November 1, 2018


Activity: Try Your Hand At This Ancient Skill

by Brandon Marie Miller

Humans have tracked and hunted animals for thousands of years. Prehistoric cave paintings show hunters at work finding food for their families. Most of us no longer hunt for our food. But if you want to discover the birds and animals in your own neighborhood-- get outside, open your eyes, and start tracking. You might be surprised at what you find!

A Prehistoric cave painting of hunters using bows and arrows

You are looking for "spoor." This means any tracks, signs, marks, or disturbances left by a passing animal. A track is an outline or imprint left in dirt, mud, or sand. This can be a footprint, or maybe the print of a tail dragging in the mud. Every animal has a different footprint.

A underside of a racoon foot

Look closely. Are there nibbled plants? Broken bits of nut shell? An animal has eaten a meal! Are there feathers on the ground? A piece of fur stuck of a twig? Has a tree trunk been marked by a deer rubbing its antlers or maybe there are claw marks in the wood? An animal has passed this way.

If you are in a park check for worn down paths that might be an animal trail. Are there nests, burrows and tunnels into the ground, are there dens or caves? These are animal homes.

You might even see "scat" or animal poop. Watch where you step! Did you know different animals have poop of various shapes and sizes, from little rabbit pellets to large flat patties?

You can find books at your local library and charts online that show different animal tracks. But you can get started with the activity below. Happy tracking!

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