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Monday, December 7, 2009

Prepare for Tracking!


dog prints in snow

Last winter I found a lot of animal tracks, and everyone seemed to enjoy that a lot. I thought that Maggie and I could get us started for this season of looking for footprints with a little primer of some basic info. Maggie made the prints; I'll do the talking.

The picture above shows two prints. I left the really good one for you to see, and placed a red outline of what to look for in a canine print on the other one. So for any dog-type animal you will be looking for a roughly triangular pad, four toes that fit above the pad to form a tight oval, and toenail marks that show.

The picture below is the best print I took on Saturday. Now you can test yourself to see if you can find all those key elements of a dog print.

dog prints in snow

Now we will add more snow. It changes things a lot! The pictures below were taken this morning. The first thing you might notice is that the print is not nearly so clear. That makes identifying tracks in fluffy or deep snow, or very soft mud, more difficult. So, can you still see those key elements in the first picture?

dog prints in snow

It's a really good print for this snow depth, but even so you probably could see the pad and the toes, but not the nail marks. And that brings us to the last picture.

dog prints in snow

This print isn't nearly as good, but you can see the nail marks. The lesson here is that when the tracks aren't perfect (they rarely are), you need to look at them collectively. Study a group of prints and try to construct that perfect print in your mind. Then when you see all the elements, you will know what animal has passed this way.

We'll talk about patterns and other kinds of spoor another day.

P.S. I'm not an expert in this, but I'm getting better, and it's fun to have friends who like to come along.


See Fox Spoor
See Death and Survival


14 comments:

levy said...

hi there, I just dropped by to say Thank you for voting for my son in Pinoy smile. I really appreciate it.

RNSANE said...

Well, it's nice to know that it's come and GONE, depending on what it is...coward that I am!!

Ratty said...

I've been studying animal tracks myself, and learning at a pretty good rate, so your animal tracks posts like this one will be excellent help. I remember reading once that the X pattern between the pads is stronger in dogs than for many of the wild canines. I'm not sure how accurate that is though.

BK said...

After what you taught us, it was easy for us to spot all the key elements of a dog print. And with the snow, it indeed got harder to spot it.

Secondary Roads said...

More snow heading your way. Hope you're ready. That's great. I see a lot of deer tracks and a few feline prints, but they walk lightly. I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.

VanillaSeven said...

That's a cool print! Hope you learn about print tracking faster than Ratty! Its so fun! :D

Dennis the Vizsla said...

Neat shots! Our yard and the trail through the woods behind our house used to be covered with tracks like this. :-)

Ann said...

I probably could not tell one animal track from another. But now at least I know how to spot a dogs track for sure.

Icy BC said...

I'm with Ann on this! The only track I can tell is from street cats around here!

SJ said...

clear paws-print

A smile from SJ =)

WillOaks Studio said...

Oh boy, soon I'll be finding the rabbits, coyotes and deer passing through--I love looking at tracks! I'll keep checking back here though for the ones I cannot figure out! Thanks!

Sharkbytes said...

Hi levy- no problem. I loved your story about him, and his smile was great!

Carmen- Prepare to meet many wild beasts this winter! (well their tracks anyway)

Ratty- that's interesting. Although I did see fox tracks a few times last winter it's not an everyday thing. But I'll have to start looking. We can share some track experiences.

BK- Yeah, when it's reduced to post holes in a pattern, I'm only good enough to know a very few!

Hi Chuck! You can become an expert at tracking Midnight!

Dennis- I wonder why! You seem to have a house full of the critters that make 'em.

Ann & Icy BC- I'll bet you know several! Stick around.

SJ- Yes, it's SO much easier when you can find nice clear ones.

Karen- well, I'm not sure that I'll know more than you, but please keep coming back! :-)

Vanilla- he'd learn more, except he's obsessed with squirrels. I'm waiting to see if he can tell Flynn's tracks from the others.

Julia said...

I am looking forward to more of these!! Good topic. I love puzzling like this. :)

Sharkbytes said...

Hi Julia- well, hopefully the fauna will comply with your request!

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