Wildlife Tracks & Sign Online Course
This online class is offered as a CEU course (continuing education units recognized by The Wildlife Society) as well as a for-credit graduate course in conjunction with the University of Florida. It is the perfect opportunity to learn how to identify wildlife tracks in the familiar surroundings of your local area, covering a wide variety of mammal tracks as well as birds, reptiles, and amphibians.
You will also study animal sign and how to interpret wildlife behaviors, an invaluable skill whether you are a biologist, conservationist, land owner, or simply a budding naturalist with a desire to learn more about the natural world. CEU's can be applied toward professional/career development requirements; alternatively, University of Florida credits can be applied to certificate/degree programs and are transferable to other universities (check with your institution).
Wildlife Tracks & Sign Online
Course Length & Credits:
CEU course: 15 modules, 52.5 CEU's
UF credit course: 15 modules, 3 credit hours
Winter/Spring term: 12/01 - 08/31
Experience & Activity Level:
Knowledge of North American mammals
is helpful but not required.
CEU course: $199
UF course: $1,575
University of Florida adjunct faculty member
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 you will have a whole new world opened to you, 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.
You 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 modules covered in the course are as follows:
1 - Introduction to Animal Sign
2 - Tracking Morphology and Ecology
3 - Animal Gaits
4 - Canine Tracks
5 - Feline Tracks
6 - Ungulate Tracks
7 - Bears, Raccoons, Skunks, and Procyonidae Tracks
8 - Medium Sized Mammals
9 - Rodent Tracks
10 - Bird Tracks
11 - Reptile and Amphibian Tracks
12 - Scat and Pellets
13 - Other Animal Sign
14 - Aging Tracks and Sign
15 - Trailing Animals
The course is divided into 15 modules, with each module containing the following elements:
- Video instruction (approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour for each module)
- Online track analysis assignment
- Field work for recording track and sign entries (can be done locally)
- Flashcard track identification practice exercise
- Quiz covering the topics for that module
- Supplemental readings from tracking guidebooks (optional)
In order to earn the CEU certificate you must score at least a 70% on each quiz (you can retake the quiz as many times as you like). To learn the material well, you should plan on spending several hours studying the information presented in each module and hence, it is recommended to do no more than 1 module per week in order for the material to soak in.
Upon successful course completion, you 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. It will prepare you well for the Cybertracker Conservation evaluation exam which is offered throughout regions of North America on a regular basis.