Can you match the footprints to the animal?

rock feet
Photo: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH/Shutterstock

Can you tell the difference between a cat and dog print, or a raccoon versus a rabbit? Test your tracking knowledge with this quiz!

Question 1 of 14

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tiger tracks
Photo: Kirsanov Valeriy Vladimirovich/Shutterstock
Which animal made these prints?

These tracks were made by a Siberian tiger. You can tell they are feline rather than canine through several clues, the most obvious being the rounded shape (instead of oval like a canid) and because one toe is positioned more forward than the others (the two middle toes on a canid are placed side-by-side). Also, there are no claw marks, since a cat can retract its claws. You can tell it is not a domestic cat by the sheer size of the print — using the leaves as a reference, this is one big kitty!

Question 2 of 14

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turtle tracks
Photo: Jean-Lou Justine/Wikipedia
Which animal made these tire-like tracks?

These tracks made by a loggerhead sea turtle reveal how the animal moves. The species uses alternating flipper movements (rather than moving both flippers at the same time as some sea turtle species do), and the center of the track is smooth because the turtle drags its belly across the sand. Also, there are no marks made by the tail (versus, say, a green sea turtle, which does leave trail drag marks). They're also huge tracks -- about two feet across. 

Question 3 of 14

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squirrel tracks
Photo: OakleyOriginals/FlickrCC
Which animal made these snowy paw prints?

These tracks were made by a grey squirrel. The two front feet are placed centered and behind the two back feet, as the animal's hind feet pass its front feet when running. The hind feet are longer than the front feet, and the tracks show the claw marks at the end of each of the toes. Tracks made in mud will also show each of the several paw pads, though in snow, all you really can see are tiny handprints.

Question 4 of 14

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rabbit tracks
Photo: Ian Muttoo/Shutterstock
Which animal made these interesting tracks?

These tracks were made by a rabbit. Usually, the two smaller front paw tracks will be staggered, with one above the other, but sometimes the two fore feet will be more closely spaced. It depends on how fast or slow the hare or rabbit is moving. The distance between the front and back feet, the distance between the two front feet, and the distance between each set of prints are all clues as to how fast a rabbit or hare was traveling.

Question 5 of 14

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snake tracks
Photo: Micha Klootwijk/Shutterstock
Which animal made these tracks in the sand?

A snake that moves in a sideways manner left these tracks. There are five ways different snake species move: lateral undulations, concertina, rectilinear, slide-pushing and side-winding. Each method of movement makes its own distinctive track. When you see a track like this, with parallel lines moving across the sand, you know you're looking at a side-winding snake, such as the aptly named sidewinder rattlesnake, or Saharan horned viper. A gopher snake, on the other hand, uses lateral undulation to move from place to place, leaving a wavy but connected single line in the sand.

Question 6 of 14

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seagull tracks
Photo: kaarsten/Shutterstock
Which animal made these tracks?

The seagull tracks are made clear first by the three long toes, which would lead an observer to think, "bird!" Then, the outline of webbing between the toes leads the observer to think, "bird that swims!" After that you can use size and context to help determine which swimming bird left these tracks.

Question 7 of 14

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raccoon tracks
Photo: Kathy Piper/Shutterstock
Which animal left these prints?

The five-fingered "hand" and five-toed "foot" that look so human-like are a giveaway of the agile-pawed raccoon. The tracks of raccoons can sometimes be mistaken for those of opossums or river otters. However, the digits of opossums are much more spread apart, with an opposable thumb on the hind foot that sticks out almost in the opposite direction of the other digits. Meanwhile, river otter tracks often show the outline of the webbing that they have between their digits, and the toes are more rounded than those of a raccoon.

Question 8 of 14

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lizard tracks
Photo: Micha Klootwijk/Shutterstock
Which animal made these tracks?

You can tell these tracks were made by a lizard by the two differently sized feet — the smaller front foot and the longer hind foot — on each side of a long drag mark made by a tail.

Question 9 of 14

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kangaroo tracks
Photo: Damian Herde/Shutterstock
What animal left these prints?

It might be tempting to peg these tracks for a type of large bird (or the prehistoric cousin of one), but remember that birds typically have three or four toes that usually spread far apart. But here we see what looks like essentially two toes. These are the hind feet of a kangaroo. Kangaroos don't just have two toes, though, they have four. They have a tiny, practically absent first toe on the inside of the foot, two middle toes that are essentially fused together but with separate nails, and a fourth oversized toe on the outside of the foot, which is a major component of helping a kangaroo with its mighty leaps.

Question 10 of 14

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dove tracks
Photo: Darla Hallmark/Shutterstock
What animal made these tracks?

The diversity of bird feet is fairly astounding. You can narrow down the type of bird this is by ruling out anything with webbing (the goose), or extra-wide toes (the coot). Then you can rule out any birds that do not have a long fourth toe pointing backwards (the turkey). This leads us to the possibility of many kinds of birds from crows to herons to pigeons to many songbirds. But for our purposes, if you guessed "dove," you're right.

Question 11 of 14

Score: 0

deeer tracks
Photo: Jonathon Pryor/Shutterstock
Which animal left all these footprints?

It's easy to see that this is a hoofed mammal. The size, shape and spacing of the toes tells us what kind it is. Both a llama and a feral pig have toes that meet close together at the back of the foot and splay out toward the front, which leaves a more rounded print with two spikes at the top. An elk leaves tracks quite similar to those shown here, with the upside-down heart shape, but aren't quite as distinctly long (or delicate, for that matter). Deer are what left these prints behind.

Question 12 of 14

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horse hoof prints
Photo: smuay/Shutterstock
Which animal made this print?

This print was also made by a hoofed mammal, but quite different from the tracks in the last question. You can tell that this is a heavy animal based on how large and rounded the hoof is. Moose, bison and buffalo are large yet their tracks still show their two distinct toes on each foot. A horse, however, has only one toe, so their tracks have an unbroken, round curve across the top.

Question 13 of 14

Score: 0

canid tracks
Photo: Mark Grenier/Shutterstock
What animal made these tracks?

You can tell this is a canid by the obvious claw marks, something that doesn't typically show up in felid prints. However, which canid species? The width of the track and the spacing of the pads gives it away. Wolves and coyotes have oval-shaped feet, with the two middle toes sitting higher than the two outside toes to form a 0 shape. Domestic dogs and foxes have wider tracks with the two middle toes spaced farther apart than those of wolves and coyotes. However, foxes have a much wider space between the toe pads and the metacarpal pad (the pad behind the toes), so wide that you can draw a line across the middle of the pad between the middle and outside toes without cutting into any digits. You can't do that with these tracks, so these are the tracks of a domestic dog.

Question 14 of 14

Score: 0

bear tracks
Photo: Pichugin Dmitry/Shutterstock
Which animal made these muddy prints?

These tracks are unmistakably from a bear. All five toes lined up at the front of the foot, the claw marks at the end of each toe, the forefoot shorter than the back foot, and of course the sheer size of them all add up to an animal that requires some breathing room!