Coyote, Dog, or …?

Yes, tracks can be used to identify which species an animal belongs to.  And though sometimes the species is an obvious distinction, there are plenty of other instances when it’s less than clear who that animal was, and uncertainty can grow, quite happily, in a confused tracker’s mind, thinning their self-confidence and slowing down the whole process of reading that story.  Would it help beginning trackers to have illustrations that show them how to make distinctions between species who leave similar tracks?

Some foot structures and uses vary between animal families, yet the same principles of track formation apply across all families because track formation always follows the same rules of physics.  In a similar way, reading the tracks is essentially the same across most animal families (there are exceptions).

It’s a little different for each different type of foot structure.  An example of a different foot structure would be the animal families whose members mostly use just two of the toes on each foot, examples are; goats, deer, horses, wild boars, and peccaries.  Most of them have evolved a protective coating over their toes.  Hooves flex very little during a step, and at slow paces are usually the only foot structures creating a track.  Compared to the human foot structure, this kind of foot tends to leave what may appear to be a simpler track … at first glance.

Bovidae – Bison, Goats, Muskox, and Sheep

Cervidae – Deer

(?) Equidae – Horses, Donkeys, and Zebras

About the number of toes… Not that it’s especially relevant to tracking, but accuracy is always helpful.  This is an excerpt from an article by Katie Langin in Science magazine:

“Equine scientists the world over will tell you: Horses have only one toe per foot. … But a new study that traces their evolution back tens of millions of years suggests that they instead have five (see link below). … The scientists see this as evidence that the ridges on modern horse hooves are vestiges of what were once distinct toes—and that horses have all five toes after all.” – Excerpts from this article:  http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/01/how-many-toes-do-horses-have-new-study-suggests-radical-number-five

The article above is referring to this paper:

“Histological, osteological and palaeontological evidence suggest that the Equus distal forelimb is more complex than traditionally conceived.”  –  The Royal Society Publishing, The evolution and anatomy of the horse manus with an emphasis on digit reduction, Nikos Solounias, Melinda Danowitz, Elizabeth Stachtiaris, Abhilasha Khurana, Marwan Araim, Marc Sayegh, Jessica Natale: .  

Suidae – Wild Boars

Tayassuidae – Peccaries

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Concept Illustrated: The front track of a White-tailed Deer (Family: Cervideae, Species: Odocoileus virginianus) … Walking Pace

The Idea:  An illustration of the process a deer foot leaving a track while walking.  This illustration is intended as the basis for further refinements of color, content, lighting, and movement.

This clip is relatively brief and simple because it only a first step.

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Concept Illustrated: Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) front and rear tracks … Side Trot

The Idea: An initial illustration of the process of Red Fox front and rear track formation while moving in a side trot, one of its frequently chosen gaits.

This clip is an evolving attempt so it is gradually being refined.  The ‘feet’ used in this simulation are a significant step forwards in terms of closeness to real life.

Each foot object is a one-piece mesh, shape-keyed to deform something like the real foot does as weight is added and removed.  The mesh is parented to an armature, and deformations are controlled by weight painting the skin to the bones controlling movement.

The skin of the foot is included in the Rigid Body Physics system.  This is worth mention because it means collisions of sand objects with the foot surface as the skin flexes will be controlled by the Rigid Body Physics system.

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The Other Concepts:

Page: The Concepts of Tracking… The Essentials
The Translucent Foot

Page: The Age of Tracks… How long ago?
Color Change

Page: Foot and Body Movements … How body movement creates and is reflected in the tracks, and how to read it from them.
Canine Claw Tip Leaves Track in Fine Sand

Page: How To Find and See Tracks … Ways to reveal hard to see tracks and details
Predicting where the next track will be…
Dust Compressions (Dull on Shiny by Canine Toe Pad)
Controlling Lighting to Increase Visibility of Tracks
Track on ‘Bare’ Rock (Red Fox Front Foot)
Using Stone Rolls to Find Tracks
The Tracking Stick

Page: How To Read Tracks … (and trails) – The problem isn’t lack of information
Simple Tire Track and Direction of Travel
True Track (Canine Toe Pad)

Page: The Invisible Skills … Think you’ve gone as far as you can?
Problem Solving by Baby Steps
The Only Way to Get Anywhere Else…

Page: Track Features … The story is revealed by the details
Pressure Against the Track Wall (Canine Toe Pad)
The Wave, Simple?
The Ridge Between Canine Front Toes
The Layer of Sand in Contact With The Foot

Page: Trails and Sign … Reading all the layers
The Human Trail