When you’re out in the wilderness and you come upon animal tracks it is definitely helpful if you know what you’re looking at. Are you in the footsteps of a deer? Mountain lion? Bigfoot? Kidding. Having the basic knowledge to identify deer, and other common wildlife species is especially helpful when you’re out camping or exploring the wilderness. Let’s explore some of the common tracks.
Deer tracks are pretty commonly known. If you aren’t sure, look for the upside-down heart shape. The sides are rounded out (convex) and you can see the two separate “halves” of the heart. These are the hoof prints. Just like the tip of a heart, the tip of the tracks are towards the center of the footprint.
Canine tracks are also pretty distinctive looking. If you’ve ever had a dog, or seen dog footprints, then you know what I’m talking about. The overall shape is essentially a mountain, or crushed circle shape, with four toes. Sometimes, depending on the animal, the claws are also visible in the track.
Wolf tracks are one of the largest canine tracks. If you see a wolf track you’re probably looking at a print around 4″ long and wide. The next smallest is the coyote. Theirs can be about half the size of a wolf track. The fox, although extremely similar tends to have drag marks and they often shuffle their feet. You may also notice a fuzzy-looking outline because foxes have such an abundance of fur around their feet.
Moose tracks are not only huge but they’ll be pushed down deep into the earth due to the weight and size of the species. Similarly to a deer, a moose track has two toes or two “halves.” Moose tracks differ from deer not only on their size but also on the sides of the footprints as well. Instead of being curved out, or concave, the tracks will be more straight forward instead of tilting towards each other like a heart.
Depending on where you are, and if you’re looking for food or not, it may be helpful to be able to identify turkey tracks. The turkey footprint has three toes to it. The toes are unlike those of the canines, though. These all meet at a single point and are linear as opposed to round. These turkey footprints will measure about 4″ long.
You’ll definitely want to know if you’re in the presence of a skunk! These small mammals have five toes on both their front and hind feet. Unlike most mammals, the size of the skunks’ feet are relatively similar. They are actually right about the same size. They will sometimes have claws that show up in the tracks as well. The larger part of the print will look like a crushed in oval (front) and a crushed in oval with a triangle on the end (back).
You may already have experience with mouse tracks, depending on where you live. These rodent tracks are pretty small. This animal is also a hopper, so the tracks can be easily identified by this trait. They have a larger back foot than the front and their back feet actually land a little bit ahead of their front. This results in a cluster of four footprints in one place. Since mice are also so small you may see a drag mark from their tail.
It can definitely be helpful to be able to identify tracks, especially if you are looking for food, or trying to avoid being food!