Tracking animals can help a lot in your survival journey. You can track animals to find water, to hunt them and hence be your food; also looking for wild animals trails can save your life by staying away from their territories.
Tracking animals is based and observing what’s around you and looking for signs they left.
These signs can be footprints, trails, nests, burrows, bones, furs, feathers, feces, etc…
1- Footprints & Tails Trails
These are the most common signs that are left behind by animals. Observing the shape, the size and the different features of a footprint can give you a clear idea about the species that left it behind.
Footprints will be more visible in muddy grounds and snow. But sometimes they can be distorted by the animal’s tail, or by another animals’ footprints which will make it hard for you to determine what animal passed by.
Although tail trails won’t tell a lot about the exact specie of animal but it will give you an idea about its size.
2- Tunnels and Burrows
Tunnels are subsurface trails that are made underground.
The diameter of the entrance of the tunnel will indicate which animal species created and used this tunnel.
Voles for example create tunnels under piles of soil removed from the tunnels, and they form a sort of molehills.
Beavers tend to create a network of tunnels in wetland areas that hold water in dry times and also that will help them move easily in a vast area of land without being spotted by predators.
Unlike tunnels, burrows are used to provide shelter to animals.
Studying the entrance of the burrow can give you a glance about the specie living in it or had used it before. Sure you won’t determine what animal exactly is using it, but you can have an idea about its size at least!
Nests are shelters made of different kinds of natural materials put together using mud, and they are used to shelter some animals as well as their young.
Different species use nests as their shelters, to mention birds, and many small mammals such as mice, rats, voles, and squirrels.
Birds’ nests are usually on high levels such as trees or top of high rocks and hard to reach places, to protect the birds from predators’ attacks.
As for mammals’ nests, they are always in hidden and not easy to spot areas, mainly in burrows.
4- Beds & Lays
Beds and lays are sleeping areas created and used by large mammals, and what differs a lay from a bed is the period spent by the animal using it.
These sleeping areas are basically hidden spots in hard to see places such as under trees, shallow caves or hillsides.
If the spot is used temporarily then it’s a lay, if it’s used for longer periods then it’s a bed.
The shape and size of the bed can give a good idea about the animal that made it or had used it as a shelter.
Feathers are good signs left by animals that will help you track and identify them.
The size, the color, the shape, and the state of feathers will give you a great idea about the species that left them, and their condition.
Feathers stained with blood are a sign of a bird that has been injured or even killed by other predators or hunters.
6- Droppings and Urine
Animal droppings or feces can tell you a lot about the animal that left them.
When finding animal droppings always focus on the size, shape, color, smell, content, and whether it’s fresh or not.
Many animals, mainly carnivores, use their droppings to give information about their identity to tell other animals that this area is ours, or in other words we are here, don’t try to get closer.
On the other hand, urine is much harder to spot therefore you will only rely on your smell sense. Animals use urine as well to indicate their territories.
7- Signs on Vegetation
Studying the vegetation around you can help you a lot to track animals. Nearby animals can leave many signs on the surrounding vegetation. This includes bites and scratch marks on foliage or trees’ trunks.
The size of the bit or scratch can help you identify the animal.
Barks removed from trees are a sign of the presence of different species of animals including beavers, voles, or even bears.
Some other animals tend to create piles of vegetation that are left out to dry for later use.
Bucks for example leave bright scars on trees using their antlers.
They do this to leave scent and visual markings that declare their presence, and also to bulk up their neck and shoulder muscles! Yes they do this!
8- Bones & Skulls
The first thing you should notice when finding bones is the size as this will give you a clear idea about the dead animal.
The skull is usually what will help you identify the animal easily.
Things to focus on to determine the animal are the shape of the skull, and the teeth.
These are the feeding remains of predators such as wild cats, bears, big birds, The type of the prey, the way it has been consumed and the location can give you a great sign about the predator that was involved.
The prey might be as well been consumed by multitude of predators! A zebra being killed by a tiger can be eaten by tigers, hyenas, and birds.
To better identify what animals might ate the prey look around if there are any droppings or signs left by the predators.
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