a compression outline

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Line of Travel: heel to heel Length of Track Width – widest part of track Stride – heel of one foot to heel of the other Straddle – distance between the right and left feet Pitch – degree foot angles out from line of travel


Direct Register: front foot is lifted up and the rear foot on that side drops directly into the front track (Cat and Fox) Indirect Register: front foot is picked up and the rear foot on that side drifts slightly behind and to the right or left of front track

Continuum of Speed

Stalk -------Slow Walk-------Walk----- Trot-----Bound----Lope-----Gallop

Pattern Classification

Diagonal Walkers – animal moves opposite side of body at same time Bounders – front feet land together, then the rear feet behind Gallop (Hoppers) – front feet land first, rear feet come on outside of front feet and land ahead

Pacers – move the same side of the body at the same time

Diagonal Walkers
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Deer, Canids and Felines Stalk Slow Walk Pace when bored, annoyed, aggravated Walk Rarely hold a bound except in soft or rocky terrain - prefer to gallop; on clear terrain hold a bound on for a few patterns before going into a gallop prefer to trot or lope - can go straight from a walk to a gallop (e.g. if suddenly frightened)

Bound Walkers
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Mustilids (Weasel) except skunk and badger For a shear burst of speed will gallop - seen just before a kill Will diagonal walk when approaching hunting territory e.g. slowing down to be more quiet Will stalk when hunting game Will pace when aggravated, bored or agitated, threatening, seen just before going out on hunt

Gallop (Hoppers) Walkers
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Rabbits, Hares and Rodents except porcupine and ground hog Prefer to gallop but will bound in soft terrain i.e. snow, mud or rocky terrain Will diagonal walk if it needs to cover a shorter distance than a hop would cover, e.g. rabbit moves 2" over to feed Will stalk when moving away from danger Will pace when aggravated, threatening or bored


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Move the same side of the body at the same time Wide, rotund bodies Can go from stalk to gallop Badgers, Skunk, Porcupine, Raccoon, Opossum, and Bear

Sex Determination for Diagonal Walkers Only

Doe – narrow shoulder girdle, wide pelvic girdle for birthing Buck – wide shoulder girdle for antler support, narrow pelvic girdle Works only for adult animals

Aging Tracks

3 Factors the Degrade Tracks

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Weather and Weather Fluctuations Gravity Type of Substrate or Soil


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