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Walter Hix

Animal Tracking

Animal Tracking

When you are out to monitor wildlife, you can use different techniques for animal tracking. One of the key techniques is finding and identifying their tracks. It is usually pretty exciting to find and identify footprints of animals as a sign that someone has just passed by.

The best time to look for tracks is early morning and evening. At these times, the sun's angle makes tracks more visible. 

A comprehensive guide on animal tracking you must consider

Arguably, it takes time to master this as you must practice observing the world around you and the many animals. However, here in this guide, we can help you to learn some quick yet effective ways of wildlife tracking to help.

So, here we go:

How to track animal tracks?

Arguably, every animal has different tracks and different animal behavior. So, knowing what to look for to identify an animal track can help you to track your favorite wildlife easily.

Moreover, this practice can also let you understand how long ago an animal has passed by the area.

Generally, fresh tracks mean the soil has a different outline and is pressed tightly. Over time, weather, along with other factors such as smaller animals or insects, can cause these tracks to age. It means that over time the borders of an animal track may collapse, or even it has smaller footprints appear over it.

All these are the signs that the animal track is older.

However, when you are tracking, here are some signs that you should consider:

  • Determine the size of an animal track.
  • Count the number of toes
  • Identify if the track has claws or nails.
  • Is the track from hoofed animals?
  • Don’t forget to compare the size of different paws or feet.

Where to look for animal tracks?

For efficient tracking, you must know where to look for tracks. Tracking the marks left by different creatures can be tricky, depending on the season and where you live. You must look for the following different ground types for animal tracking:

  • A thin snow layer is great to consider when looking for bigger animals’ tracks.
  • Muddy surfaces are great for sign tracking animals such as turtles, beavers, ducks, and other water-loving animals.
  • The sandy banks of lacks and rivers can help you track animals looking for water and water birds.
  • Damp, soft soil is ideal for finding tracks with paws.

What are some of the most common types of tracks? And how to identify these?

Here we have some of the most common tracks types you must know:

Small mammal tracks

Most small mammals have five toes in each foot, just like humans. However, here we will describe how you can successfully accomplish mammal tracking:

  • Raccoon tracks are pretty similar to human hands. However, their waddling characteristic gives them a unique footprint placement.
  • Opossum tracks feature opposable thumbs, which are usually visible in their tracks.
  • Rabbits usually have longer hind feet and smaller front feet. Their tracks usually have little details and an oval shape.
  • Squirrels also have larger back feet and smaller front feet. Their tracks are usually positioned in a hopping motion.
  • Otter tracks are generally available in colder months near river banks. You can find five toes and webbing in their footprints.
  • It is nearly impossible to find and identify beaver tracks. Because their large tails work like a brush behind them to cover their footprints.
  • Porcupine features long toes with larger foot pads, and their tracks usually face inward.
  • A skunk walks with flat feet on the ground. These contain five toes on their front and hind feet. However, front feet usually leave long claw prints behind.


All canines usually have smaller hind feet and larger front feet as compared to other animals.

You can easily identify dog tracks due to their thick and blunt nail markings. However, beginners may confuse Coyotes tracks with dogs. You must remember that Coyotes walk in a straight line. That's a major factor in distinguishing these from dog tracks.

Similarly, foxes have the smallest tracks in canines. Their furry paws may obscure their toe markings’ clarity.


It is not always possible to find feline tracks more often. It is mainly because their tracks are retractable.

However, here we have enlisted how you can identify different feline tracks. So, here we go:

  • Felines usually walk in an alternating pattern. However, cats usually have smaller prints of just about a penny size.
  • Bobcats have 2x prints size than house cats.
  • On the other hand, Lynx has up to 30 pounds of weight. These feature a furry paw that obscures the footpad's definition.
  • The Cougar typically has clearly defined footprints. Their footprints are also larger than all the felines we have mentioned above.


So, these are some of the most common birds tracks that you can learn to identify here:

  • Crows feature three forward-pointing toes and one backward-pointing. Their tracks are usually in hopping motion.
  • Grouse tracks typically look just like a backward arrow because these don't contain any backward-facing toe.
  • Duck tracks usually appear connected due to webbing on their foot. These are typically easier to identify in fine dirt or sand.
  • Wild Turkey has similar tracks to grouse but larger as these are large ground-dwelling creatures.

Hooved animals

Deer tracks look like inverted hearts with two points located tracks’ inside. Elk has comparatively rounder tracks. These tracks also show dew claws, especially when seen in deep snow.

Mountain Goat typically features spread-out toes. The blunt tips can make it easier to identify their tracks. The blunt tips of mountain goats help them to climb up easily.

Javelina contains round, wide toes that don’t come to one point. These also have dew claws that are wider than deer.

Final thoughts

Animal tracking is always an enjoyable and exciting activity. It will also help you learn about different types of wildlife in an area. Regardless of where you live, every place has some amazing creatures you should discover. Consider the above-mentioned guide and be ready to enjoy tracking in your area.

Image by Mona El Falaky from Pixabay 

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