Non-Invasive Surveying Methods: Tracking
From the Snapshot Wisconsin program, you may be familiar with wildlife monitoring using trail cameras. Trail cameras are one wildlife monitoring tool classified into a group of monitoring techniques that are considered non-invasive, meaning that the technique causes little or no impact on the animal’s normal activity, ecology or physiology. By contrast, invasive monitoring techniques include any type of wildlife monitoring that has a direct, human caused impact on an animal (GPS collaring, tagging, close observation are a few examples).
Tracking involves locating animal footprints and identifying the species. This monitoring technique can be done during all times of year in snow, mud, dirt or sand. You can learn a lot about an animal by its tracks. For example, you can tell what gait the animal was in (walk, trot, lope, spring), where it was heading to and from and if the animal was travelling in a group or alone.
Researchers can use tracks to estimate abundance, home ranges and behavior patterns. This can be especially helpful for monitoring more elusive animals that are sensitive to human disturbance.
One research project that uses tracks to estimate abundance is the Wisconsin winter wolf count. Using tracks in the snow, the DNR can estimate a minimum wolf count. For more information about that project, check out this link.