Animal tracking is by far the oldest practice of humanity. Our ancestors used this practice to obtain food therefore helping us become who we are today. In some people’s opinion, it is the oldest earthly form of writing. In modern day, this practice has been rendered useless by government security as well as supermarkets. However, this skill is still useful to those who wish to photograph animals or hunt. Generally it is useful to those with a yearning to learn more about the animals they share a planet with. Tracking includes observing different landscape elements including trails, footprints, feeding signs, fur, chews, bone etc.
There are three methods of tracking animals in the wild;
The first one is identifying animals. Here, you first examine footprints. Each animal has its distinct footprint and if you know what you are looking for, you can easily tell what animal is nearby. In a footprint, the following can be observed;
- Footprint size
- Toe numbers
- Visibility of nail prints
- Whether prints have been left by a hoofed animal
Examining track patterns is also vital as it can help determine the gait of an animal. Different animal families differ in gaits. This may also help identify the current location of the animal. Common patterns include:
- Diagonal walker pattern
- Pacer pattern
- Galloper pattern
- Hopper and walkers pattern
The next method is interpretation of animal signs and the first step is checking out for any animal highways. These include natural paths in meadows or forests. They resemble human hiking trails except they usually are less obvious and cannot be found unless you have an idea of what you are looking for. They are not usually close to areas inhabited by humans. Check for areas where meadows and fields meet forests i.e. areas where one terrain type changes to another. These spots are best for animals to find water, shelter and food.
Other animal signs may include any smells encountered. Weasel family members like skunks leave a certain odor behind. Checking for bite marks may also prove helpful. An example is where felines nibble grass while a deer rips it off the ground. Look for animal droppings carefully too. There is a big difference in the color, shape and size of different animal droppings. Also, examining the droppings helps you identify what the animal has been eating.
The last method is following animals. Animal tracks are most visible very early in the morning, afternoon or evening. During this time, the slant of light makes the shadows made by tracks more visible. The easiest way to begin tracking an animal is starting where you can spot undeniable tracks e.g. a muddy spot or in fresh snow. Also, there are tracking sticks available for this job. It helps in the visualization of an animal’s movements. A tracking stick can be made by fastening rubber bands around a very thin walking stick.
The last and most important thing is to try and think like an animal. Asking yourself why the animal took to a certain direction or path will move u an inch further in your hunt. Try understanding the animal’s intentions as much as possible for better predictions.
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