wildlife – tracks and signs
Ref: B06a

Otter holt beneath the woody debris
Otter holt beneath the woody debris

When you visit a river, stream, lake or pond, apart from the mini-beasts that you might find living in and on the water, there might also be signs that other creatures have visited that stretch of water.

You might pick up the scent of a fox or see some otter spraints (droppings) on a log or stone in the river, you might even be lucky enough to see a kingfisher or deer. Alternatively, you may find tracks in the soft mud near a river, indicating that a mammal or bird has been there not too long ago.

Otter spraint on prominent rock
Otter spraint on prominent rock

Heron and pheasant tracks look quite similar in shape but heron tracks are much larger.

Fox and dog tracks are often confused. You can usually draw a horizontal line between the two forward toe pads and the second two toe pads on a fox track. Also the fox rear pad is the same size as its toe pads.

Cat tracks are similar to dog tracks but smaller in size. Deer tracks are two sausage shaped slots made by their hooves.

Water voles and squirrels are about the same size, water vole tracks look like human hand prints and squirrel tracks are a complicated series of pad and claw marks. Water voles are thought to have died out in Cornwall because of predation (G1) by wild mink, but there are plans to introduce water voles in suitable places.

Duck have classic webbed feet while kingfishers have their two outside toes fused together to make unusual looking tracks.

Otter and badger tracks both have five toes but the large pad behind the toe pads on a badger track is shaped like a sausage. On otter tracks you can sometimes see the webbing between the toes.

Dog and badger tracks
Badger faeces

Dog track on left, badger track on right

Badger toilet pit

Animal track diagram

click on the image above to open a full size version of the animal tracks diagram