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This online graduate level course, offered in conjunction with the University of Florida, is a perfect opportunity to learn how to identify wildlife tracks in the familiar surroundings of your local area. You will learn how to recognize a wide variety of mammal tracks as well as birds, reptiles, and even amphibians. You will also study animal sign and how to interpret a wide variety of behaviors, which is an invaluable skill whether you are a biologist, conservationist, land owner, or just someone who wants to have a better understanding of their environment. The course is open to non UF students, and course credits are applicable to UF certificate and degree programs, and are also transferrable to other universities (check with your institution).
Wildlife Tracks & Sign
August 22 - December 5, 2018
Experience & Activity Level:
Knowledge of local mammals
is helpful but not required.
According to University of Florida tuition policy
University of Florida faculty instructor
This course is intended for ecologists, naturalists, and other parties who wish to have a deeper understanding of the behavior of terrestrial animals in terms of the habitats they frequent, what and where they feed, den and bedding locations, and other activities. In particular, it is designed for wildlife professionals who work in the field conducting animal surveys, observations, and capturing/handling wildlife or who are otherwise involved in teaching field skills. By completing this course curriculum students will have a whole new world opened to them, revealing the evidence left behind by mammals, ground dwelling birds, and other animal species as they pass through an area. In addition to broadening your knowledge of wildlife behaviors, it will yield other unexpected benefits including deepening your enjoyment of the outdoors.
Students will study a variety of animal sign including animal tracks, trails, gaits, scat, skeletal remains, browsed plants, predation events (e.g. carcasses), and more. The ability to identify animal sign is fundamental to good science and safe field work, and the goal of this course is to increase your recognition of the visual clues left behind by the myriad of creatures that inhabit a given ecosystem. Knowing the whereabouts and movement patterns of animals that inhabit an area is vital to understanding where their preferred habitats are and how they spend their time. This information is invaluable in order to conduct animal surveys, place trail cameras, collect samples for DNA testing, and gather other scientific data. The specific goals of the course will be for students to learn the following:
- Fundamentals of animal tracking
- Track morphology and effects of varying substrates
- Track characteristics for canines, felines, ungulates, bears, smaller mammals and select birds, reptiles, and amphibians
- Ageing tracks
- Animal gaits
- Principles of trailing
- Scat identification
- Pellet identification
- Skull identification
- Recognition of other animal sign such as browsed plants, dens, scrapes, rubs, etc.
- Interpreting animal interactions and predation/kill sites
Upon successful course completion, students will be able to recognize a variety of North American animal tracks and sign from the list above, as well as perform identification of a variety of animal sign and interpretation of common animal gaits.