Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Mammal Tracking

We often get asked to help out with some research work, be it collecting water vole droppings for people to compare them with field vole droppings, testing harvest mice feeders for use in the wild to see which ones best collect their droppings or sending of pine marten scats in the post for dog training in the use of surveying wild populations... come to think of it, it normally always means droppings in some way or another.

Recently we were asked to help with a tracking project by Woodcraft School, near Midhurst. Woodcraft School are an organisation which provide bushcraft courses and skills, and they wanted to try and collect tracks of all the British mammals. Since this was an interesting project, which didn't involve droppings, I thought I would share it with you.

Two main methods were employed for collecting the tracks. For the larger mammals, they provided us with moon sand. A very light sand that would take the impression of a paw print when the animal walked over it... see Lilly the otter ably demonstrating this in the photo at the top of this page! This worked quite well, but was very delicate. Casts could not be taken and so a photo record was needed.

For the smaller mammals which didn't have the weight to leave an impression in the moon sand, we were provided with board, paper and animal friendly paint. The idea behind this was to provide an "ink" pad for the animal to walk over, before walking over the paper and thus leaving their footprints behind.

Over the course of a few days we were able to collect prints for all the mammals from harvest mice up to foxes. Hopefully Woodcraft School will be able to use these as teaching aids, and we have left it open to the possibility of taking it a stage further and developing the techniques to build up a collection of accurate prints for all British mammals over the Winter.

 So, what do you think?.. Any ideas what the prints above and the ink print below are?..

Oh yeah... Woodcraft School also wanted a sample of droppings from all our mammals too... I thought droppings would come in to it somewhere!


  1. The inkpad idea is really smart, I was thinking about making casts of animal footprints for my class, but this is maybe even better!!! :)

    Which paint did you use???

    1. Child friendly poster paint, watered down... worked very well. We painted it on to gaffer tape stuck to a bit of card so it wouldn't dry out too quick. For a couple of animals we had to leave the board in longer, and so we mixed the paint with a vegetable based oil so it wouldn't dry out so quickly.

      Good luck!