Tracking Animals – Basics

Tracking Animals – What to look out for

What is Tracking?

Tracking animals is the process of understanding your prey and how to stalk it. Tracking skills develop with time, patience and experience and your ability to utilize all of your senses will be pivotal to your ability to track your quarry. Tracking usually requires physical stamina on your part as it can entail you holding uncomfortable positions in the cold as well as following your prey over hard to traverse terrain.

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3 Classic Signs of Movement

When tracking animals there are certain things you should be looking out for when tracking, there will be “signs” of wildlife’s presence. These signs are what you will put together to effectively form a marker of the animals movement habits, you can then track it to it’s source or set traps along the areas it likes to travel.

There are three main signs of animal movement beginning with broken vegetation. By this we mean you should be on the lookout for any signs that vegetation has been modified, broken or even displaced by passing animals. Some examples of these would be:

* Branches being bent/snapped from where an Elk has forced it’s way through
* Bears could leave claw marks on trees in an attempt to mark their territory.
* Deer could strip the bark off of the tree saplings.
* You could find nuts that have been stripped by squirrels
* The height of the broken vegetation will also help you figure out the size of the animal that you are tracking.

Basically you should look for any signs of something that has been disturbed by an outside force and then use this along with out signs to figure out which type of animal you are tracking and what to do next.

The second sign of animal movement is animal faeces. These are one of the most direct signs that an animal is in the area, you will need to get clued up on what the animal droppings in your area look like as obviously different animals excrete differently. There are some general rules you can follow that will help you match the droppings to the animal:

* Carnivores and omnivores usually produce faeces that are long and tapering.
* Herbivores usually produce excrement that is rounded piles of dung with chewed vegetation sometimes visible.
* Birds that eat vegetation, fruit, seeds etc usually produce dung in liquid form.
* Birds that are carnivores usually produce pellets of dung.

Some faeces will allow you to identify the types of food that then animal is eating, which in turn will also allow you to make some educated guesses on where it goes to eat (which when combined with traps can be very effective). Carnivores faeces often has pieces of bone or clumps of hair in it whilst herbivores faeces can contain seeds and/or plant materials (stems, leafs etc) so as weird as it sounds analysing all of the faeces you come across can provide you with prime hunting opportunities.

Often when finding animal faeces you will be able to combine this information with other signs nearby to find out where your prey is going as well as what type of animal it is.

The third sign you should look for when tracking animals are footprints. The prints left by animals can give you a lot of information, you can find out what species it is, what direction it is heading in and the speed it is travelling (calculated by measuring the distance between the prints) and what time they were travelling there (older footprints/tracks will have more debris and appear crumbly). Animal footprints (hereby referred to as tracks) are usually the most useful sign of animals as with the correct knowledge of the area and the local wildlife you can make sure that you are not hunting an animal you do not want to hunt which is a massive waste of time and potentially dangerous depending on the animal. When it comes to tracks there are three different types of animal classified by their feet:

* Plantigrades – Includes any animal that walks on its feet eg. Humans, rabbits, badgers, bears
* Digitgrades – Walk on their toes and includes any canine or feline animal
* Ungulates – These are animals with hooves eg. Sheep, goats, horses, cows

Even if there are no identifiable tracks you can often find other albeit more subtle signs that an animal has passed through that area. Look for compressed leaves that have been squashed by an animal standing on them or areas of dewy glass that have dry spots from where they have been trodden on. One trick you can do is getting yourself down to floor level with a torch or other light source shining the light onto the trail from the other side, when you do this footprints will appear either shiny or dull depending on the contrast of the floor. Then you should be able to make a calculated guess on what type of animal it is from the spacing and rhythm of the tracks.

We highly recommend having a browse on Amazon as there are some great books on the topic of tracking animals on there.

We hope you have enjoyed this brief introduction to animal tracking. Hit us up in the comments below if you have anymore useful information to share!

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