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Wild animals can be hard to spot as they’re quite shy and many creatures only come out at night. But if your family keep your eyes peeled while you’re exploring the woods, you’ll find lots of signs of animal activity. And it’s a thrilling experience for youngsters when they make an exciting discovery.

Help your kids develop their tracking skills with our tips for identifying animal tracks, poo and other evidence. Here are some clues to look out for.

Animal tracks

Look closely at the woodland floor to see if you can find animal footprints, known as tracks. Soft mud, frost and snowy ground are good areas to good explore as paw prints and hoof marks show up more clearly.

  • Deer – their hooves are cloven (split in two), so they leave two long marks side by side.
  • Foxes and dogs – spotted a trail of diamond-shaped prints with four toes? That could be a fox. However, if the prints are dotted about in a random pattern it’s more likely to be a playful dog on a walk.
  • Badgers and otters – both animals have five toes, but you can recognise a badger print by the long claw marks. Otter prints may show the webbing between their toes, and their claws don’t usually make an impression.

Blog

Animal tracks: snow print identification

James Martin  •  07 Dec 2017

A fresh coat of snow reveals the footprints of the secretive animals that call our woodland home. Learn how to identify some of the tracks you're likely to see in your local wood.

Read the blog

Identify animal poo

Animal droppings, also known as scat, are excellent clues as to which animals have been active nearby.

  • Deer produce large, shiny, dark brown balls of poo.
  • Rabbits leave smaller, round, greenish brown balls.
  • Fox poo looks a lot like dog poo but it usually has bits of fur, berries and seeds in it.
  • Badger poo tends to be sausage-shaped, black and greasy. It's usually found in latrines – toilet areas near their setts. If it's sloppy it's a sign the badger has eaten a lot of earthworms.

Kids are fascinated by poo, so next time you find some in the woods why not investigate it? Use a stick to break some poo apart and try to find out what the animal had eaten. Look for fur, tiny bones, berries and seeds.

Remember – never touch animal poo with your hands as it carries bacteria which could make you ill. And always wash your hands well after you’ve been exploring outdoors.

Poos and clues swatch book

Who's been there?

Learn how to track elusive woodland animals with our poos and clues swatch book

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Animal homes

As you venture deeper into the woods, look for holes in the ground and in tree trunks. You might discover the entrance to an animal’s home.

  • Badger homes are called setts. Look for large holes on sloping ground – up to 30cm wide – they’re often shaped like a D on its side. Badgers dig a lot, so you might see piles of earth outside. If the earth is fresh, it’s a good sign the sett is being lived in.
  • Rabbit homes are called warrens. The entrances are about half the size of badger holes and are round or oval.
  • If you spot tiny holes in the ground – just a few centimetres wide – they could belong to mice or voles.

Please take care not to disturb wildlife. Animals are usually wary of humans, but if you do have a close encounter it’s best to stay still and try to keep your distance. And it’s important to never interfere with a nest or den.

Other signs

There’s lots of other evidence to look out for while you’re exploring. Keep your eyes peeled for these clues.

  • Fur snags. Look for bits of fur caught on brambles, twigs and fences. Can you guess which animal the fur belongs to?
  • Well-worn paths. Badgers are known to use the same routes over and over again when travelling to and from their setts. This creates clear paths through vegetation on the woodland floor.
  • Nibbled nuts. Hazelnuts with tooth-marked holes may have been nibbled by dormice or wood mice. Deer strip the skin off conkers before eating them, so you may find bits on the ground. Squirrels split nuts in two with their sharp teeth. They also chomp the scales off cones – look out for chewed cores under pine trees.

We hope these tips inspire your family to head out and discover our incredible wildlife. For more activities you can do together, take a look at family membership.

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