This manual provides a procedure for
“tracking” mammals according to tracks left in the snow. Focus is on the behavior of
mammals: size of their habitat, biotopic and habitat distribution, feeding sites, behavior
during feeding, etc. Several methods of determining track freshness, the direction of
movement and rules for tracking are described.
This field study has instructional video
featuring real students conducting the ecological field techniques in nature. Each video
illustrates the primary instructional outcomes and the major steps in accomplishing the
task including reporting the results.
Snow cover, which replaces autumn's leaves and mud, provides zoologists with an
opportunity to delve into undercover details of animal life, especially mammals,
including the most careful and reserved ones. Any beast, regardless of its size, leaves
tracks on the snow surface, in other words “an autograph” on loose snow, especially
newly fallen snow.
An observer who has certain pathfinder’s skills (which can and should be
mastered over time,) learns what animals the tracks belong to and under what conditions
they have been left. If one follows the whole route (track route) of an animal, recording
carefully all evidence impressed on snow, then it is possible to precisely describe all
features of animal life in quantitative indicators at the given section of the route.
The given lesson involves independent students' work in “tracking” animals that
inhabit the vicinities of the school or a field study center, which leave tracks on the
snow. They are mainly mammals characterized as active in winter. They include hoofed
animals: elk, deer, wild boars, roe deer; Lagmorpha: brown hare and Alpine hare; rodents:
squirrels, muskrats, beavers, Carnivore: wolves, foxes, raccoons, lynx; martens, minks,
polecats, ermine, weasels, otters and wolverines.
The task involves tracking several (different) individuals belonging to one or several
animal species out of the mammals found in the given area.
A map of the area where tracking will take place is required (a large-scale map
is preferable), as well as rulers, compasses and field notebooks.
Essentials of the tracking procedure
The tracking procedure generally consists of the following: an observer goes
along a chain of animal footprints “to the toes” (in the same direction as the animal)
or “to the heel" (against the animal movement); the observer is not allowed to cut
off any loops or turnings made by an animal, as hunters usually do. The distance covered
is counted in steps, whereas the direction of each turn is measured according to the
compass. All the data is recorded in the field notebook or plotted on the available plan
of the site. At the same time, students should register all of the important features of
the animal’s behavior.
What are tracks? Determination and measurement of tracks
Preliminary excursions, study of literature, photos and drawings of animal tracks and
practical training aimed at familiarization with tracks of major animal species in the
given area will help students to master practical skills of track determination. Data on
relative numbers of different animal species and skills in track determination that have
been gained in the previous lesson will make selecting the object of study much easier.
The given educational task involves dealing not only with tracks in their classical
representation, i.e. footprints of paws, but with other traces of vital animal functions
left on snow as well.
Traces of vital functions are usually considered as follows:
Trails of movement – footprints of paws or other parts of a body (a tail, a
belly), broken shrubs, compacted paths, littering caused by animal's movement through
branches and thickets.
Traces of feeding activity – food debris and food reserves, digging in snow,
traces of a search for food, feeding tables, bitten and broken plants, traces of chasing
and dragging of prey, etc.
Tracks associated with shelter-making – burrows, lairs, lies, passages under
the snow, etc.
Traces of life functions – excrement, urinary spills, traces of molting and
Information tracks – traces of information-passing which indicate occupancy
of the area – bite marks and scratches on trees and on the ground, discharge of musky
glands, sound signals.
It is necessary to remember that tracks of a group of animals are almost never found
just as they are, for instance, trails of movement can be associated with search for ...
This was only the first page from the manual and its full version you can see in the
Ecological Field Studies 4CD Set:
It is possible to purchase the complete set of 40 seasonal Ecological Field
Study Materials (video in mpg + manuals in pdf formats) in an attractive 4 compact disk set.
These compact disks are compatible with Mac and PC computers.
The teacher background information and manuals can be printed out for easy reference.
The videos are suitable for individual student or whole class instruction. To purchase the complete 4CD set
write a request to the authors (in a free form).
Some of these manuals you can also purchase in the form of applications for Android devices on
Ecological Field Studies Demo Disk:
We also have a free and interesting demonstration disk that explains our ecological field studies approach.
The demo disk has short excerpts from all the seasonal field study videos as well as sample text from all the teacher manuals.
The disk has an entertaining automatic walk through which describes the field study approach and explains how field studies meet education standards.
You can also download the Demo Disc from ecosystema.ru/eng/eftm/CD_Demo.iso.
This is a virtual hybrid (for PC and Mac computers) CD-ROM image (one 563 Mb file "CD_Demo.iso").
You can write this image to the CD and use it in your computer in ordinary way.
You also can use emulator software of virtual CD-ROM drive to play the disk directly from your hard disk.
Other Ecological Field Studies Instructive