Discover wild animal clues

Hunting for clues

There are lots of different things that you can look for when you're on the trail of an animal or bird. Keep an eye out for footprints, feathers, fur and poo and you might find something sooner than you think. Discover wild animal clues is no. 34 of our ‘50 things to do before you're 11¾’.

Are you ready?

You'll need sharp eyes for this challenge as discovering wild animal clues can be tricky. It isn't just about using your eyes, you can also listen out to see if you can hear the animals, birds or mini-beasts that you're looking for.

It's probably best to wear trainers or boots so you can follow the trail wherever it takes you.

What are you looking for?

Remember, animals don't wear shoes, so their footprints all look very different. From a horse's hoof to a rabbit's paw, learn what you're looking for, and what their prints look like. Something like a spotter sheet for animal prints will probably help you too, in case you see some prints you don't recognise - are you following a yeti?

If there are footprints, can you work out which way they are going?

Poo or sick
If it hasn't recently rained and there's no muddy ground to track footprints, you can also follow other clues like droppings (poo) or pellets which owls vomit up once they've eaten.

Fur and feathers
Other clues about animals living near where you're looking for them can include fur or wool caught on fences, or feathers on the ground. In spring, look out for broken egg shells on the ground which can alert you to the fact that there is a bird's nest in a tree above you.

Holes are another good starting place - they could be homes for rabbits or badgers and molehills (little piles of earth on grassy fields) usually show you where a mole has been tunnelling.

Little beasts
You don't need to discover big animals like sheep or cows, and actually finding smaller animals is just as much fun. In the same way as you see molehills, little casts of soil on the top of a garden can show you that worms live in the soil and are doing their wormy thing underneath the ground. Or you can search through grass or gardens to find ants, and watch them going about their daily lives.