How to identify animal tracks

By Chad Hultz

One of the many things that draw us to the outdoors is the scenic beauty of nature, and for others, it is the wildlife. Sometimes the evidence of wildlife is right in front of you, you just have to look. Coming across a bear, deer, or elk grazing can get the heart pumping with excitement. If you are anything like me, being able to see wildlife can be just the luck of the draw. Learning to identify animal tracks can help you know what wildlife is moving around the area you like to frequent.

Where To Look for Animal Tracks

The first thing you have to do to be able to identify a track is to find it. It comes down to the trail surface on how easy or hard it may be to identify any wildlife tracks. A soft, damp, or muddy trail will give you some good prints, but tracks on the dryer, more rocky trails, can be next to impossible to see. Here are a few recommendations with different trail surfaces:

• Snow – Light snow is best for seeing larger animal prints which can be harder to see in deeper drifts.

• Mud – Look along the side of streams and on or next to the trail after rainstorms.

• Sand – wet sand will give great views of animal tracks.

• Trailside soil – Just like sand, damp, soft dirt holds prints better than the firmly packed soil of well-worn trails.

Best Time to See Animal Tracks

The simple answer is that it all depends on the sun. During the early morning hours and in the late afternoon, the sun usually casts shadows on the trail. It is these shadows that can help you spot tracks or slight impressions on the trial. When it’s high noon, with the sun directly overhead, it makes it hard to see any wildlife tracks.

Chad Hultz is a Marine Veteran, who lives in Washington and has a passion for everything outdoors. You can follow him on Instagram at @thecascadesoutpost

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