Snow tracks in Croatia

Snow is great for tracking, tracks seemingly jump out at us from a distance which would otherwise be difficult to spot in other weather conditions and substrates, drawing us in to reveal the moment of animal behaviour recorded by its imprint in the snow.

In this blog we are going to focus on one area of animal activity in the snow and see what it can reveal to us. I’m not going to say what it is to start with, I would like you to simply study it for yourself for a few minutes and have a look at what you can see and equally important, what you can’t.

Animal sign in the Croatian snow

Once you have taken a moment to look at the image, try to listen to what your instincts are telling you. Sit with that thought for a moment and then start asking yourself some questions.

What do you think it is? There is no wrong answer here, this is simply a statement to what you feel it might be and different people will come up with different answers for the same animal sign. The next series of questions will either help guide you to either support your first impressions or take you to new ones. This is perfectly normal and is part of the process to becoming a good tracker.  Being a good tracker for me is in looking at what is directly in front of you as well as what isn’t in front of you, to present a true account of the evidence to hand.

As an example it is just as valid to come to the conclusion that “a Badger passed here and it went in that direction” if that is all the information that can be read from the sign, as “an adult male badger came to a stop here, turned its head to the left sat down, had a scratch before continuing on in the same direction”.

It’s about interpreting a true account of the sign in front of you, following this without preconception can lead you into further insights of an animals behaviour that previously you may have been unaware of, which is simply amazing. My favourite tracks of the trip were the moment I saw red squirrel sign bounding in deep snow, seemingly imprinting little super hero insignia from the likes of X men in the snow from Its arcing limbs on each bound. It was awesome!

Red Squirrel Tracks

Let us get back to our image. What did you notice?

Focusing on the dark patch on the ground, under the tree, looking closer reveals some disturbance to the ground. Questions we may want to ask ourselves at this stage are:

  • What has caused the disturbance?
  • Why under the tree?
  • What is it doing there?

At this point we want to get a little closer, taking care not to disturb any of the sign.

 Animal sign in snow, take a few moments to look at this photo carefully (Image 1)

Take a few minutes to study the above image, look at what you can see and at what you can’t, bring all that information together to form what you think has happened in your own mind, resist scrolling down to the other images below as we’ll take a look at them together. You’ll get more out of this that way.

Ok now you have taken a few minutes to look at the above photo, let us have a look at what we can see together and highlight all the evidence bit by bit, asking ourselves questions along the way. Please note you can click on all the photos in this article to see it full size!

Heart shape animal footprint in the snow, Jason’s hand for scale (Image 2)

One of the key indicators to help identify any animal is the footprint it leaves behind, it can tell you much about what is going on. Look at the photo above we can clearly see the animal has left an imprint in the snow. This is a clear signature sign of this animal, ask yourself, what does the shape resemble? What animal could it be? And what direction it is going in?

Animal tracks in snow (Image 3)

Now let us look at the at all the footprints above, we can see in this immediate area. The clearest four are circled above, they are seemingly going in an anti-clockwise direction. Ask yourself what could the animal be doing? Were there other footprints in this area and if so, where are they now?

Study the ovals in this photograph, what do they tell you? (Image 4)

Look at the three ovals in the above photo, how does the snow appear within them and what action of the animal could of led to this result? What direction do you feel the animal is facing?

(Image 5)

Look at the two red ovals above, how does the snow appear compared to the immediate surroundings? What part of the animals body could be leaving these marks and why? Does this help us to understand what the animal is doing and the direction it is facing?

(Image 6)

In the photo above have a look within the large red oval, what do you notice about the snow around the edge of it, ask yourself what action could have caused this?

(Image 7)

Looking at the above circles, they are compressed to the ground, out of view from this image there is a foorprint at the base of each circle, the same as in image 2. Ask yourself what action has caused this?

(Image 8)

Look at the texture of the snow within the in the areas marked red, how does it appear? What action from the animal could have caused this sign? Bring all this evidence together to formulate what you feel the animal was, what it was doing, its state of mind, it’s actions as a course of events. Take all the time you need to do this.

This exercise is all about getting you to think about putting a picture together in your own mind of what the animal is and what actions it did with the sign you can see in front of you. If you get the type of animal correct, then well done. If you are able to establish the species then that’s fantastic. If you could tell some of its actions from looking at the sign, that’s amazing! Get all of the actions in the order they happened and that is simply superb!

Jay Jenner

Want to know what happened here? We’ll be revealing the answer in next week’s blog but in the meantime, why not ‘like’, ‘share’ and add your own conclusions to our pinned post on Facebook – the closest answer will win a copy of Perry McGee’s Essential Tracking Handbook worth £35!!