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Animal Tracks Unit Study

Updated on January 20, 2015

Mountain Lion Footprint

Mountain Lion Tracks
Mountain Lion Tracks | Source

Animals Leave their Signs

Wildlife criss-cross my yard, field and forest. Writing in code they tell the tale of unseen visitors.

When you study nature it is often hard to get close to the animals you are studying but often they leave their tracks. Learning to recognize the tracks of the animals that live near you will let you know which ones are visiting you.

Animal tracks are are also clues to the animal's range within their habit. They may also tell you whether the animal flies, crawls, runs or hops.

Young children are fascinated by animals and you can use that interest to teach all across the curriculum. Put on your boots and lets learn about animal tracks...

The Animal Track Adventure Begins!

Gather the little ones around and help create excitement for an outdoor exploration to discover the animal neighbors living near your home or school

Once the snow has stopped the animals will begin to scamper about. This is the time to go out and look for tracks.

Be sure to bring:

  • camera
  • measuring tape
  • clipboard
  • pen to record your findings

Discuss possible places to find animal tracks as you venture outside. Where would you most likely find animal tracks in your yard, near the woods, in the woods or under a tree. Keep your eyes peeled.

When you do find signs, caution the children to a step back from the tracks so as not to obliterate them. This will give everyone a chance to study and point out features that they notice.

Watch for tracks in newly fallen snow, sand or mud...

Little X's in the Snow

If you see the tracks from songbirds near the bird feeder you may notice that two toes are ahead and two are behind. That is because songbirds are perching birds and need this configuration to better hold onto branches.

Now look at the tracks in the photo below. A four toed animal it walking through the sand. There are three toes in front with one toe in back. The back toe is for stability. You may be able to see marks made by its claws on the end of each toe. The toe in the back provides stability.

Study the tracks for a while and then try to create a story that explains what the bird was doing.


Bird Prints in the Sand on the Beach

Bird Tracks
Bird Tracks | Source

Creating Footprint Stories

When my children were younger we found small plastic animals that had footprint stamps on the bottom of their feet. We spent many happy hours creating picture stories showing where the animals lived and the trails they used through the forest and fields.

Children love to use Animal Tracks Stamps to help illustrate stories about the animals they are learning about and how they move through their habitat.

Think of the way that Jan Brett frames her pictures. Animal Tracks Stamps can be used to help children make borders for the illustrations in their stories.

Snowy White Clay for Animal Tracks

Making Animal Tracks in White Clay
Making Animal Tracks in White Clay | Source

Using Animal Track Stamps to Illustrate Stories

These naturalistic looking stamps would be great for adding borders to stories about animals. One day my daughter wrote a poem about what the Three Bears saw on their walk.

She typed her poem on the computer and then we mounted it on poster board. To add interest to the frame we used bear print stamps around the boarder.

Who's Footprints?

Another book I like to read to young children when we are beginning a unit study on the wildlife in our area is Who's Footprints?

A girl and her mother take a walk around their farm following the footprints of each of the animals that had walked there.

Each time they discover one set of footprints they discover another path of animal tracks which they delightfully follow. Finally they find a set of footprints that lead up to their front door.

"Can you guess whose footprints those are? Why, Daddy's of course!"

Daddy welcomes them home and on the final page you see the whole family curled up by the fireplace with snow just beginning to cover all of the animal tracks outside.

Math for this Unit Study

Some people find it difficult to incorporate math into a unit study but a unit study about animal tracks is a great time to teach about measurement. Accurately measuring the length and width of a track can often help in identification.

Each child:

1. Trace an animal track.

2. Write under each track the name of the animal that makes that track.

3. Measures the length and width of the tracks and records the measurements.

Note: In order to create tracks that are of the actual size of an animal, use an Overhead Projector to enlarge a picture of the animal track onto a wall. Then move the projector back and forth until it measures the correct size. Trace around the track on a paper taped to the wall. Finally cut out the track.

The following video will help you to accurately measure animal tracks found in the wild.

Jim Arnosky's Wild Tracks!: A Guide to Nature's Footprints

Jim Arnosky's illustrations help children to learn how to recognize the animal tracks found around the yard and forest. It was Jim's drawings that first attracted me to his books. There is something about his drawings that help us to focus in on the discriminating characteristics of animals and their habitat making identification of species simpler.

You and your children will find many books written by Mr. Arnosky about all the animal species you are most likely to run across as you walk through the woods and fields near your home.

Animal Tracks Activities - Looking for animal tracks

Mountain Hare
Mountain Hare | Source

Follow the Tracks

Following the tracks of wild animals helps you discover where they have been and possibly what they have been eating.

  • Can you track them back to their homes?
  • What is it in their habitat that makes certain animals want to live there?
  • Look for tracks near water sources.
  • Can you find where animals have encountered their prey?

When you are teaching about nature, going on a field trip or starting a new unit study you can't beat these books. Each one has activities that are easy to implement, fun for the children and guaranteed lead you to new understanding of the world around you. Expand your learning from animal tracks to habitat and an understanding of why certain animals and their tracks can be found in certain areas.

Animal Tracks Along the Black River - Leaves and Animal Tracks Along the Black River, New Jersey.

Leaves and Animal Tracks Along the Black River, Black River County Park, Hacklebarney State Park, Morris County, Hacklebarney, New Jersey.
Leaves and Animal Tracks Along the Black River, Black River County Park, Hacklebarney State Park, Morris County, Hacklebarney, New Jersey. | Source

Solve the Animal Tracks Mystery - What happened here?

Look at the pictures of animal tracks above and see if you can discover what happened.

Notice which direction the animal was going. Do you notice a place where two or more individuals connect? Was this interaction peaceful or combative.

Think about the reasons for the two to interact with each other and begin to tell their tale.

Gather your children and encourage them to make up stories from the clues left in your yard.


Games for Learning

Match the animal tracks to the animals that made them. Color the pictures and think about where these animals were going and why. Try turning these coloring pages and activity worksheets into card games. Matching cards can be turned into a Go Fish or Concentration Game.

Lesson Plans

Animal Tracks in the Mud
Animal Tracks in the Mud | Source

Animal Tracks in the Mud

More and more people are seeing animal tracks as big as bears and cougars on their back porches. Why are these animals coming to your home?

Are you feeding the birds throughout the year? Bears and cougars may be coming too close to the house because they are looking for the food.

Which animal tracks do you see near your home? Which animals are coming to visit you?

Squirrel Tracks

by Marie Cecchini

Chitter, chatter,

Scold, scold

Gray squirrels scoot,

Through winter's cold.

Over ice,

Over snow,

Leaving footprints

As they go.

Identifying Animal Tracks in the Snow

This video is an excellent resource for learning what to look for when going on a walk in the winter woods or fields looking for Animal Tracks.

Identifying Animal Tracks in the Mud

Animal Tracks Card Game

  • Whenever you discover animal tracks around your home, take a picture of them.
  • Make two copies of each track and begin to create a deck of Animal Track playing cards.
  • You can play Go Fish or Concentration with them.
  • If you are learning a second language you might even play the games in the foreign language.

Animal Tracks Coloring Pages and Worksheets

Deer Tracks in the Snow
Deer Tracks in the Snow | Source

Deer Track Hearts for Valentine's Day

Did you ever notice how deer tracks resemble hearts? For Valentine's Day we decide to write letters to the deer that cross our field and live in our woods. We use the deer track stencils to create borders that resemble hearts crossing our fields. Then we use our best handwriting to write a letter to the deer wishing them a very Happy Valentine's Day.

Winter Table

  • We are setting up our Winter Table.
  • It is covered in a white linen cloth to represent the snow covering the earth.
  • We will use a hole punch to make animal tracks and place stick animals whose tracks we have seen around our house on the cloth.
  • We made the animals from small sticks found under the maple tree in the fall.

Reading Magazines

Children Reading
Children Reading | Source

Encouraging Children to Read

Wildlife magazines are wonderful resources when you are learning about wildlife.

I keep issues of Your Big Backyard, Ranger Rick and National Wildlife magazines in the bathroom to enticement to the children to pick up a book or magazine and read.

Animal Track Poster

Animal Tracks
Animal Tracks | Source

Let's Talk about Animal Tracks - Animal Tracks Talk!

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    • jimmielanley profile image

      Jimmie Lanley 9 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

      Great job! :-) Fascinating topic.

    • Eevee LM profile image

      Eevee LM 9 years ago

      I love looking for Animal Tracks in the mud. One day I saw raccoon tracks.

    • RuthCoffee profile image

      RuthCoffee 9 years ago

      Coyote, racoon, and deer. This is a great lesson when taking kids out! (or my "citified" spouse)

    • naturegirl7s profile image

      Yvonne L. B. 9 years ago from Covington, LA

      I always wanted to do a unit on animal tracks when I was a teacher / school librarian. This is great. 5 *'s, a favorite and lensroll to Preserving LA Flora and Fauna and Naturally Native Creations.

    • profile image

      WhitePineLane 8 years ago

      Another fabulous lens!

    • Barkely profile image

      Barkely 8 years ago

      Wonderful as always, I've always been fascinated with animal tracks, since I was a child. I had a guide and used it to see who was leaving prints in the woods near our house.

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

      Excellent lesson. The younger the kids are when they learn about their environment the better. Exploring nature is both fascinating and fun

      Keep up the good work.

      Lizzy

    • Andy-Po profile image

      Andy 8 years ago from London, England

      Excellent lens. Its good fun for adults and kids.

    • sittonbull profile image

      sittonbull 8 years ago

      Great lens... I love trying to identify the animal tracks on my farm and figure their "sign" as it used to be called. What they were doing? How old the tracks are?, etc. 5* and favored.

    • Mortira profile image

      Mortira 8 years ago

      We used to cut our own firewood and a Christmas tree at a friend's farm every year. I loved going into the woods and looking for fresh tracks in the snow. I can't wait to do some of these activities with my son! * * * * *

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I'm always impressed with your lenses when I visit. This is real fun one. Animal tracks are of interest to everyone! I love it!

    • profile image

      marsha32 8 years ago

      this is quite interesting indeed. We do have opossums around, but otherwise we see a lot of our own cat tracks and neighborhood dogs lol

    • Andy-Po profile image

      Andy 8 years ago from London, England

      Great lens

    • kellywissink lm profile image

      kellywissink lm 8 years ago

      As always, a pleasure to learn from your lenses! Welcome to the HomeSchool Support Group!

    • MiaD LM profile image

      MiaD LM 8 years ago

      hehe, i'll ask mia to take a print of my foot too - ciupi, by the way she told me about your lens after discovering it on digg!

    • DesignedbyLisa LM profile image

      DesignedbyLisa LM 8 years ago

      Welcome to the Winter and Snow Group!

    • naturegirl7s profile image

      Yvonne L. B. 8 years ago from Covington, LA

      Welcome to the Naturally Native Squids group. Don't forget to add your lens link to the appropriate plexo and vote for it.

    • profile image

      marsha32 8 years ago

      I still really like this lens...you build very interesting ones and make learning fun.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Great lens ! Next week at our Cub Scout Pack Meeting we will be using the theme "Dinosaur Pack" and making fossil prints with Plaster of Paris. We've done the same thing out in the woods while tracking - the kids love it! 5*****

    • profile image

      CleanerLife 8 years ago

      Last year, after we rebuilt our deck, we were visited by some animals that left their muddy prints all over the deck, and furniture we have on the deck. We think they were raccoons, but I should have taken pictures so I could have figured out for sure.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Wow! So much wonderful information and resources! My husband is taking my girls for a nature walk today and they are going to be making molds of animal tracks. I printed out a sheet for them to guide them in their search. There are a lot of great activities and books that I can use as a follow-up to their time with Dad. Thanks a bunch! I'll put a link on my site to send readers your way.

      Jen

      http://raisingcreativeandcuriouskids.blogspot.com

    • clouda9 lm profile image

      clouda9 lm 7 years ago

      Wonderful unit study. We love trying to id the animals that track through our property in the wintertime.

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image
      Author

      Evelyn Saenz 7 years ago from Royalton

      @clouda9 lm: With all the snow that has been blanketing the country, what animal tracks have you identified in your yard?

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Great lens! I just added it to my Lensroll. Such a wonderful place to help teach children (and those of us who are still kids at heart) about the tracks animals make. I'm new to Squidoo and learning so much from excellent lens like this one.

      ePlaceForPets Lens

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Nice lens, interesting and nice pics. I always love to see tracks in the snow! - Kathy

    • JJNW profile image

      JJNW 6 years ago from USA

      ALL your animal unit pages are just SO incredible! THANKS!

    • Barb McCoy profile image

      Barb McCoy 6 years ago

      I love this lens! I have made it a favorite so I can refer to it for our nature study. Lensrolled to several of my nature study lenses. Thanks so much for putting this one together.

    • ScientificHomes profile image

      ScientificHomes 6 years ago

      Another really terrific lens! Adding it to my lensroll for Winter-Science Investigations; great resources and ideas!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Enjoy with your great Unit Study of Animal Tracks. I think is very suitable guide for children to learn :)

    • profile image

      tssfacts 6 years ago

      The animal track stamps look like real fun to use. I haven't seen these before. I remember watching animal tracks on the dirt road where I grew-up. Most of them were armadillo. This is a fun lens.

    • profile image

      SofiaMann 6 years ago

      These activities keep alive the curiosity of children. Great.

    • blue22d profile image

      blue22d 6 years ago

      What a fun and educating lens. I live in Utah (Eagle Mountain) and we get a lot of deer here. We have had lots of snow and we have deer tracks everywhere.

    • ChrisDay LM profile image

      ChrisDay LM 6 years ago

      Very nice stuff - yes, there's nothing quite like that first walk out in the 'untouched' snow in the morning, only to find lots and lots of 'folk' have been there before you. Lovely lens.

    • profile image

      happynutritionist 6 years ago

      The first thing I look for on new-fallen snow is what new animal tracks appear...now that my children are grown. Their tracks were my favorites, I miss them. Beautiful page.

    • Barb McCoy profile image

      Barb McCoy 6 years ago

      Love your page, came by to give it an Angel Blessing.

    • reflectionhaiku profile image

      reflectionhaiku 6 years ago

      Inspirational and educational as always. Thumbs up for showing us all the animal tracks - we had a great time here!

    • Richard Ark profile image

      Richard Ark 6 years ago

      Great lens & Congrats in making the overall top 100..!

    • mariaamoroso profile image

      irenemaria 6 years ago from Sweden

      I always used to when we lived in the forrest. We tought the children to see who had been walking there. Tracks like the ones you have on this lens.

    • Cheryl57 LM profile image

      Cheryl57 LM 6 years ago

      Great Lens! Brings back fond childhood memories.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Wow, you have put together a really great selection of items and articles for those who love animal tracks. My husband is extremely talented at doing this; unfortunately, I don't spend enough time outside to be considered much of an expert. Great topic; great presentation.

    • IlanaMoore LM profile image

      IlanaMoore LM 6 years ago

      Forget teaching kids, your lessons would even inspire out-of-practice adults to learn! Thanks again!

    • lasertek lm profile image

      lasertek lm 6 years ago

      dogs! nice little dog paw prints.

    • profile image

      Donnette Davis 6 years ago from South Africa

      You are such an inspiration ~ !!

    • VarietyWriter2 profile image

      VarietyWriter2 6 years ago

      Blessed by a SquidAngel :)

    • phoenix arizona f profile image

      phoenix arizona f 6 years ago

      Cool lens.

    • Anthony Altorenna profile image

      Anthony Altorenna 5 years ago from Connecticut

      There is lots of wildlife where we live, and we enjoy following the tracks through the woods after a light snow. This information will help us identify the different types of animals who left their marks in the snow.

    • TIRMassageStone1 profile image

      TIRMassageStone1 5 years ago

      I've always found it entertaining when a character in a movie is an expert tracker. It's interesting to see somebody in real life that knows a thing or two about animal tracks.

    • profile image

      detectivepi 5 years ago

      This is good stuff, we forget all this in our society now. I know I don't know too many different animal tracks. I'm trying to get better when I go on hikes though, I think it's good stuff to know.

    • profile image

      GGGMarketing 5 years ago

      I like your lens. You have some great photos of various animals leaving their tracks.. from the snow to the sand. There really cool looking. Thanks for making a great lens and sharing it with the squidoo community.

      Cheers!

      Gary @ Marketing Naples

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 5 years ago

      Another gorgeous animal discovery lens from you Evelyn. Learn more with each visit to one of them. Hugs

    • profile image

      Jeimuzu-san 5 years ago

      You see tracks almost everywhere, but never bother to take notice of them. Well done for proving our ignorance to the world!

    • profile image

      Edutopia 5 years ago

      Great lens, really helpful and informative. I'm going to use this as the basis for a wildlife lesson at a camp I work with.

    • ottoblotto profile image

      ottoblotto 5 years ago

      Great lens! We once made a mudpit, and put a stake in the middle with a little fox urine on it. EVERYTHING came that night to smell the stake, so we were able to cast a lot of tracks that way.

    • infiniti99 lm profile image

      infiniti99 lm 5 years ago

      awesome lens thank you for sharing

    • dariameister profile image

      dariameister 5 years ago

      Sometimes I see Foxes'

    • Franksterk profile image

      Frankie Kangas 5 years ago from California

      Deer, but it's not usually tracks I see. lol Actually we have so much grass, Redwood tree droppings, underbrush, it is hard to see any tracks. I love this lens and the way you present the subject. Bear hugs, Frankster

    • xXOUTDOORSXx profile image

      xXOUTDOORSXx 5 years ago

      I see mostly raccoon

    • lauranlauran profile image

      lauranlauran 4 years ago

      Interesting!

    • profile image

      RuralFloridaLiving 4 years ago

      We look for tracks all the time - Enjoyed your lens!

    • Tradeshowhobo profile image

      Tradeshowhobo 4 years ago

      Fun way to teach about wildlife. A field trip would be a great way to finish.

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image
      Author

      Evelyn Saenz 4 years ago from Royalton

      @Tradeshowhobo: One of the great things about an animal tracks unit study is going outside to look for tracks every day.

    • profile image

      JennaBaxton 4 years ago

      Cool lens! :)

    • Stephanie36 profile image

      Stephanie 4 years ago from Canada

      We found what we thought were racoon tracks a few weeks ago. I love seeing our cats footprints, too.

    • Loretta L profile image

      Loretta Livingstone 4 years ago from Chilterns, UK.

      Wow! Really interesting lens. Since we feed the birds, I'm glad we have no bears or other dangerous animals in the UK!

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 4 years ago

      Gorgeous lens - to your usual high quality. In California there is not much snow, so we are seeing the tracks in the mud. Pinned to my Teaching and Homeschooling lens, this activity with the tracking is perfect just on a family level. Blessed.

    • KayeSI profile image

      KayeSI 4 years ago

      What a great site! And I loved the fun ideas for easy crafts for kids - as well as us seniors helping them. :)

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