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Tracks ID Needed

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Tue Jul 26, 2005 3:36 pm Unread post
Valuable article on traking in Kruger!

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Even on the quietest of game drives in the Kruger National Park, you can still experience the excitement of being close to one of the big five, and gain an understanding of animal behaviour and habits, by learning to interpret the signs that Kruger’s wildlife leaves in its wake. Looking for animal tracks in the daylight is also one of the few ways to see evidence of creatures that are only active at night.

A full understanding of all the different tracks and signs is only gained through years of experience walking in the veld, but some of the most common indicators can be quite easy to identify and interpret. If you know which species occur in the area, you can make the task of identification much simpler so you should ensure you are well-briefed before you start searching.

Footprints
Look for signs of tracks (known as spoor) on gravel roads and in sandy dry riverbeds as well as muddy shorelines of lakes, dams and waterholes. Drive by the side of the tracks rather than over them, and try to track into the sun when it is low in the sky as the shadows will be clearer. If you come across well-defined elephant, rhino, hippo or zebra spoor they will be unmistakable.

Similarly, fully-grown lion, buffalo and giraffe prints cannot be those of any other, smaller mammals. However, once you find smaller cat prints, and those of antelope, then an appreciation of the size of the animal will be the secret to interpreting the spoor. The clawless, lobed, tracks of lion, leopard, African wild cat and serval can all look very similar, as can many of the antelope, but will be very different sizes.

Toilet Stops
Even on tar roads with no opportunity for finding spoor, you will still be able to see evidence of animals, as you end up driving past the signs they have left on or by the side of the route. The dung of elephant (large, coarse balls) and buffalo (flattened cow pats) may often be seen, and both are distinctive. Rhinos defecate in large shallow depressions, called middens, where they break their dung up with their feet.

If there is a lot of grass visible in the dung, it is likely to be a white rhino site. More coarse and woody plant material indicates the remains of a black rhino’s meal. White faeces, caused by a high-calcium diet, are likely to be those of hyaena. A wandering bull elephant in musth will leave long trails of stains on the road, as he continuously dribbles urine while he walks.

Left-Overs
But it is not just tracks, dung and urine that tell you an animal has been in the area; many creatures leave signs of their presence when they eat. Look out for the ‘hippo lawns’ you may see near water where the animals have continually eaten the grass very low and uniformly (you may also see two deep parallel lines of tracks nearby which will be the well-worn spoor of the hungry hippo). Or the ripped and ragged end of a branch found tossed into the road; always a sign that an elephant has been dining nearby.

Black rhinos also eat branches but are much tidier diners, neatly pruning bushes and cutting the wood cleanly off at an angle. Broken seeds and fruit may be the remnants of a vervet monkey’s meal but chewed fruit pulp may also be left behind by fruit bats – check above the site to see if there is any evidence of roosting.

Large holes dug into termite mounds will probably be created by aardvark seeking to find a tasty meal, and those under trees may be caused by porcupine trying to get access to their roots. The foliage of trees eaten into a pyramid or hourglass shape reveals the animals which have been browsing on them; from the tallest giraffe to the smallest of the antelopes.

Rolls, Rubs and Scratches

Dusty rolling sites (used by zebras) or mud-wallowing spots (popular with warthog, rhino and elephant) are very obvious signs of animal activity. Look for spoor around the site or, if you can locate a ‘rubbing tree’ nearby, you might be able to identify the animal from the height of the marks where they have scratched themselves after their mud bath. Leopards and other cats will also leave marks on tree bark when they scratch to sharpen their claws.

There are many more ways of interpreting which animals have passed by, at what time and what they were doing. Many field guides provide information on tracks and field signs but if you want to learn more you should consult a specialized book such as Clive Walker’s Signs of the Wild or Chris & Tilde Stuart’s more recent A Field Guide to the Tracks & Signs of Southern and East African Wildlife (both published by Struik). The guided bush walks run by most rest camps in the park also provide a very good opportunity to learn about tracking from the resident experts.
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Re: Tracking Kruger's wildlife

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Tue Jul 26, 2005 4:03 pm Unread post
Jakkalsbessie wrote
Valuable article on traking in Kruger!

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...

I do it in this way to. You could also see in the freshness of the footprints or dung, how long ago the animal pass the way. Sometimes it helped me to find rhino or ellies.



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Wed Aug 24, 2005 1:43 pm Unread post
One thing I have found on walks/trails in Kruger is that I always seemed to find leftovers of unfortunate prey. We have also almost found the tracks and dung of some sort of predator. What this taught me was that no matter where you are in Kruger, there are always some predators around, even though you can't always see them.



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Wed Aug 24, 2005 3:06 pm Unread post
wildtuinman wrote
We have also almost found the tracks and dung of some sort of predator.

:huh:
So you did not find the tracks and dung of some sort of predator then :?:



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Wed Aug 24, 2005 9:05 pm Unread post
I did a tracking course in Kruger.
Learnt, I don't know much at all. Zip up your tent! Look at the dung(very important).
Watch your back.
Loved every minute.
Watch the sundowners :redface:



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Thu Aug 25, 2005 6:24 am Unread post
francoisd wrote
wildtuinman wrote
We have also almost found the tracks and dung of some sort of predator.

:huh:
So you did not find the tracks and dung of some sort of predator then :?:


I had to read it about 10 times this morning to find out what the heck I tried to say. :lol:

Always - that should have been the word. have also Always found... sorry and thanks Francoisd. :lol:



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Thu Aug 25, 2005 8:13 am Unread post
Glad to be of assistance :lol:


Tracks ID Needed

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Thu Oct 13, 2005 9:53 pm Unread post
Image

Each footprint measured about 12cm in length and width.


Last edited by DinkyBird on Fri Oct 14, 2005 10:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Fri Oct 14, 2005 6:20 am Unread post
My conclusion after walking many hours in the Kruger bush. Leopard. Why?

Hyaena has more pointy toes and there is also no "toe nails" visible here. Lion's far more bigger.

Leopard has got this categoristic 3 lobes at the back of the paw where as lions have 2 vaguely visible ones and their toes are also longer and a bit more pointy.

Where did you see it DB? I love tracking!! Amazing to find which animals roamed around the night before, especially when walking in Kruger.



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Fri Oct 14, 2005 6:32 am Unread post
I also think it is too small for lion. I said hyaena because it seems to slope at the back but as you say no 'toe nails'.
I'll agree with you on leopard :)
Check round the camping sites early in the morning, doubt if you will ever visit the ablutions alone in the night again :shock:



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Fri Oct 14, 2005 7:19 am Unread post
wildtuinman wrote
Where did you see it DB? I love tracking!! Amazing to find which animals roamed around the night before, especially when walking in Kruger.

The tracks were on the side of the gravel road that passes the camping area of Letaba only a couple of metres from the turn off onto it. So just outside the camp. It was fairly early in the morning. Scanned the area carefully of course but did not see anything.



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Fri Oct 14, 2005 3:51 pm Unread post
Just checked my book "Signs of the Wild" by Clive Walker and it is Lion spoor. Spoor size according to the book measurement is 12cm (drawing of a spoor in the book) the measurement DB described.



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Fri Oct 14, 2005 8:25 pm Unread post
A big leopard= 95mm
Hyeana= 85mm (big)
Lion ave 120mm (140mm veeerry big)

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Hyaena has more pointy toes and there is also no "toe nails" visible here. Lion's far more bigger.

A heayna 's outer toe lies tight against the second. Not easily mistaken for anything else. Toenails are not always visible.. depends on substrate



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Leopard has got this categoristic 3 lobes at the back of the paw where as lions have 2 vaguely visible ones


Lion also have 3 lobes.. middle lobe not always prominent but it is there...



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Fri Oct 14, 2005 9:25 pm Unread post
12cm is quite small for a lion. I am going to go for the Leopard, the measurments for a leopards paws are 10cm(hind) and 12cm(front). :)

I had my first encounter with a leopard in the Letaba area. On an early morning drive (4am) at an shallow water crossing.



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Sat Oct 15, 2005 9:02 pm Unread post
Lion

120mm for a leopard is extemely big... A 80kg tom's spoor measured at 90mm

When looking at a spoor like this also have look at the stride
if possible to be sure. A leopard's stride is 1 meter.

It is actually very diffucult to confuse a lion spoor with that of a leopard. (Only if it was a lonely cub). The clue here is the width- a leopard spoor is only about 70mm wide a the most.
The rear track of a leopard may be up up 100mm long but narrower than the front track. A leopard also place the rear foot close to the front foot (sometimes touching the front track)
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