So what can you really tell from a track?
If it’s a clear animal footprint, you can tell plenty. Just one track can tell you the animal’s species, their size, their direction of travel and much more. If you can spot a few tracks in a row from the same animal, you can establish their gait, and therefore determine the animal’s speed.
But what if you’re having trouble seeing animal footprints? That’s when you start looking for other animal sign, which occurs in a number of forms.
* Trails and runs are the paths that animals use over and over, creating a passageway through brush, grass, leaves and other vegetation. These paths are often filled with other sign, as well as foot prints.
* Deer rubs are made when bucks rub their antlers against trees to develop their neck muscles, to mark territory and to display dominance.
* Clumps of hair and feathers fall from animals randomly, get snagged on brambles, or can indicate a kill site.
* Gnaw marks on nuts, trees and bones come from rodents. You can tell the animal by the size of the teeth marks.
* Chew marks are where plant parts like twigs and grass have been bitten off. Learning the different diets of animals can give you a good guess as to the animal who was snacking there.
* A 45-degree cut on twigs and vegetation can indicate a bite caused by an animal with sharp incisors, like a larger rodent.
* Breaks in vegetation are caused by animal movement. When grass and twigs are all broken in the same direction, this can indicate a trail that is mostly used in one direction.
* Scat can tell us an incredible amount of information, including the animal’s size and what it’s been eating.
* Pellets are vomited up by hawks, eagles, and owls. These birds of prey regurgitate pellets of bones, hair and feathers that they cannot digest.
Let us know in the comments what kind of animal sign you find in your area.