Tracking Is Not Just For Hunting
I know for me when I hear tracking I think of stalking an animal on the hunt or even that Fugitive where Tommy Lee Jones is tracking down Harrison Ford after he escaped from the prison bus. However, has I have studied and given more time to tracking I have come to the realization that it has far reaching uses.
Let me paint a few scenarios:
- You walk out to your garden day after day and find that your fruits and vegetables keep getting eating. You try raising your fence and it still happening. You try burying your fence but it's still happening. You just aren't sure what's getting in or how.
- You walk out in the morning and find one of your hens has been taken. Or as the case with our own chickens you find that it's head has been eaten. You try to protect but you aren't sure is it a hawk, fox, raccoon, etc.
- You live in the city and something keeps getting into your trash, garage, or even eating the pet's food. You don't know what it is, should you be worried, is your pet in danger?
Different scenarios offer the same questions; what is coming around and what should I do about it?
To answer the second question we need to answer the first. By using basic tracking you can paint a picture of what is happening each day or night on your property and who the culprit is. Once you find what what is causing the problem you can come up with a more specific solution to that critter.
Some specific tracking aspects to look for are footprints, scat, and hair transfer.
Take a look at this chart I made for you below. It provides details on what these 5 different groups of animals' tracks would look like based on the number of toes, are their claws visible and the general shape of the print.
By using this chart you can take a good look at the prints you see around your garden, chicken coop, trash can, or what have you and begin painting a picture of what is causing the issues. As you can see the Rodent column does not have shape as I have not found it have a specific one based on the animal but please feel free to share or use that as a clue as it also is unique with 4 in front and 5 in back.
Another tracking aspect is scat, or more simply stated... poop. Take a look around the scene of the problem and start looking for animal poo. This one is a little trickier than giving you a diagram or chart to follow like the footprint one above. However, for your viewing pleasure and to use as a guide see some common critter poo below:
So while there is great variation in the scat of animals in the same genus the one thing you can do is use these together to pin point the animal you are looking for. For instance most people know what the common domestic dog's scat looks like so if they are seeing canine type footprints but the scat doesn't look like a dog's but more like the Red Fox then there is a clue. So use multiple clues to piece the puzzle together.
Lastly, I want to touch briefly on hair transfer. When looking around the "scene of the crime" you may also see tell tale signs an animal has been there. Checking the garden fence, the chicken coop netting, or the lip of the trash can, you can often find where some hair remains. This is a lot harder way to tie together but by using the other two clues and a little good search it might just help narrow down that animal you are aiming to keep out.
By using simple tracking skills such the ones I have listed and practicing you can help protect the the things on your property that you count on for food, income, or just keeping critters out of your garbage and property. Once you develop these skills by merely keeping an eye around your property you can expand on its uses or just for the fun of painting the picture of nature while out on your next excursion.