1. Lay out a floured circle with some food and see what you "catch".
2. Make a cast Put a cardboard collar around a good track specimen and make a plaster mold.
See Casting Animal Tracks
Making Track Casts - midpage
Wax is best for casting tracks in dry ground, and plaster for other situations. For wax, simply dripping a candle over the track works well. Handle the completed cast very carefully, as it may require days to thoroughly harden.
See Nova Scotia Museum (I believe they mean collecting "tracks", not "traps"!)
3. Photograph tracks with some shade above so shadows do not distort the pictures.
See one photo gallery of tracks
Place tracks on a map of your research area. A grid overlying the map will help you record your data. You can compare records from year to year. Are species changing? Is there any relationship between species numbers and temperature, moisture or human building impact?
THINKING ABOUT ANIMAL PHYSIOLOGY FROM THEIR TRACKS
Look carefully at features of the tracks. What can they tell you about the animal itself? For example, if the front tracks are bigger than the back, what does this mean about the distribution of weight of the animal? Which animals would have this pattern? Does the animal place its whole pad down or does it walk on its "toes"? What might this mean?
TELLING TRACK STORIES
A series of tracks together can tell a story. Study a set of tracks carefully and compose a story based on your observations. (For example, perhaps two animals were traveling together from a food source to a den, or two animals encountered each other and there was a fight, and then they retreated in opposite directions.)
You might consider: How was it moving? Where was it going? With whom was it travelling? Whom did it meet? What might have been its purpose? What is going on in this MYSTERY TRACK? Here is ANOTHER
Take lots of measurements, and then throw out the extremes; list only the low and high numbers.
GROUPING and IDENTIFYING TRACKS
Groupings can include the following:
eNATURE: If you have mammal tracks to identify, you can go to eNature [enature.com], put in your zip code, and see which species are most likely to be in your area.
A = Hoof prints
B = Tracks with 5 toes and pad
C = Tracks with four toes and pad
D = Footlike or handlike tracks
E = Rabbitlike tracks
F = Small tracks
Families: (adapted from Tom Brown's Field Guide to Wilderness Survival 1983 NY: Berkley Press)
Cat family: Rounded tracks with four toes on both front and back feet. Claws are retracted and don't show. They direct register, placing back pawws in the frontprint. try following a house cat around and see what you can determine about their range and activities. Wild cats, of course, have a wide range from their home den.
Dog family: Four toes on front and rear prints, claws showing. They indirect register, with back feet falling behind front feet. Follow a pet dog and see what you can notice about its range and activity. Wild dogs tend to have scent piles to which they return, and more than one den.
Weasel family: Five toes in front and five in back, with claws usually showing. Skunk-like smell.
Raccoons, opossums and bears: Five toes in front and five in back, with claws usually showing. Racoon travels around water, oppsums ive in logs or stumps, and a bear travels widely and hibernates in dens.Basically the shape of the track pads pulled into longer patterns than the weasel, cat or dogs.
Rodent family: Four toes in front and five in rear, with some 5 and 5. These are gnawing vegetarians.
Hoofed mammals: Heart shaped
Diagonal walkers - (cats, dogs and hoofed animals) Move opposite limbs together, right foreleg with left back leg.
Bounders - (most weasels except skunks, badgers and wolverines) Hop in steady series of jumps, forelegs first and back legs pulling right behind them
Gallopers - (most rodents and rabbits) These animals hunch down and bring hind legs in front of back legs.
Pacers - (wide bodied animals such as raccoons, oppsums, bears, beavers, porcupines, porcupines, wolverines, badgers and skuunks). They shuffle along, but move from pacing to bounding as they go faster.
Tracks and Signs Palm OS Databases
A handheld computer is made for fieldwork. Here are some useful databases to construct and take with you.
Tracks (checklist of track characteristics, and places to sketch)
Signs (checklist of signs, including places to sketch observations)
Good trackers take many years to train, because tracks can be hard to read. The best tracks are found in mud or soft soil or sand. Snow, on the other hand, can melt and make the tracks appear larger than they are naturally. Most times the tracks you find will be overlapping and incomplete, but don't be discouraged!
Useful Equipment: Tape measure, track reference book, pencil, magnifying glass
Rick Curtis of Outdoor Action has an exhaustive Animal Tracks Guide on line. It makes good use of information drawn from the master tracker, Tom Brown, Jr.
Outdoor Action Track cards
This has an interesting set of cards for printing out and carrying with you in the field, if you do not have a guide. They include basic patterns, families and gaits.
Track Resource Page
Includes a link to:
Beartrackers Animal Tracks Den
which is a rich resource. It includes a page of tracks for printing
National Wildlife Foundation: Ranger Rick Matching Tracks
Good books by experienced trackers:
Tracking and the Art of Seeing: How to Read Animal Tracks and Sign
Paul Rezendes, New York:HarperCollins Publishers, Incorporated, 1999.
Tom Brown's Field Guide to Wilderness Survival
Tom Brown, NY: Berkley Press, 1983.
Tom Brown's Field Guide to Nature Oberserving
Tom Brown,Brandt Morgan, Berkley Publishing Group, 1989
The Science and Art of Tracking: Nature's Path to Spiritual Discovery
Tom Brown, Nancy Klein (Illustrator), Debbie Brown (Photographer), Penguin Putnam, Inc.
National Audubon Society Pocket Guide
Familiar Animal Tracks of North America
John Farrand Jr. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Chanticleer Press, 1993.
Animal Tracks and Signs - Natural History Pocket Guides
Preben Bang and Preben Dahlstrom
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001
Dorcas Miller, and Cherie Hunter Day
Rochester,NY: Nature Study Guild 1981
American Museum of Natural History Online field Journal
Working with tracks - for very young students