Animal tracking is a skill used to follow wildlife such as Deer, Bear, or Raccoon. We can track animals by the footprints they leave on the ground. Or we may recognize a trail of an animal by the "Sign" they leave. Sign tracking can include the droppings of an animal or a rub where an animal rubbed its horns on a tree. Animal tracking enhances our understanding of the animals around us by learning and interpreting the clues animals leave for us.
A Tracker can glean specific information from a track, sign, or disturbance registered by animal or man on the landscape.
For instance, a raccoon registers its prints in the soft sand along the shore of a lake; what is the Raccoon up to? A freshly browsed shrub with shiny clipped stems may tell us how recently a deer has fed.
Practical tracking has many uses, from discovering what animals visit your yard, wildlife observation, and hunting.
Developing the skills of a tracker will open a completely exciting new world to you!
A Tracker is discerning
A Tracker discerns valuable information from tracks. By careful observation, he can gather insights about an animal as he follows the animals Sign.
For instance, what kind of animal made the track, and when? Moreover, what direction is it going? These are just a few of the questions in the mind of a Tracker.
Tracking is not just following footprints in the sand; it includes all landscapes and substrates as well.
The seeing Tracker reaches deep into the past, present and future of a landscape. Always looking for subtle and not so subtle indicators of what happened here? Who, what, when, why? And the direction of travel?
For instance, Bobcat sign is left on the bole of a tree as claw marks. Alternatively, following a trail that wildlife frequent. You may discover upturned twigs, a tuft of hair, or even freshly made creases in a leaf made by an animal's passage. These are all marking of an animal and all translate into what we call sign.
Sign is a general tracking term naming a disturbance created by the passage of ‘something’ on the landscape.
Another example. Grass is pushed down due to the passage of a deer, and other disturbed foliage or torn earth. On the other hand, it could be something as natural as scat! For those of you who are not familiar with this term, scat refers to the droppings or poop, of an animal.
Scat is an important indicator for a Tracker allowing for species identification often is based on shape, size, and diet of the animal.
Application of Sign Tracking
Sign tracking can tell you what animals are in an area. How long ago, how many, where they have been? And tracks tell us the direction they are going.
You can track yourself if you become lost on a hike. Learning to read the landscape and the clues it offers is a rewarding skill to have in your survival skills toolbox. Developing tracking skills improves our awareness of the world and intensifies our outdoor experience in a good way.
Tracking is a tool used by Search and Rescue and law enforcement agencies.
Where to find tracks
The beach is an excellent place to find good animal prints! These areas are great for tracking, unfortunately, animals move in and out of these substrates and onto ground that is much more difficult to read.
The percentage of finding a partial track is higher than a complete and perfect track. For locating easily identifiable tracks, look in areas that have a soft substrate such as sand, mud, or clay.
What do you see? Raccoon prints are often found along Ocean beaches, streams, rivers, and lakes.
Identifying animal tracks
Correctly identifying and aging a particular print especially on grass, pine needles, or leaves, a Tracker must draw on all of their skill to solve the puzzle.
Sign Tracking uses many and varied indicators of the landscape to aid in this educated assessment. Such as how long ago was the print made?
What was the animal doing? Where did it come from and where is it going?
Animal Tracking Techniques
Developing your animal tracking techniques in:
- Identifying Animal Tracks and Gaits
- Tracking Sign Indicators
- The Science and Terminology of Tracking
- Measuring Tracks
- Ageing Tracks
- Preserving Track and Scat Specimens
For Search and Rescue, Military, and Law Enforcement applications Man Tracking Techniques:
- Track by Sign
- Using the Senses of Touch and Smell
- Night Tracking
- Search and Rescue
- Escape and Evasion
- Counter ~ Tracking Measures
Animal tracking is an important survival skill to learn. To recognize animal tracks and learn to trail our four-legged friends broaden our awareness of the natural world. While developing a great interpretive tool. Teens develop their animal tracking skills at camp as part of their rite of passage.