Weasel Family

(5) Raccoon, Opossums, & Bear. All have 5 toe prints while looking like a baby's hand print.

c. After the family is known, using various clues will help identify the species.

(1) If the tracker is educated on the behavior and habits of animals, he can determine the individual species. This information can be used for better employment of traps and snares. The following is an example.

(a) Walking along a creek bank, you notice a set of tracks that have five toe prints for both front and back feet with visible claw prints. This information tells you the prints belong to the weasel family. The tracks have a bounding gait pattern, which eliminates wide-bodied animals such as badger, skunk, porcupine, and wolverine. Because the tracks are approximately the size of a dime, you have eliminated marten and fisher. The tracks are following the stream bank for some distance, stopping at small holes along the bank's edge. Knowing that weasels like grassy meadows, you can determine that the track is probably made by a mink.

3. Age Determination. (WSVX.02.13d) It is very critical to be able to determine track age. Each area and climate will vary in the effects of aging tracks, so practice, experimentation, and experience is vital in that area. The following factors deteriorate all tracks and must be factored.

e. Track Erosion. All tracks will erode over a given period of time. The key to snow track erosion is the amount of sunlight and temperature the track has been exposed to. The following timetable can be used as a general guideline.

(1) Minutes to an hour Transference is noticed around the outer edges on top of the snow pack.

Track edges are sharp and clean

Transferred snow has melted, leaving small pock marks on top of the snow. Track edges are slightly rounded

Pock marks on top of snow pack have disappeared.

Track edges are rounded, inside track walls are firm.

Top layer of snow pack is angling down towards track.

Track is beginning to fill in and will have a "S" curve.

f. Aging Scat. All scat dries on the inside first. Therefore, relatively wet scat on the outside could be old. The only way to determine the age is by analyzing the inside. When assessing scat, care must be taken to avoid the possibility of contracting disease.

4. Size Estimation. (WSVX.02.13e) Although there is no exact method to determine actual unit size, an approximation can be made.

a. Up to a Squad. It is possible to count basket marks, if on skis. The track is generally clean and straight. It is possible to identify multiple ski and/or snow shoe tracks.

b. Squad to Platoon Size. If on skis, basket marks are difficult to distinguish from each other and may look like a small ditch. The track is somewhat clean and straight, but maybe a half-a-width wider than normal (i.e., 3 ski tracks or 3 snow shoes tracks wide).

c. Platoon to Company Size. The track is sloppy and wide, possibly 2-3 times wider than normal. The edges of the track are destroyed at bends and curves.

5. Tracking.

a. The best time to track is early in the morning or late in the afternoon due to the height of the sun to cast shadows. When reading spoor, always place it between yourself and the sun.

b. Do not move past the last sign until you have found the next sign, this is called "sign cutting" and will be discussed later. In training, always try to find every track.

c. Once the initial track is found, completely document and sketch it for future reference. This sketch will prevent you from following the wrong track later on. Record the following information.

d. Determining Direction. This generally is not a problem with animals. Man's over-the-snow equipment may confuse a tracker. All forward movement will displace snow forward, or referred to as "fluffing". This fluffing is the key. As it begins to melt, pockmarks will be left on the level snow pack.

(2) Backward Snow Shoes. Inexperienced personnel may believe that walking backwards in snow shoes will fool someone. This type of activity is extremely exhausting and will not confuse an experienced tracker.

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