1. Basic Terminology. Prior to discussing tracking, some basic terms must be understood:
a. Trails and Runs. In any area, there will be many thoroughfares or trails and runs. Some may be seasonal, while others may be used by many different species. Runs are infrequently or intermittently used thoroughfares that connect trails to specific feeding, bedding, or watering areas. If trails are like highways connecting cities and towns, runs are like streets providing access to the gas stations, supermarkets, and neighborhoods.
b. Beds and Lays. Beds are frequently used sleeping areas commonly referred to as dens or burrows. These can be found in hollow logs, trees, rock piles, brush piles, grass, thickets, or even out in the open. A lay is an infrequently used resting or sleeping spot. It is rarely used more than once.
c. Rubs. Some rubs are accidental and some are deliberate. Accidental rubs can be in a burrow, on a trail, or over/under a fallen tree across a trail. Deliberate rubs can be when an animal scratches a hard-to-reach spot, or when a deer scrapes its antlers against a tree to remove its velvet.
d. Scratches. They also can be accidental or deliberate. Accidental scratches are left by animals climbing trees or on a log where it left a belly rub. Deliberate scratches can be found at the base of trees where they have reached up and raked their claws downward for any number of reasons. Scratches can also be found in the ground where cats have buried scat, squirrels have cached nuts, or animals are digging at a scent.
e. Transference. Transference is the removal of material from one area onto another. Transference can occur when walking along a muddy stream bank and crossing a log. The mud left on the log is considered transference.
f. Compression. Compression is the actual flattening of the soil or snow pack. It is caused by the pressing down or leveling of soil, sand, stones, twigs, or leaves by the weight of the body. Compression is more likely to be found in frozen, hard, dry, sandy conditions where there is no moisture to hold a clear and lasting imprint.
g. Disturbance. Disturbance is the eye-catching effect of unnatural patterns. This is very common in a snow covered environment, examples are:
(1) Shoveling snow- while the initial tossed snow is transference, once it melts it will disturb the top layer of the snow pack, leaving an unnatural pattern.
(2) Forward movement- all forward movement, man or animal, will kick snow forward. The initial tossed snow is transference, but becomes disturbance once the snow has melted.
h. Gait. (WSVX.02.13a) A gait is generally the way an animal moves. Gaits are very critical in the identification of animal tracks. Although certain gaits are more indicative of certain animals, they may (depending on the circumstances) modify or alter their gait to another style.
(1) Diagonal Walker. Normal pattern for all predatory animals, which includes all dogs, cats, hoofed animals, and man.
(2) Pacers. Normal pattern for all wide-bodied animals such as bears, raccoon, opossum, skunk, wolverine, badger, beaver, porcupine, muskrat, and marmot. Instead of moving opposite sides of the body at the same time like diagonal walkers, they find it easier to move both limbs on one side of the body at the same time.
(3) Bounders. Normal pattern for most of the long-bodied, short-legged weasel family such as marten, fisher, and mink. Bounders walk by reaching out with the front feet and bringing the back feet up just behind them
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