Did you know that the world around you — whether it’s your backyard, a neighborhood park or even your school playground — is full of animals? It’s true…even if you can’t always see them.

If you know what to look for, though, you just might be able to tell what animals have been hanging around and where they went. No matter how small it may be, all animals leave some evidence behind when they move through the world.

You can track animals in your backyard or a local park. For a real adventure, though, visit a nearby state park or forest and hit the trails. It can be a lot of fun to be an animal detective, searching for footprints, paw prints and hoof prints!

As you move, your feet leave tell-tale footprints that show where you’ve been. Animals are the same way. Of course, you can’t always see these tracks easily. For example, tracking a rabbit hopping through thick grass would not be an easy task.

Sand and hard-packed dirt can make it easier to see animal tracks. However, it’s much easier to track animals traveling through snow or mud. So you might want to wait until just after it rains or snows to give tracking a try.

Animal tracking isn’t easy, but with a little forethought and some basic information, you can identify some basic animal tracks. Before you set out on your tracking adventure, think about the kinds of animals you know live in your area.

For example, if you know that squirrels, rabbits and birds live in your area, it’s likely that you’ll find tracks from some or all of these animals. Likewise, if you can’t identify a particular track, it’s probably not from a hippopotamus, giraffe or zebra…unless you live in Africa!

So let’s say you find an animal track. How can you tell what animal made it? Here are a few clues you can use to unravel the mystery.

If the track has four toes on both the front and back feet, you’re probably looking at a track from a member of the dog family (dog, coyote, wolf or fox) or the cat family (cat, lynx or bobcat). If the track has small, triangular marks in front of the toes, those are claw marks, which mean the track is probably from a dog, not a cat.

If the track has four toes on the front foot and five toes on the back foot, it’s from a rodent, such as a mouse, chipmunk, squirrel, woodchuck or porcupine. Five toes on each of the front and back feet point toward a raccoon, a bear, a beaver, an opossum or a member of the weasel family, such as a weasel, badger, skunk or otter. Two-toed tracks are usually left by deer.

Animals that hop, such as squirrels and rabbits, often leave interesting tracks. As they hop along, their bigger back feet land ahead of their smaller front feet.

When you find tracks, try to follow them as far as you can. In which direction was the animal moving? Where do you think it was going? If you’re having trouble following the tracks, one trick you can use is to keep the print between you and the Sun. Doing so allows the light to cast shadows in the print to make it stand out more from its surroundings.

 

114 Join the Discussion

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    • You ARE the first Wonder Friend to comment on today’s Wonder of the Day® today, Anthony! Way to go! Thanks for your enthusiasm for tomorrow’s Wonder. Did you have fun learning new things by exploring today’s Wonder, too? We sure hope so! :-)

  1. Hi! My name is Joe from Mrs. Underwood’s 3rd grade class! I liked today’s wonder about animal tracks! I already like tracking animals around my house! I believe tomorrow’s wonder will be about CHESS!

    • Good morning, Joe! Thanks for checking out today’s Wonder of the Day® and for sharing that you like to track animals around your house! That’s a GREAT guess you made about tomorrow’s Wonder…we’ll all have to check back to see if your guess was correct! :-)

    • That’s a SUPER question, Zosia! Dolphins do not leave “tracks” in the traditional sense. They leave small currents and bubbles as they move through the water! :-)

  2. This was a great article! We hope to use your clues to help track down a few of these animals someday! Some of the kids say they have been tracking before, but it’s not that easy. Maybe with more practice we will have better luck!

    • We know you guys will be GREAT animal trackers after exploring today’s Wonder together, Mrs. Newland’s Class! Please let us know if you find some animal tracks and what animals you think made them! We like learning new things, too! :-)

  3. We were wondering…do animals in the ocean leave tracks? We think that animals like whales, dolphins, sharks, and fish do not leave tracks. But, we are thinking that crabs can leave tracks.

    • We think that is a SUPER question, Mrs. Rist’s 2nd Grade Class! We think animals that walk along the ocean’s floor might possibly make some super light tracks, but those tracks are probably washed away very quickly with the changing ocean currents. We WONDER if marine biologists or other scientists have ever tried to make castings of underwater crustacean tracks and HOW the would do it if they could? Thanks for making US wonder a bit more today, too! :-)

  4. We learned a lot from the footprint game. We learned that all animals leave tracks. We thought of some animals that don’t leave tracks. What about ocean animals? We discovered that we can see tracks around our world.

    • We are REALLY impressed with all the awesome WONDERing about ocean animal tracks that is being shared by different Wonder Friends in the comments for today’s Wonder of the Day®! You guys are super smart to think about that, too, Jarvis Second Grade EE! We’re proud of you! Thank you for letting us know you learned some new facts about tracks (cool rhyme!) today, and for leaving us this awesome comment! :-)

    • This is a WONDERful comment, Mrs. Smith’s Grade 2, 3 class! Thank you for visiting today’s Wonder together and for doing some extra WONDERing about the tracks of animals that can swim, like fish! There are some types of fish (called “ambulatory” or “walking” fish) that can “walk” up on to the shore and breathe air for periods of time. Some examples of these types of fish are mudskippers and walking catfish. We think it would be FUN to try to find out what the land tracks of these types of fish might look like!

    • Hello, Yamel! Thank so much for your super comment! Yes, penguins leave tracks. They do slide around sometimes, it’s true, but when they walk and there is snow on the ground, their penguin feet leave penguin tracks! :-)

  5. Do mice leave tracks? They are so small it is hard to see. When I get older, I am going to buy a bobcat and raise it. If it gets used to you, it won’t hurt you. YAY, I can’t wait!

    • WOW, Danielle! Raising a bobcat sounds dangerous! We have seen nature shows on television about people who raise certain dangerous animals because they are hurt or orphaned. We think those people are brave!

      To answer your question, yes, mice leave tracks. Little, bitty tracks, but they are tracks none the less! If you look closely, you can find mice tracks in mud, dust, or dirt. Their tails leave tracks, too! Thanks for WONDERing a little more about animal tracks after visiting today’s Wonder! :-)

    • That is SO COOL, Thomas! Thank you for sharing about your school’s mascot today! We bet you have received LOTS of Positive Paws! :-)

  6. Today was our first time learning about the wonder of the day! We liked learning about the deer and coyote tracks. What do hedgehog tracks look like?

    • Welcome to Wonderopolis, Miss Greiser’s Kindergarten Class! We’re not sure what hedgehog tracks look like, but now we WONDER that, too! We think it’s AWESOME that you guys did extra WONDERing about animal tracks after you explored today’s Wonder of the Day®, and we encourage you all to do some more WONDERing to find out what types of tracks your favorite animals make! :-)

    • We hope you and the other Wonder Friends who have guessed CHESS are right, Arianna! We would love to learn more about such a fun and brain-exercising game! :-)

  7. Dear Wonderopolis,

    I certainly wouldn’t expect to see Zebra tracks unless I was at the zoo, or if I lived in Africa! I really enjoyed this wonder, Wonder! I wonder if aquatic mammals leave footprints? Can they leave them in the water to where we don’t see them? I learned that all or most animals leave footprints, even if you can’t see them! I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day will be about maybe chess? Kings in the corner? Have you heard about that game? It’s really fun! I look forward for tomorrow’s wonder, wonder!!
    :) :P

    –Hannah from Team Turner

    • You always leave the best comments, Hannah! We really appreciate your excitement for learning and WONDERing! We’ve had a bunch of Wonder Friends leave us comments today to ask if aquatic animals leave tracks. You can do some exploring in our responses below to see what we all found out (it’s really cool)! :-)

  8. Oooh. We had fun with this one today. We used our plastic dinosaurs to make tracks in playdoh – then had some Wonderopolis investigators see which dinosaurs made them. We love Wonderopolis!

  9. Hi, I’m from Mrs. Bradsis’ class bell:8. Cool wonder. I did not know that all animals leave tracks. I think that tomorrow’s wonder would be about ice cream. :)

  10. Hi, I’m Chauncey from Mrs. Brasdis’ Class Bell 8.
    I think the next Wonderopolis is going to be bullying in schools.

    • Thanks for visiting Wonderopolis and also for guessing what you think the next Wonder of the Day® will be about, Chauncey! :-)

  11. Hi, I’m Tamia from Ms. Brasdis’ 7th grade class….what I learned from the wonder of the day is that all animals leave tracks from where they walk. Now, I think that tomorrow’s wonder is going to be about science.

  12. This article was definitely interesting to me, considering I might have to use this knowledge in my future career as a Zoologist! I do believe that tomorrow’s wonder will be about bullying.

    • We think it’s really GREAT that you want to be a zoologist when you grow up, Kaytlyn! We bet all the animals you will take care of will think you are GREAT, too! :-)

  13. Hi, this is Brandon from Mrs. Brasdis’ 8 bell class. I learned that all animals leave tracks even if you can’t see them.

    • That is a super cool fact, Brandon! Thanks for sharing what you learned by exploring today’s Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  14. My name is Amir from Mrs. Brasdis’ 7th grade reading class. I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day will be about, kings, queens, and knights, because that is what the hint said.

    • Hello, Amir! We’ll all have to wait until tomorrow to see if your guess is correct! Thank you for being a great Wonder Friend and leaving us this super comment! :-)

  15. I <3 CHESS!!!! It is very challenging and exiting! I can’t wait for tomorrow! Did you know that there is a stalemate in chess? It is when you only have a king and you can only take 50 more moves until the games is over (sometimes it could be less or more).

    • You sure do know a lot about chess, Anthony! Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge with everyone in Wonderopolis today! We will have to check tomorrow’s Wonder to see if your guess is correct! :-)

    • You’re quite welcome, Mackenzie! Thank YOU for letting us know you found today’s Wonder to be full of information! :-)

  16. Interesting facts. I think I’ll try tracking tomorrow. Will tomorrow’s wonder be about kings and queens? I’m reading about some right now!

    • That’s a super cool coincidence, Omarrah! We’ll have to wait and see what tomorrow’s Wonder will be about, but we KNOW for certain that it will be FUN and FACT-FILLED! :-)

    • Hello, Spencer! Thanks for checking out today’s Wonder and leaving us this comment to share your beliefs about animal tracks! We appreciate your point of view! :-)

  17. It was cool how they knew the tracks from the animals. The coyotes feet were sixteen inches apart, that is cool. It was cool how we played the game.

    • Your comment ROCKS, Mason! We enjoyed hearing all the things you thought were cool about today’s Wonder…THANK YOU for sharing them with us! :-)

    • We hope you’ll watch the video so you can learn more about animal tracks, Aleia! Thanks for leaving us a comment to let us know you stopped by Wonderopolis today! :-)

    • We think that’s a pretty good guess, Hunter, but we’ll all have to check back for tomorrow’s Wonder to see if it was a GREAT guess! :-)

  18. Thank you for this informational fact! It’s always nice to learn about something new and I hope I learn more! My guess on tomorrow’s Wonder is that it will be about bullying. :)

    • It makes us super happy to hear that you learned something new today and that you hope to learn even MORE, Uryu! Thank you for leaving us this comment! :-)

    • We’re sorry you couldn’t watch the video, SJP, but we’re glad to know you got to explore the other parts of today’s Wonder and that you thought it was cool! :-)

  19. I know I am a bit late to comment, but I still think that today’s was awesome. Also, I think that tomorrow’s will be about chess.

    • There are a lot of Wonder Friends who agree with you about tomorrow’s Wonder, Nick! You guys are ALL awesome for trying to guess! Thank you for letting us know you thought today’s Wonder was awesome, too! :-)

  20. Dear Wonderopolis,
    Cool wonder! Most animals leave tracks, but some might leave trails or evidence they were there. Like birds, they leave nests and feathers behind but not really tracks. I think tomorrow’s wonder is about Penguins. P.S. My favorite animal is a penguin, can you please do it about them? It would be so cool! Thx.
    XOXOXOXOXO,
    Paige ;)

    • Thanks for letting us know, Rickii! We look forward to hearing what you think about tomorrow’s Wonder and also about some of the cool things you learn by exploring it! :-)

  21. I want to be in Wonder Lead Jon’s kindergarten class-oh my gosh, what fun…making tracks in playdoh! LOVE that idea and I remember when I used to make plaster of paris tracks in girl scouts.

    • We think we’d like to have Wonder Lead Jon as our teacher, too, Maria! He shares such WONDERful activities with his kindergarten students! They are super lucky! :-)

    • Hi there, Brynn! Thanks for being such an AWESOME Wonder Friend and leaving us this comment to let us know what you thought about this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    • Hi, Kate! We’re happy that you’re excited about the next Wonder of the Day®…we are, too! It’s so much fun to learn new things in Wonderopolis every day! :-)

    • We think it’s cool, too, Christian! There are so many different animals in the world and so many types of tracks to discover and learn about! :-)

    • Hi, Iris! We sure do appreciate you leaving us a comment today and sharing your thoughts about animal tracks! We hope you learned some fun new facts by exploring this Wonder…we know we did! :-)

    • Hi, Chad! Thanks for leaving us this great comment! We’ll have to look for the toe patterns of coyotes vs. dogs the next time we have the opportunity to find those types of tracks! Have a WONDERful day! :-)

    • We’re really happy to hear that, Cassie! Thank you for hanging out in Wonderopolis today and leaving us a comment…we appreciate it! :-)

  22. It is amazing how many comments you got on do all animals leave tracks? How many comments do
    you get a day? How many years have have you been doing Wonderopolis? How many people work there?
    audrey

    • Those are all GREAT questions, Audrey! There is a new Wonder of the Day® every day here in Wonderopolis, and since today’s Wonder is #481, that means we’ve been a great place to learn for 481 days! There are many awesome people who live and work here in Wonderopolis, too, and we all work together to make sure each Wonder is the best it can possibly be! We get LOTS of comments each day. Some Wonder Friends comment on the current day’s Wonder, but lots of comments are made to past Wonders, too! We have Wonder Friends all over the world who comment at different times of the day and night, depending on what time it is where they live. :-)

  23. Dear Wonderopolis,
    Can you pleeeeeease do a wonder on dogs pleeeeeease? I might be getting a dog over the summer. And I’d like to know more about dogs or how to take care of dogs. At least can you do a wonder on pets?

    From,
    Lindsay

    • Thanks for sharing what you think about animals leaving tracks, Tommy! We sure appreciate you letting us know how much you enjoy the Wonders of the Day®, too! :-)

  24. Hi. Thank you for putting up awesome videos. You guys rock. So about animals…tracks are not made in grass!!! just to let you know. OK? I love that one.

    • Hi, Ashlyn! Thanks for sharing what you think about animal tracks in the grass! We appreciate you adding something AWESOME to this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    • We think you are pretty great yourself, Ashlyn! We appreciate the comments you leave for us on the Wonders you visit! :-)

  25. Nice article!!! I love these articles!!! They are so interesting and very fun to read and watch the videos!!! Thank you, wonderopolis!!!

    • It makes us really happy to hear that you enjoy visiting Wonderopolis so much, Leslie! We appreciate you letting us know! Have a WONDERful day! :-)

  26. Hi, it’s is me again, Ashlyn. It is fun to talk to you online and it is cool that you can read my comments every single day.

    • Well, we think it’s cool that you visit Wonderopolis and leave us comments every single day, Ashlyn! You’re a WONDERful Wonder Friend! :-)

  27. I never knew that all animals leave tracks. I thought that some animals are so light and stealthy that they wouldn’t make a mark, but I was wrong. I also learned that it is easiest to see tracks in the snow and mud. How would I identify a bird or an alligator? Thank you Wonderopolis for making this wonder!

    • We’re so glad you liked this Wonder, Team Unger 9, and we really liked hearing the cool things you learned about animal tracks by exploring it! People who can identify animal tracks have practiced studying all the different types of tracks there are, from the smallest creature to the largest! They know exactly what to look for to identify which animal made which track! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Do all animals leave tracks?
  • When is the best time to look for animal tracks?
  • What are some clues you can use to identify animal tracks?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Ready to get tracking? Before you head out into the wild, take some time to check out these fun online activities that will help you to begin to understand what you’ll be looking for in the wild:

When you think you’re ready, head out into the wild to see what kind of tracks you can find. Take a camera or a notebook with you. It can be a lot of fun to document the tracks you find by taking pictures of them or drawing pictures of tracks in a notebook. Will you share what you find with us? Email us a picture or post one on Facebook. We’d love to see the tracks you find!

 

Still Wondering

Check out Science NetLinks’ Animal Adaptations lesson to learn about animal features and behaviors that can help or hinder their survival in a particular habitat.

 

Wonder Categories/Tags

Categories

Tags

animal  animals  tracking  tracks 

Wonder What’s Next?

Hey mate! We hope you check in with us tomorrow for some fun with kings, queens and knights!

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