Where To Find Tracks
Following are some suggestions to get you started. These are by no means the only places to look for tracks. Look for tracks everywhere you go. Keep at it and someday you will surprise yourself with how many tracks you find in places other people can't see them. Anyone can learn to track. All it takes it practice and persistence.
When you are first learning to see tracks, the easiest soil type to find them in is mud. The best mud is the fine silty mud found near river banks. The higher the clay content, the better the detail in the track. When the mud is too soft, the track tends to collapse and you dont get good detail. If the mud is drier, it is usually firm enough to hold the details. Mud will dry out gradually and the tracks will last a long time. It is difficult to age tracks in mud because they dont break down as quickly as tracks in more fragile soil types.
Sand is another easy medium to track in. Wet sand is the best because the sand stays stiffer and holds details rather than collapsing into an unidentifiable impression. If the sand is dry, your job becomes more difficult. Dry sand fills in the details of the track as soon as the foot leaves it. You have to identify the track based on the overall shape of this impression and the trail pattern. Look at the overall picture to identify your quarry. Track and trail measurements are very useful in identifying tracks and trails in loose, dry sand. Often, there is not enough detail in each track to identify it from the prints alone. Thus, in dry sand, rely on measurements for accurate identification.
Garden soil is usually a little bit firmer than sand. This is a good place to begin learning tracks if you dont have a lot of wild areas near your home. Look in patches of dirt on vacant lots, in gardens, even in gutters. You may be surprised what you find. This is a good place to start if you cannot get out to parks or wilderness areas often. Even in the city, there are animals who roam the streets at night. You might find raccoon, opossum, fox, or even coyote tracks, if you look carefully.
Leaf litter can be difficult to track in. The covering of leaves keeps most tracks from making good imprints in the underlying soil. Ive had some luck with gently patting the surface of the leaves to feel any depressions in them. When youve found one, lift up the leaves. You may see the track underneath them. Another thing to look for in leaves, is the scratches caused by an animals claws as it walks over the leaves. This is difficult to see at first and takes practice. Keep at it though. Its worth learning. Looking closely is the key to tracking in difficult terrain. Use a tracking stick and be persistent. Try not to skip tracks.
Duff (pine needles, etc.)
Pine needles are another difficult medium. Animals with hooves, such as deer, will break needles when they step in them. Lighter animals dont tend to break the needles. Ive noticed that, once pine needles have been stepped on, they bruise. Then, when they get wet (exposure to moisture overnight), they turn darker where they were stepped on. Mostly though, youre looking for tiny breaks in the needles, and places where they have been scuffed up. Where I live, the forest duff is composed of redwood leaves. This surface is difficult enough to track in without counting in the fact that it rains so much here. In the case of redwood leaves, I look for places where the overall forest floor covering has been disturbed in some way.
Whats this doing in here? You cant see tracks on linoleum can you?
Sure, you can. You just need the right conditions. Remember - everywhere people walk, they leave tracks. You just have to know how to look. Remember how I said earlier that keeping the track between you and the source of light helps you to see it better? Well, this is where it becomes important. You have to get down low to the floor and look at it from a low angle. Keep the light opposite you. You will see footprints in the dust on the floor. It helps to turn off the light in the room and use a flashlight held at a oblique, or very low, angle. This will highlight the tracks in the fine layer of dust. Try it. You might be surprised what you see.
As you can see, you can find tracks almost anywhere. All you have to do is look.
Its a lot of fun to solve a mystery. If you can track through the easy and difficult soils, you can put together a picture of the life of the animal; where it goes, what it eats, what predators it avoids, etc. The practice is part of the fun, because you have to be outside in the wild areas to practice. Thats what makes tracking so much fun. Its called dirt time and it makes tracking enjoyable.
But, don't limit yourself to tracking just animals. Try tracking people. It can be fun, and educational, to follow the trail of a person as far as you can. The more trails you follow, the more you learn about tracking. Don't expect results overnight. Give it time and be patient. Enjoy the journey and the learning process. Tracking is a never-ending learning process. There will always be more to learn, even if you have been tracking for 50 years!
Find posters, greeting cards, t-shirts, hats, and more in my new store.
Visit Beartracker's Nature Store online store at:
What else can you find in the nature store? Beartracker's animal tracks coloring book, T-shirts, sweatshirts, journals, book bags, toddler and infant apparel, mouse pads, posters, postcards, coffee mugs, travel mugs, clocks, Frisbees, bumper stickers, hats, stickers, and many more items. All with tracks or paw prints, or nature scenes. Custom products are available. If you don't see the track you want on the product you want, email me and I can probably create it. Proceeds from all sales go to pay the monthly fees for this web site. You can help support this site as well as get great tracking products! Thank you!
|Find other tracking products: www.zazzle.com/tracker8459*|
|Also visit these fine
stores for more products of interest:
NDN Pride shop - For Indian Pride items for all tribes. Custom items available on request.
ASL Signs of Love - For anyone who uses or is learning ASL, American Sign Language. Custom name items and more are available here.
Get Every Child Outdoors (Get E.C.O.) - My shop dedicated to nature and getting kids interested in nature and the outdoors.
Sales from all stores give commissions to Beartracker's Animal Tracks Den, which helps keep this site online as a free service. We are celebrating ten years online this year!
Got a tracking story? E-mail me and tell me about it.
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Copyright © 1997, 2016. Text and drawings by Kim A. Cabrera
Updated: Tuesday, January 26, 2016.