Hey guys and girls! Today’s post is about tracking wildlife, such as deer, coyote, dog, or rabbit. First off, let me tell you something while we’re on a clean slate. Tracking is very fun and exhilirating!! Think about knowing what an animal likes to eat, where it lives, and it’s daily habits. You could know him like a brother or sister. Let me also tell you, tracking is hard work!! It does not come easy, and as another naturalist has told me “It takes 1-4 years of tracking every day before it will come extremely easy.” And as I have learned, as you track more, the only way you can keep learning and getting better is by pushing your limits. You go from tracking in mud or sand, to dirt or dry ground. While tracking on harder surfaces you will also be learning and memorizing habits of animals you track, such as where they like to sleep, what they eat, if they travel on open ground, if they stick to trails, if they skirt along the edges of brush, and lots of other stuff. You will also be learning more about animals you don’t know much about, such as minks, opossums, mice (yes, you can even track mice!), and lots of other animals.
Before you rule out tracking as some useless, dumb, boring, impossible, crazy person thing :), read this post. I will do my best to show you what tracking is like and just how fun it is! If ANYBODY wants to learn more about tracking or something I didn’t mention, just comment. I will respond.
Now, on to the trail!
One of the things to do while tracking is to imagine the animal right in front of you standing in the tracks. It may sound stupid and crazy, but if you can do that, it will help you so much in the long term! If you’re wondering why a branch is clipped off a tree and there’s a deer track beneath it, then think like the animal. I’m standing here in the middle my trail and I’m hungry. Hmm, there’s some dandelions and wild onions or, OOH!!!! TWIGS!!! Yes, deer love to chew on twigs. It’s a main food source, especially in the winter. Now you know several things about this animal! You know this is a deer trail and that deer chew on this type of tree (go identify the tree later). This could also mean that nearby this trail is a bedding spot, that there could be a source of water somewhere nearby, and that there is adequate food here. Just with finding a deer print, a trail, and a chewed twig, you already you know a lot about the deer’s life. That deer is no longer this mystical, mysterious, invisible being in the woods.
One of the most helpful things for tracking are field guides. Field guides give you insight and decades of research, all in the palm of your hand. My personal favorite, Mammal Tracks and Sign: A Guide to North American Species, by Mark Elbroch, is definitely the one I recommend you getting if you live in North America.
Several whitetail deer tracks I found in some mud by the creek.
Here’s two whitetail deer tracks. If you notice, the hind(back) foot stepped on the front track. This is called a direct register. Sorry for the blur.
Deer are plentiful in many parts of North America, and if you can find a creek or stream, four-wheeler trails, or anywhere that has some mud, you are almost sure to see deer tracks. In the process of finding these locations and searching them, you will probably find other tracks.
A track in extremely soft dirt. I believe this is coyote or Gray Fox, but I’m leaning toward Gray Fox by the size of the track. Should’ve remembered to bring something to scale.
I believe these are Eastern Cottontail tracks in mud. They’re pretty small though. Look for the funny shaped trianglular shapes in the mud. I couldn’t find the last track to clearly show you guys, but the rabbit tends to make a y shape when hopping.
And for the final picture (again, sorry for the blur). I can’t tell for sure because I haven’t dealt with tracks like these that much, but I believe this is either raccoon, striped, or hooded skunk. The top left one is the front track, bottom right is the hind track. This looks more like raccoon but it is still a possibility of being a skunk track.
So as you can see, tracking can be quite interesting! Please don’t judge or disregard tracking because I couldn’t positively identify these tracks. I am pretty new at this too, and from November to January hardly ever had time to track. So I have only been tracking, realisticly, about 3 months. As I keep tracking, I will be able to provide better results, but like I’ve said before, this is a time-consuming and demanding practice.
I hope you guys and girls like the post, and I hope this alone encourages y’all to go into the woods more.
For my next post, I will continue on tracking. I still have many pictures taken of good quality tracks that are clearly recognizeable. I will also tell a little more about tracking that I didn’t say today. And finally, to close, all I have to say is…
Keep calm and track on!