Animal Tracks Gallery
(photo contributed by Abbey Key, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Reader, Linda Spielman, of Cayuga Trackers, says: You have misidentified the tracks of the larger animal in the photo above. The prints are oval with four toes and probably a coyote. The reason one side leads the other is that the critter is doing a side trot, a kind of trot where the rear feet consistently hit ahead of and to one side of the front feet.
Animal Tracking Tutorial
What is the best way to find out what type of animals live in your neighborhood? How can you find out what type of animals crossed the trail or were around your home in the night? In winter, studying animal tracks will give you a lot of information about who is active in your area. The best snow depth to read animal tracks is 1-4 inches. When there is more snow, it is difficult to see the patterns that each animal leaves. Tracking is all about looking at patterns and knowing where an animal is most likely to be found.
Download the Animal Tracks Activity. Answer the questions using the text below. Click here for the PDF.
There are three basic groups of track patterns to learn.
Hoppers make a clump of four tracks in the snow, a space, then another clump of tracks. The large tracks are the hind feet (H) and the small tracks are the front feet (F)Walkers – “big foot” and “little foot”
In identifying the three species below, the important things to look for is the size of the track and the position of the front foot and the hind foot. Also, the beaver and muskrat are only found in wetland areas, whereas raccoons are found in many different habitats including wetlands.
Both deer and fox step with the hind foot falling exactly in the track of the front foot. Thus, the pattern in the snow appears that the animals are two-legged. This behavior is called “registering”and it helps the animal to conserve energy when walking in deep snow.
After you determine whether it is a hopper, straight line walker, or a “big foot-little foot”. Look at the pattern closely and notice how many inches there are between tracks or clumps of tracks. Also, think about the habitat you are seeing the tracks. Some animals are restricted to certain habitats (ie beaver, mink, and muskrat are found in wetlands).
Squirrel tracks often end at the base of a tree. Gray squirrels have 1-3 feet between clumps of tracks. Red squirrels have 1-2 feet between clumps. Note that the smaller front feet (F) on the squirrel are together while the rabbit has one of the front feet ahead of the other. The pattern of squirrels and rabbits is confusing, since the larger hind foot shows up in front. However both of these animals are hoppers, and the front feet go down and then larger hind hop over the front feet.
Foxes leave a neat pattern in the snow because the hind foot steps in the front foot track (registering). Registering helps a fox to conserve energy, when walking in deep snow. Its cousin, the dog, does not “register”, and leaves a much sloppier tracking pattern in the snow.
Deer also register, with the hind foot walking in the front foot track. Also, a deer hoof is easy to see when the snow is packed, and they usually drag their hooves. However, in deep snow, the hooves are more spread out and the dew claw is visible in the back of the track.
Do you want to keep a record of the animal tracks you have seen in your neighborhood? Download a full-sized PDF and see what you can find on your own!
Click here: Animal Tracks Activity