on 16 December 2014
This book was first published in 2010, has 330 pages, 10 chapters, 129 colour photos and 11 B/W drawings. Tracking can be learnt with practice and patience. Tracking is identifying, following and interpreting wildlife tracks and signs. This book discusses tracks, trails, alertness and how these are practiced in the field. The concepts are all the same for different animals.
This book starts with identification of rare Canada lynx from its foot prints and DNA taken from its faeces. Individual animal spoor may vary according to its age, mass, sex. condition and the terrain. Smaller the animal, the more it becomes difficult to distinguish its spoor. Best foot prints (pug marks) are usually found in damp, slightly muddy earth, wet sand, a thin layer of loose dust or thin layer of fresh snow. The claws are protractile, since their normal position at rest is retracted within the sheaths, they are extended by ligaments when needed.
A gait describes the way the animal is moving. The speed of the track is evaluated from the position of the hind track to the front track. When the animal is going faster, the hind track is infront of the front track. (a) SLOW - stalking or hunting or scent marking (b) NORMAL - casual speed (c) FAST - chasing or being chased. Track patterns will show what the animal was doing. Absolute accuracy is not often possible with determining the age of the tracks. (1) OLD SPOOR - >24hrs (2) FRESH SPOOR - upto 12hrs (3) VERY FRESH SPOOR - about 3hrs. After memorising the spoor, it is best to walk next to it, not to spoil the trail. Tracking is easier in the morning and evening, as the shadows make the spoor easy to see.
Types of signs to look are spoor, scent, urine/faeces, saliva and blood. A jackal gives one howl when following a hyena, or many howls when following a leopard or lion. The landscape should be scanned constantly, both up ahead and either sides. Freeze and listen for few minutes when you approach a thicket, water, ridge, marsh, rocky out crop or reed bed. Direction of the wind will give any scent or noise of the tracker. Watch out for animal warning signs, alarm calls and smells. Don't make sudden movements which are easy to pick in good light. Slow movements are easy to pick in bad light. Retreat to a high ground (high ground is safe ground), as animals seldom come after you.
It is best to learn tracking with an experienced tracker on a trail. For safety, animal behaviour knowledge is essential. Animals are usually shot if they attack humans. It is best to avoid confrontation with wild animals and NEVER to test them, especially when they have their young.
The book ends with tracking different animals in the wilds of North America and South Africa, remembering their warning signs and dangers. The authors narrate some fascinating stories of the bush and their tracking experiences. They also warn about do's and don'ts in the presence of wildlife. For me, reading the stories of tracking of snakes, elephants, lions, leopards, hyena, rhino and buffalo, were very interesting.
Some other books of interest are:-
(1) The Hunting and Spoor of Central African Game, DD Lyell, 1929
(2) Collins Guide to Animal Tracks and Signs, Bang, 1974
(3) Man Tracking, Robbins, 1977
(4) Art of Tracking, Liebenberg, 1990
(5) Behaviour Guide of African Mammals, Estes, 1992
(6) How to Read Animal Tracks and Signs, Rezendes, 1999
(7) Mammal Tracks and Signs, Elbroch, 2003
(8) Field Guide to the Tracks and Signs of Southern and East African Wildlife, Stuart, 2003
(9) A Game Ranger Remembers, Bryden, 2005
(10)Animal Tracking Basics, Young, 2007
Having born in Kenya, I enjoyed reading this book.
on 7 February 2012
My initial impression of the book Practical Tracking - A guide to following footprints and finding animals is very positive. I have just received the book which arrived safely and in good time from Amazon UK so have not read more than a chapter or two. My first action was to flip though and saw that it is well illustrated and the language very accessible. I had been attracted to purchase this particular book from very positive reviews I'd read. The style is great as, while the content could be very dry, points are illustrated with stories told by the authors. When the stories are told by and about adventures and successes in tracking, the reader cannot help but assimililate the knowledge. In addition, the style of the book makes it very easy to just open at any page and enjoy learning an interesting fact or two. This is definitely a book for anyone interested in the art of tracking written by experts in their field. In addition, it is not a large book so one you can slip it into your backpack with your other guides on mammals, plants etc.