Kids love discovery, and what better way to discover than by following animal tracks. Identifying and following a set of animal tracks can be like a giant treasure hunt. The thought that a white-tailed deer, wild turkey, or maybe an elusive bobcat walked nearby connects your child to the outdoors for years to come.
Any season is a good time to look for tracks, but winter and spring are prime times. Snow and soft ground create easy-to-find, distinctive imprints. A local park, family farm, river bottom, or backyard are places to look. Focus on well-used animal trails, sandy areas, or any muddy locations like a river or pond bank.
Print a few wildlife track guides off the Internet, and make a game out of who can find the most tracks. Make it a “teachable moment” by explaining how wildlife survives Iowa’s sometimes brutal winters and the importance of habitat. You can also take along a few plastic grocery sacks and gloves and make it a practice to pick up litter along the way.
For information on how to identify different animal tracks, visit www.iowadnr.gov/About-DNR/DNR-News-Releases/ArticleID/166.
Source: January/February 2008 issue of Iowa Outdoors magazine.