Perhaps you’re on a hike and see fresh animal tracks you can’t identify. Is that paw print from a fellow hikers’ St. Bernard? Or, have you discovered the first wolf pack to re-establish in the Sage Foothills?
Is that track from a wandering bobcat that crossed your path? Or, is it evidence that a cougar stalked your trek to the summit? Should you be excited to be communing with traces of nature, or worried for life and limb?
We’re not bloodhounds, so there’s a good chance we wouldn’t be able to answer these questions. Even seasoned trackers can have trouble identifying prints when very different animals leave similar tracks. Animal feet also vary considerably in shape, size, and stride within a species, so it can be hard to name tracks with confidence.
We can’t ID all of your tracks, but we can do this. We can direct you to this excellent field guide from Dana Visalli of the Methow Naturalist, who knows an awful lot more about animal tracking than we do. The guide is only four pages long, but has detailed track illustrations and measurements for dozens of species. Best of all, it’s printable and takes next to no space in a pack.
We’ve also made this slideshow quiz to walk you through some of the tracks, scat, fur, and other animal signs you might find within North Central Washington. It’s not comprehensive, but it is a starting place to learn a few common tracks. Most of the photos were taken in mud or snow, but a few others were crafted in the WenatcheeOutdoors laboratory using rubber feet and our special “mystery medium”.
Slideshow readers be warned: The puns in this one are a doozy.