In the Footsteps of Animals (Tracking) (JHARVNC)

Summary:

Participants will learn to read the story of an animal’s footprints. Activities may include identifying animal tracks, learning how animals leave track patterns based on how they walk, and making track patterns to take home.

Grade Level:

K - 8

Recommended Setting:

Classroom or multi-purpose room, outdoors on nature center property (Beaver Creek trail)

Outdoor Activity:

No

Location:

Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center, Fort Smith

Contact:

Education Program Coordinator, 479-452-3993

Duration:

45 minutes

Suggested Number of Participants:

30

Objectives:

  • Name the five main classifications of animals
  • Differentiate between species of animals, based on the tracks observed
  • Identify evidence of animal activity in nature such as scat, rubbings, tracks, snake skin

Key Terms*:

Amphibian

Bird

Browse line

Mammal

Reptile

Rubbings

Scat

*See glossary for definations

Materials:

Demonstration of animal feet/hooves to show how prints are made

Samples of animal tracks

Background:

Types of Animals in Arkansas
  • Mammals
  • Reptiles
  • Amphibians
  • Birds

Characteristics of Animal Tracks (Peterson Field Guide)

  • Size
  • Shape
  • Number of toes and nail marks present
    • Coyote – present
    • Bobcat – not present
    • No toes, hoofed

Activity

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Digging
  • Game trail
    • Multi-use trail
    • Beaver run

Hike

  • Habitat differences
  • Other animal signs
    • Rubs
    • Scrapes
    • Browse line
    • Scat
      • How long animal in area
      • What type of animal
      • Favorite foods

Procedure:

  1. Seat participants on floor and introduce speaker.
  2. Tell participants about the types of animals in Arkansas.
  3. Use the Peterson Field Guide to show participants different shapes, sizes and number of toes different species may or may not have.
  4. Have pictures or examples of tracks made by the same animals talked about, and show them how footprints are made with a depression.
  5. Take participants on a hike, pointing out animal tracks as well as other evidence of animal presence (rubbings, scat, molted snake skin).
  6. Review the materials by matching Arkansas animals with their tracks. Remind participants that all animals provide for the environment and to be careful when cutting down trees, avoid littering, etc.

Modifications:

Provide older participants with dichotomous keys for animals and have them determine which animals fit with each footprint.

Review:

  • What are some examples of animals in Arkansas and what do their tracks look like?
  • How does an animal’s footprint reveal its activity? What does it look like when a deer is walking, running, digging, etc?
  • What are the differences among bobcat, deer, bear, turkey, raccoon and coyote tracks?
  • Why is it important to watch for signs of animal presence, and why do we need to protect our animals’ environments in Arkansas?

Resources:

  • Sealander, John A. and Gary A. Heidt. Arkansas Mammals: Their Natural History, Classification, and Distribution. University of Arkansas Press.
  • Sutton, Keith, ed. Arkansas Wildlife: A History. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. University of Arkansas Press.

Glossary:

Amphibian – any cold-blooded, egg-laying vertebrate of the class Amphibia having gilled aquatic larvae and air-breathing, semiterrestrial adults; examples are frogs and toads, newts and salamanders, and caecilians

Bird – any warm-blooded vertebrate of the class Aves, having a body covered with feathers, forelimbs modified into wings, scaly legs, a beak and no teeth, and bearing young in a hard-shelled egg
 
Browse line – height deer can reach to eat vegetation

Mammal – any of a class of higher vertebrates, including man, that produce milk for their young, have fur or hair, are warm-blooded and, with the exception of the egg-laying monotremes, bear young alive

Reptile – any cold-blooded, egg-laying, air-breathing vertebrate of the class Reptilia, including turtles, snakes, lizards, crocodilians, amphibians, tuatara and various extinct members including the dinosaurs

Rubbings (animal) – describes the abrasions caused by animals, usually against the base of a tree

Scat – an animal’s fecal droppings, especially a wild animal