Have you ever seen tracks in the woods and wondered what they were? Were they a big cat, or a dog’s that melted into the snow? Are they Bigfoot’s prints or a man’s boots? Tracking isn’t easy and a million things can distort and change the appearance of tracks. I grew up outdoors, but was completely oblivious to tracks and signs of animals. My husband on the other hand is adept at looking at tracks and finding out what animal made them.I decided to head down to our local public library and find a book on identifying animal tracks, markings, and scat. The book was good -but it had many animals that do not live in Montana – so to lug the whole thing around would be a waste of backpack space and weight. However, it was a good bookshelf book so I ordered it off Amazon.
I decided the easiest way to keep what I wanted was to make laminated animal tracker trail cards. Stick them on a binder clip and hook them onto a loop. I started by taking down the Latin and English names, track size, and special characteristics. Next I went through the book and photographed the tracks that I needed to match my description cards.
*** These tracker cards are of course not for sale as that would be plagiarism***
This process took FOREVER in Word going back and forth between the book and the computer. The book does not stay open very well. But the end result is worth it!
Finally I finished a working template just in time to realize I was out of ink!
A few of the animals had gait patterns and track patterns with the foot prints and they needed the front and back side of the card. It can be important to know the gait of the animal you are attempting to identify, as different gaits suggest different circumstances and thus different protocols for your own behavior.
For example, when tracking deer for hunting, their gait can suggest whether they are injured, scared, or just strolling along to graze grass. It can help to know if they are actively in the rut. There are plenty of things you can find out about an animal through their tracks.
Another example is the bear. In particular a grizzly. It is important to note they have a difference in stride that can be noticed which would tell you what their behavior might be, as well as keep an eye out for young cubs that could be near.
All in all, a handy tracking guide can help to shore up the rusty memory of tracks or tracking for the familiar to experienced, and provide a good practice for the newbies in the experience.
Hopefully this inspires you to get out and see some wildlife. Remember its important to keep your distance from mom’s and babies because they get really territorial – hence the “mamma bear” term. Also make sure you are aware of what animals could be in the vicinity. Mountain Lions – also known as cougars- are stalkers. 99% of the time you wont know they are there but they know you are! Hunter’s always talk about seeing Mountain Lion tracks crossing over their own tracks on their way back to the truck.
Stay tuned next Monday for my Edible and Medicinal Plants blog post!