How to Spot the Tell Tale Signs of UK Animal Species
In the UK countryside you can spot lots of tell tale signs which give away the presence of our different species. By identifying which species you can then research their behavior, and work out where best to deploy your Trail Camera to get the best chance of obtaining good clear footage of the most interesting British wildlife.
Many of the UK mammals you would like to catch on your trail cam are shy and nocturnal which presents a challenge.
The clues they leave behind, such as footprints, droppings, nests and food remains can be identified with the help of the links on this page.
When looking for sites to deploy your trail camera, it's useful to be able to tell the difference between the footprints of the various species such as Deer, Fox, Dog, Badger, Otter, Mink, Cat, Hedgehogs and other mammals.
Animal Tracking Tips
Animal Paths - learn to distinguish animal paths from human paths. Look for where the path continues under a low object (under waist height) such as a low branch or a fence. If the wear pattern continues underneath the object, it's a sure sign of an animal path. Humans will usually climb over or go around the object. Look out for where an animal path goes under a low wire fence. If there are traces of hair here you'll be able to identify the animal.
Gnawing Marks - each species leaves a tell tale sign on trees, nuts and pine cones etc. Research and learn the different signs. E.g Badgers will strip bark off young sycamore trees up to the height they can reach. A stripped sycamore is a sure sign of a badger sett nearby.
Smell - badgers and foxes both have an unmistakable smell. Once you know the smell of a foxes scent mark, you'll recognise it instantly when you're out in the countryside.
Animal Tracking Resources
The Devon Biodiversity Records Centre (DBRC) has published an excellent Operation Otter Guide to Mammal Footprints PDF which we recommend printing a copy and keeping with you. The DBRC website is packed with other useful resources too and is well worth a visit. If you are located in Devon this resource is superb!
This BBC Field Guide to Animal Tracks is useful because it contains good text descriptions, and clear photographs in addition to sketches of each mammals footprint. The text describes the animals behaviour which is useful; E.g Badgers keep to well worn paths. So if you find a fresh badger paw print on a worn path, you should get some badger footage with a well placed trail cam.
Brain Ecott's Hainault Forest Website has one of the best resources for beginners at animal tracking, and is ideal for the trail camera user. Of particular use is the Hainault Forest Nature Detective, which contains several pages of resources.
Not only is there one of the best guides to animal paw prints and tracks, but this website also has some great pages which cover Owl Pellets, Mammal Skulls and Bones, and - importantly for the trail camera user - Mammal Food and Poo.
Chris Packham's Video - 'The Truth About Poo' has some real insight in a very accurate way to identify the animals around you without even seeing them......