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Snow DNA Reveals New Way to Track Animals in Winter

The loss or destruction of habitat is the direct result of the economic and social system in which we currently find ourselves, being one of the greatest risks faced by Track Animals in Winter species and the main threat to the survival of wildlife. The reduction of biodiversity or the extinction of species are some of the consequences of this degradation, in most cases irreversible.

identifying tracks, traces and signs of animals

However, there are other types of consequences at the local level, which affect us more to nature lovers. And the fact is that the loss of a habitat also means that it is increasingly difficult to observe wildlife when an exit is made through the natural environment. That is, the chances of observing animals in their own habitat, in freedom, are considerably reduced.



Observation of animals in freedom

In any case, wildlife observation is not easy. In addition to the loss of habitat, we must add other factors that prevent simple observation of animals: the vast majority are nocturnal or crepuscular habits , and many of them have highly developed senses, such as hearing, smell or sight , which allows them to avoid and escape everything related to the human being.

Brown bear walking

Brown bear walking through a lake with autumnal colors. Wildlife habitat of Russia.

Therefore, if we want to be more effective when it comes to finding and visualizing animals, and to understand in a more complete way their behavior and their relationship with the environment, we must be attentive to indirect indicators , which can reveal the presence of different species ( traces, signs, traces, etc.). Once we find one of these indicators, we can be able to interpret the different signalsthat they manifest to us A correct follow-up can give us a lot of information about the way of life of different animals, and will allow us to know different characteristics of each animal, such as age, size or type of feeding. In being able to find out these singularities, without needing a direct encounter, lies the importance of an adequate tracking .

Most of these signs are temporary, so they will disappear after days, or even hours. However, there are examples of footprints and signs that have lasted for thousands of years, as is the case with the fossil bear tracks of the caves found in southern France, which are between 15,000 and 20,000 years old.

In short, the analysis and study of the following types of indicators will provide us with interesting information about the characteristics of the animals that have created them.

Footprints, footprints and structure of the foot

Tracks are the most easily recognizable signs, especially when they are discovered in the snow or on soft and sandy grounds. However, it is important to know the structure and appearance of the feet (or legs) of different species for proper identification.

In this sense, we can point out the existence of plantigrade animals , that is, those that completely support the sole of the foot and hands (like the hare), and digitigrades , which only rely on the fingers as a measure of adaptation (as the Lynx). On the other hand, we can observe the marks of the nails on the ground in the case that they are non-retractable, such as those that have species such as the wolf or the fox. On the other hand, if the nails are retractable (like those of the wildcat), it is likely that their marks will not be noticed. In addition, there are also species with hooves , which leave a very characteristic footprint.

For all this, the previous study of the different types of tracks, shapes and sizes will help us in the identification.

Trail of wolf footsteps on snow. By Andrey Yushkov |

Excrement, a clue about eating habits, diet and behavior

Although in the first instance it may be an unattractive subject, the study of excrement can reveal a large amount of important information. First of all, we can know the food habits and the essential diet of the different species. In fact, thanks to the non-digestible parts of the food, we can find out in some circumstances what exactly the animal has eaten, by observing certain parts of elements such as feathers, hairs, shells or fragments of chitin(present in the body of arthropods ) . For example, in otter droppings it is common to find crustacean remains. Thanks to this type of studies we can understand the different food habits of animals, as well as identify the animal itself.

However, the excrement gives us even more information: for example, through the smell of feces. Mammals have odoriferous glands (located in the genital area), which secrete substances that give off in the faeces a particularly characteristic odor for each species. This secretion is important during the heat season, since it gives us information about that animal is willing to mate, which also favors sexual selection .

Western Iberian goa

Western Iberian goat. Mating season. By Paolo-manzi |

The smell of excrement is also used to mark a territory, as well as the situation or position in which the feces are found. Some animals, such as the fox, try to defecate in some high place (rocks or fallen trunks), so that the smell disperses more effectively. Others, on the other hand, prefer to do it in latrines or holes in the ground, as is the case with the badger.

Signs and marks on the foods that are consumed

Many animals leave marks or evidence that usually manifest themselves in the form of signals (created by the teeth and other parts of the body) on the food they eat, whether they are branches of trees or bushes (bark, typical of the cervids), in fruits ( gnawing) in the case of rodents) or even in the corpses of their prey (carnivores usually leave bite marks ). As with excrement, the study of feeders and food provides us with valuable information about the diet of different species, as well as their eating habits.

Red squirrel eating

Red squirrel eating a pineapple. Lathi, Findalnd. By Hert Niks |

Burrows, dens and shelters

Commonly, and especially during the breeding season, animals usually take refuge in different types of dens and burrows , hidden and inaccessible (the most typical example, may be the nests of birds). These shelters may be permanent, although they are usually used temporarily. The location, size and characteristics of the burrows can help us identify their “owners”.

For example, animals such as the fox, the rabbit or the badger build their burrows below the ground, forming a series of galleries and tunnels connected to each other. On the contrary, the deer or buck do not create a refuge in themselves, but form a resting place, in open areas of the forest where they crush the vegetation to lie down.

red fox cub

A red fox cub in its burrow. By Menno Schaefer |

Revolvers and mud baths

The wallows are muddy and swampy areas where certain species are given mud baths skin – care, regulate its temperature and protect against insect bites. In the surrounding area, trees with mud remnants often appear, a sign that the animals have been scrubbed to dry. They are easily identifiable traces, belonging to species such as, for example, the wild boar.

Wild boar

Wild boar (Sus scrofa). By lightpoet |

Scratches and marks on trees

During the spring, it is common for some cervids, such as the roe deer, to rub their antlers against the trunks of the trees in order to get rid of the blot (a thin velvety layer that protects the new horns that have developed during the winter), leaving some marks very significant Also, bears often nibble and scratch branches and trunks, especially during the heat.

Brown bear scratches on a tree. By bravikvl |

In the surroundings of the nests and roosts of different birds, it is common to find some “pelotitas” more or less compact, formed by hair, feathers, bones, vegetal elements, etc., called egagrópilas . The pellets are formed by those components that birds can not digest, so Track Animals in Winter they react in a natural way by regurgitating this content. They are frequent in nocturnal raptors , corvids or seagulls, so by studying their content, shapes and sizes, we can deduce to what species they correspond.


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