University of Idaho Wildlife Tracks & Sign Field Course

Course Overview

This field course is the perfect opportunity to learn how to track and identify animal sign in the heart of one of the greatest wildlife havens in all of North America, the Frank Church Wilderness.  Offered in conjunction with the University of Idaho, it will teach you valuable skills whether you are a biology student, research scientist, forest ranger, game warden, or budding naturalist.  The course will include a Cybertracker Conservation evaluation giving you the opportunity to become a certified tracker, and for students you will receive course credits from UI that are transferable to other universities (check with your institution).  If you are a non-student, you can take the course for career development and earn 4 Continuing Education Units (CEU's) that count toward The Wildlife Society's Certified Wildlife Biologist® Renewal program.

Course Details


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Wildlife Tracks & Sign Field Course

WLF 404



July 14-20, 2019 



7 Days


Registration Closed!


Taylor Wilderness Research Station

Frank Church Wilderness, Idaho


Students, 2 Credit Hours (pass/fail)

Non-students, 4 CEU's 


Experience & Activity Level:            

Knowledge of local mammals
is helpful but not required.  


Accommodation Style:

Platform Tents (included)

Cabin ($90 extra)


$1,987  -  Undergraduate students*

$2,223  -  Graduate students*

$1,987  -  Non students*

* Price covers instructional costs including tuition/CEU's (non-Idaho resident students must pay additional out of state tuition), roundtrip short hop flight to Taylor Wilderness Research station from local airport near McCall, Idaho, accommodation, and other program fees (must bring your own food).  Fees and other charges are subject to change and are effective when adopted by the University of Idaho Board of Regents. Dollar amounts are listed for advisory purposes and may change.  Please note that many courses carry lab fees or special fees in addition to the tuition fees listed above.

Course Instructors

Lee Burton - Cybertracker Conservation certified wildlife tracker, master naturalist

Casey McFarland - Cybertracker Conservation senior tracker and evaluator


This course will teach you how to properly identify and analyze animal tracks and sign that you encounter in the wild.  You will spend a full five days with your expert instructors in the middle of the Frank Church wilderness, an area teeming with wildlife, to learn the essentials of tracking that will greatly expand your knowledge of animal behavior and aid you in any future field research.

Univ. of Idaho Wildlife Tracking Field C

The course will focus primarily (but not exclusively) on mammals, covering the following subjects:

1.  Principles of tracking
3.  Track morphology and substrate
3.  Animal gaits
4.  Animal scat
5.  Aging tracks and sign

6.  Pellet identification
7.  Skull identification
6.  Other sign such as dens/beds, feeding/browsing, rubs/scrapes, skeletal remains/predation, etc.



The species that you will learn to identify include:  

- ungulates (mule deer, elk)
- canines (wolves, coyotes, foxes)        
- felines (mountain lions, bobcats)
- medium sized mammals (raccoons, badgers, pikas/marmots, beavers, etc.)
- smaller mammals (e.g. rodents) 
- select species of birds, reptiles, amphibians, and arthropods

Each day you will head out in the morning and spend the day finding, analyzing, and interpreting the variety of spoor that you encounter along mountain trails, water courses, ravines, and along ridges.  Your instructors will explain in great detail the characteristics of the track or sign that you come across, and how to determine the species that responsible for it, when it was made or deposited, the behavior of the animal at that moment, why it was there and what its intentions may have been, and where it might have gone afterward.

Upon completion of the course individuals will be able to go out into the field and put into practice what they have learned, with the ability to identify the species covered in the class for well-defined tracks (with a reasonable degree of accuracy). With a little more practice, they will be able to recognize the signs of animals that pass through or either permanently reside on their landscape and be able to state, with a high degree of confidence, answers to answer the following questions:

-  Who is on this piece of land?
-  When are they here?
-  What behaviors are they engaged in?
-  Where are they residing or moving to?

Your base for the week will be the Taylor Wilderness Research Station, which is a beautiful facility situated in the heart of the Frank Church Wilderness.  You will depart early on day 1 by plane from the McCall, Idaho area, and arrive a short time later on a runway adjacent to the research station.  The rest of that day you will familiarize yourself with your surroundings, get setup in your tent or cabin, and then get an introduction to course materials and tracking basics, along with the planned activities for the rest of the week.

On days 2-4, your instructors will take you out on the landscape each morning to find examples of tracks and sign from the species mentioned above, teaching you the methodology and criteria to use in analyzing each one.  Then on days 5 and 6, you will put your newfound skills to use by taking a Cybertracker Conservation evaluation, a comprehensive exam conducted in the field which will test your knowledge by asking you to answer questions about a variety of selected tracks and sign that you have been studying over the previous days.


While your score on the evaluation will not directly affect your grade for the course, it is a tremendous learning tool and will accurately determine your current tracking capabilities.  Depending on your score (which you will receive at the end of day 6), you can earn a Level I, II, or III certification, which will give you a baseline to evaluate your future progress in becoming an adept tracker.  The program will wrap up on the morning of day 7, and you will depart the research station again by plane and return to the McCall, Idaho area.

The total price for the course includes instruction, accommodation and flights to and from the research station.  You will need to make your own arrangements to get to and from McCall, Idaho, and bring your own food and clothing for the week, including multiple layers of garments and appropriate rain gear and shoes for inclement weather and rough terrain.  The facility has a kitchen area and outdoor showers and toilets, and you should also bring a sleeping bag and pillow if desired.


While the physical demands of the course are not strenuous, you will need to be in adequate physical condition to handle a few miles of hiking each day, as well as the moderately high altitudes of the wilderness which range from anywhere between 3,000 - 8,000 feet.  Also, make sure to bring any medications or other essentials that you require, as there are no supplies available at the research station (other than emergency first aid).