Track Collecting

print1 Raccoon?, originally uploaded by SavingFLorida.

Originally posted at

Track: a mark left behind by movement

Everyone has seen them, especially those of us who get out in the wilder areas. They are the marks in the sand (mud, dirt, grass, etc.) that most people overlook. They are the telltale signs that something once has this way come. Most people see them and never pay much attention. Some are easy to recognize. The double quarter-half circles formed by deer, the ruts left by feral hogs, and the tail swagger (often called a slide) of a rather large gator.

Have you ever thought of collecting these? It can be done a variety of ways. Traditionally the use of plaster cast molding has been used to collect foot prints. There is another substance called alginate that is more expensive but more environmentally friendly that some people have started using. Others just collect evidence photographically. I’ve compiled a list of what you need to get started.

First you need to find some tracks. The easiest place I’ve found is in dark mud. I mean the area between really wet and kind of dry. The tracks seem to be cleaner because of the tendency of the mud to stick together rather than on the animal. Sandy areas that haven’t been hard packed are also a good place. Check dirt roads because many animals use them in the same manner as we do; as corridors from one place to the next. You can find evidence that animals have been places off the sand and dirt in the form of impressions, scat, and regurgitated pellets. Some people collect these too!

Second, pick your medium. Get some plaster, alginate, or a camera and learn how to use it.

Third, you want to be prepared. There is nothing like finding something really great and not being able to anything with it. You will need water and a mixing cup if you are using plaster. Alginate in most forms also requires water. You will need several barriers of different size to pour the plaster into. I use plastic circles cut out of Coke bottles. These have to set for a while so a marker to remind you of where they are is also a good idea. If you are taking photographs you want to have a ruler or some way to recognize the size of track. Some people use quarters, I’ve used business cards before.

Finally, everyone needs to have a good field guide. There is a variety available at your local bookstore most likely. Get one that has several pictures for each species rather than one really clear print.

Tracking can be fun and easy. You can even make things with the tracks themselves. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

I enjoy seeing tracks that people have recorded, leave a link to yours!

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