When you are out on the trails I’m sure you have seen many interesting animal tracks. Have you ever wanted to learn how to identify them? Learning the basics of track identification is both fun and educational for the whole family.
In our family, we all look for animal tracks and try to identify as many as we can. This was a fun way to keep the kids engaged when they were younger. Now it’s a competitive way to connect with nature.
In this post, we are going to go over some resources that you can use to learn to identify animal tracks. Where possible we will be sharing free resources, but there are some great paid options as well. So grab your hiking boots (figuratively) and let’s get started!
I’m including field guides first because they are indispensable when out on the trail. Field guides are the perfect resource for learning animal tracks. They have detailed descriptions and high-quality pictures to make identification easy. The best part is that they are usually well-organized, portable, and most of them focus on a specific region.
Besides field guides, there are other books that you can use to learn how to identify animal tracks. Unlike field guides, these books have more information and detail. This makes them less useful for quick reference, but you will learn more by reading them through.
Tracks and Trailcraft by Ellsworth Jaeger is a comprehensive guide to the art of tracking and outdoor skills. Originally published in 1947, this timeless book provides insights into identifying animal tracks, interpreting signs in the wilderness, and honing essential trailcraft techniques. Jaeger’s expertise and passion for nature make this book a valuable resource for outdoor enthusiasts, naturalists, and those seeking to deepen their connection with the natural world.
The Tracker’s Handbook: How to Identify and Trail Any Animal, Anywhere is a guide on how to identify and track animals in the wild, with information on the signs and trails left by different species, as well as tips on how to follow them. The book covers a wide range of animals, from small mammals to large mammals, and is intended for both beginners and experienced trackers…
The Boy Scout Handbooks are where I first learned how to identify animal tracks.This guide covers topics such as understanding animal behavior, reading signs of animal movement, and following a trail. The book is officially licensed by the BSA, which means that it has been reviewed and approved by the organization for use in its scouting program.
There are countless resources on the internet for learning anything. Identifying animal tracks isn’t any different. I’ve broken this down into a couple of sub-categories to make it easier to find exactly what you want.
Links With Great Information on Animal Tracks
- iNaturalist North American Animal Tracks Database
- NatureTracking.com Getting Started Identifying Animal Tracks
- Nature-Mentor.com Animal Tracking Resources
There are thousands of videos on Youtube about identifying animal tracks but here are two of our favorites. The first is very educational but is targeted at a more mature audience. We wanted to include one that your whole family can enjoy and the second video is perfect. As always Youtube will recommend additional videos that are (probably) relevant.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are many online classes you can take on tracking animals. What was a surprise was how difficult it was to find beginner courses that were offered online. We expected to find several that we could check out and suggest but we came up almost empty.
Naturalist Studies Basic Wildlife Tracks and Signs (Paid): This Looks like an excellent course but the price may be a bit steep unless you are really interested. I have this course bookmarked and may take it in the future to check it out. If it were half the price I would have already taken it. If I take it I’ll write up a review and link to it from here.
Alison Free Course on Wildlife Tracking and Monitoring I don’t know anything about this course except that it came up while doing research for this article. Looking at the course description and modules it does appear to cover the essentials and since it’s a free courseI don’t mind including it here. If you have taken this course and have any feedback let me know what you thought.
There are so many different online communities that cover animal tracks that we couldn’t possibly list them all. Instead, we are only including the three communities that we are part of. We can say from experience that these communities are friendly and helpful. Check them out and say hi if you see us.
- Animals Don’t Cover Their Tracks: Animal Track Identification Help Group: This is the group to come to if you need help identifying an animal track. We are all trackers of various skill levels and interests. We offer help with identifying tracks and sign.
- Seeing the Animal: A wildlife trailing help group. An online social media platform for sharing stories, resources, and advice on how to follow and find wild animals in the CyberTracker style.
- Reddit r/AnimalTracking: Active subreddit for everything about animal tracking. Lots of information and helpful people there who will be happy to help you learn how to identify animal tracks.
It makes me feel old but this resource wouldn’t be complete without a couple of mobile apps. These apps are very helpful because you can take them with you on the trails. They both include a lot of information, photos, and information about animal tracks.
iNaturalist: This app is one of the most popular nature apps on the market and we recommend checking it out. It will connect you with a huge community of nature lovers to help identify animal tracks. I included a link above to their online database of animal tracks as well.
MyNature apps: I’ll admit that we haven’t tried this app out yet because it isn’t free. It bills itself as a handheld nature guide. Based on our research it looks like a great resource for identifying animal tracks. It will also help identify plants and animals as well.
Local Resources Nature Centers, Community Colleges, Parks Etc.
If you are looking for in-person classes check out your regional parks, wildlife management agencies, Audubon Society, nature conservancies, zoos, and other nature resources. Often you can find classes for free, or for a very affordable price. It might take some online looking, and luck, but if their website doesn’t list anything give them a call. The best thing about calling these places is the contacts and extra resources they can point you to. Often, even if they don’t offer classes they will know who does.
Remember, local experts and enthusiasts within these organizations can be valuable sources of knowledge. By joining local nature clubs or participating in organized events, you can build a network of individuals who share your interest in tracking animals and can offer guidance and support.
I hope that the resources we listed will get you started learning how to identify animal tracks. Our family has gotten so much enjoyment from this hobby and we hope yours does too. Please leave us a comment and let us know if they do. Thanks for reading and we will see you on the trail.
By Summer and Bill
Summer and Bill are the dynamic duo behind Adventureite.com, a blog dedicated to inspiring others to explore the great outdoors. With a combined lifetime of experience traveling and adventuring across America, they have a wealth of knowledge to share. From hiking to camping, kayaking to travel, Summer and Bill are passionate about helping others discover the beauty of the natural world.