Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Animals: Tracking Basics

Items you need for tracking: long stick with two elastic bands, piece of paper, pencil with eraser, compass, gps. (The latter two are to help you keep your direction. The gps could be used to mark the location of tracks.

Study a single track

Get down on your hands and knees to study the shape of the track you wish to follow. Fix its details in your mind. Measure it and make a sketch of it. That will help you find it later, even when other tracks are mixed in with it. Use a tracking guide to identify the tracks, and the animal that made them.

Track early or late

Tracking is easiest early in the morning and late in the day, when shadows cast in the prints make them more obvious.

Look for more than just the prints

As you follow a trail of tracks, keep your eyes peeled for other evidence of the animal. Bent grass, broken twigs, and displaced pebbles help you see the animal's path. Watch for places where the animal has scratched or rubbed against trees or rocks.


Animal dropings or 'scat' give evidence of an animal's diet. Break scat apart with a stick. Hulls of seeds, skins of berries, and bits of leaves suggest the animal is a vegetarian. Small bones, fur, and feathers appear in the scat of meat eaters. Scat tends to dry from the outside in. If it is completely dry, you know the animal passed by some time ago. Moist scat was left more recently. The animal may be near.

Imagine yourself in the place of the animal

If you lose the trail, ask your self where you would go if you were the animal. Look in that direction. Mark the last track with a stick, then explore all around it until you find the trail again.

Notice important landmarks as you proceed

Don't become so interested in following a trail that you get lost. Be alert to your surroundings. Notice and remember landmarks that will guide you back to your starting point.

Don't disturb human artifacts

Over the centuries, humans have left traces of their passing. You may be fortunate enough to discover an arrowhead, broken pottery, or other artifacts of earlier cultures. If so, let them lie where you find them. Note the location very well and draw a map so you can find the spot again. Then alert local authorities. They will know if archaeologists should examine the site. The position in which artifacts are found can tell scientists a great deal about the people who made and used them. That's why it is important not to disturb them.

Source Note: The site is defunct. Use Internet archive to find it.

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