Are Tracks Left by All Animals?

Were you aware that the world surrounding you — whether it be your backyard, a local park, or even your school playground — is teeming with animals? It’s true…even if they aren’t always visible to the naked eye.

If you know what to search for, though, you may just be able to determine which animals have been present and where they have been. Regardless of their size, all animals leave behind some form of evidence as they navigate through the environment.

You can track animals in your backyard or a nearby park. However, for a true adventure, consider visiting a state park or forest in the vicinity and explore the trails. It can be a lot of fun to become an animal detective, searching for footprints, paw prints, and hoof prints!

Just like you leave behind footprints as you walk, animals do the same. Of course, these tracks aren’t always easy to spot. For instance, tracking a rabbit hopping through dense grass would be quite challenging.

Sand and hard-packed dirt can make it easier to spot animal tracks. However, it’s much simpler to track animals in the snow or mud. So, perhaps you should wait until after a rainstorm or snowfall to give tracking a try.

Animal tracking isn’t simple, but with some planning and basic knowledge, you can identify certain animal tracks. Before embarking on your tracking adventure, consider the types of animals known to inhabit your area.

For example, if you are aware that squirrels, rabbits, and birds reside in your area, it’s likely that you will come across tracks from some or all of these animals. Likewise, if you are unable to identify a particular track, it’s probably not from a hippopotamus, giraffe, or zebra…unless you live in Africa!

So, let’s say you stumble upon an animal track. How can you determine which animal made it? Here are a few clues that can assist you in solving the mystery.

If the track has four toes on both the front and back feet, it’s probably from a member of the dog family (dog, coyote, wolf, or fox) or the cat family (cat, lynx, or bobcat). If the track has small, triangular marks in front of the toes, those are claw marks, indicating that the track is likely from a dog, not a cat.

If the track has four toes on the front foot and five toes on the back foot, it’s from a rodent, such as a mouse, chipmunk, squirrel, woodchuck, or porcupine. Five toes on both the front and back feet suggest a raccoon, bear, beaver, opossum, or a member of the weasel family, such as a weasel, badger, skunk, or otter. Deer usually leave tracks with two toes.

Animals that hop, such as squirrels and rabbits, often leave distinctive tracks. As they hop, their larger back feet land in front of their smaller front feet.

When you find tracks, try to follow them as far as you can. Which direction was the animal moving in? Where do you think it was headed? If you’re having trouble tracking the prints, a useful trick is to position yourself between the print and the Sun. This allows the light to cast shadows on the print, making it more prominent compared to its surroundings.

Give It a Try

Are you prepared to go on an adventure? Make sure to engage in the following activities with a companion:

  • Before venturing into the wilderness, create and play this enjoyable Animal Tracks Twister Game. You can easily print out the necessary materials online. Have a great time learning more about animal tracks while playing a game inspired by the popular Twister game!
  • Think you can recognize animal tracks? Test yourself by taking this Animal Track Identification Quiz online. How many tracks could you correctly identify? Challenge a friend or family member to beat your score!
  • Once you feel ready, head out into the wild to discover various tracks. Bring a camera or a notebook with you. It can be a lot of fun to record the tracks you find by taking pictures or sketching them in a notebook. If you encounter any tracks that you can’t identify, take note of them and then search online for a match when you return home.

Useful Sources


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