The art of tracking requires one not just to follow tracks but also to interpret all the signs left to us by the animals passing by. A talented tracker can patiently follow an animal through the most rocky terrain just by seeing partial tracks and by what is called ‘air tracking’. This is seeing the signs of bruising of vegetation and misplaced leaves, grass, and twigs above the spoor in the surrounding vegetation.
For those of us not so talented we rely on interpreting clear tracks we see. However, just how easy is that?
The perfect print is not always seen, as if the soil is hard or muddy it could distort the shape or leave out some key identification figures. A case in point is the predator track in thick mud in this picture.
We do have an essential guideline in track identification with the use of the persons hand to give an idea of size. The front print is approximately 4.5cm long. However the mud has obscured whether there are two or three lobes in the pad. We can see claw marks in the top print but not in the bottom print.
So based on the assumption that this print has two lobes in the pad, claw marks and is rounded in overall shape, the print could be of a Wild Dog/Jackal, or a juvenile Brown Hyena. The Brown Hyena seems more likely as the second print is smaller than the top print. Now Brown Hyena’s have half moon shaped outer toes which this track suggests otherwise.
Wild dogs have rounded outer toes. So are we looking at a Wild Dog or a juvenile Brown Hyena?!
To further complicate matters the wrist pads of the two prints are quite different in relation to their toes. Perhaps what we have here are two different predators? Or perhaps the same predator but with a juvenile in tow. To really work it out we would need to walk around the vicinity and try interpret other signs or tracks that would clarify this indecision.
Have you had any good experiences finding tracks and successfully locating the animal you have been following?
Tell us your stories in a comment below!