Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Survival Resources 6: Tracking

(For regular readers: Sorry about the long delay in posting. Life is busy these days--but I have lots I plan to post on. Posts just may be coming out slowly.)

Tracking is the art of identifying animal tracks. This is a useful survival skill for several reasons. If you are desperate for food, you can track animals to hunt. I know some committed vegans who are also very survival oriented that were talking about hunting rabbits if necessary to survive. A different reason is to know what might be stalking around in the woods where you are--instead of being the hunter, you might be prey for some other critter. It's good to be aware of what's around you.

I think the best reason for learning tracking is to learn about what lives in whatever area you do. I will talk more about learning the land in my next post but I do think that the more that you know about the natural world (see Survival Resources 3: Back to Nature, 1/6/11), the better your survival chances may be. In spite of the fact that a lot of eco- and agricultural literature focuses on plants, there are many nonhuman animals that we share the world with and this is a great way to begin learning about them.

I think that one of the best resources that I've found to begin learning tracking is Tom Brown Jr and Brandt Morgan's piece on Animal Tracking. It starts with what they call the ABC's of tracking--looking at families of animals and the common tracking patterns within those families. In fact, the website that I got this from is an incredibly useful resource for tracking--it's called Wildwood Tracking.

Another resource that I would recommend is Track Finder: A Guide to Mammal Tracks of Eastern North America which can be gotten from Nature Study Guild Publishers[ for $4.95 or (as I mentioned in my last post) as part of the Winter Finders Set (which I mentioned in my last post) for $12.95. They also sell Mountain State Mammals for the Rocky Mountain Region and Pacific Coast Mammals for the Pacific Coast.

Of course, the best way to learn tracking is to do it. Many state parks, adult education programs, and nature study centers offer programs on tracking (I recently attended one offered through a Boston natural areas association). Like anything else, the more you do it, the better you will get.

Quote of the Day: "It is difficult to identify an animal by a single print. A print's shape is influenced by the surface it's made on and by the animal's gait. Front and rear prints of the same animal may differ. ...
"(Remember that even human foot sizes vary!) A footprint may look different on sand than it does in loose snow. Be observant..." -Dorcas Miller


Turil said...

I finally am getting to comment here! Yay! I'd downloaded a copy of your posts since I got to Maine (beginning of January) and read them and had all sorts of things I wanted to say, but wasn't online to say them. :-( I'm really glad you've been investigating this stuff. Learning about the land and the stuff that goes on underneath the average urban human's awareness is so valuable. I got to go snowshoeing for the first time a few weeks ago, and got to explore not only the wilderness in the winter like I'd never done before, but also got to go places that I couldn't usually go (through the marsh, the middle of a pond, etc.) because things were frozen. We found some good mushrooms, too. I'm looking forward to trying to gather and eat pine pollen this spring too, as it's supposed to be really good for the body.

MoonRaven said...

Thanks, Turil. I'd love to hear more about your adventures in Maine--snowshoeing, mushroom eating, pollen gathering, etc. I'm still reading about all this stuff; it sounds like you are out there trying it.