How to track wildlife in Britain

Learn how to spot signs of animals with our guide to tracking wildlife in the UK

Hazelnuts on woodland floor
Published: July 28th, 2020 at 2:12 pm
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Sometimes a little bit of detective work can help us build a bigger picture of the animals that surround us on our walks.


Here are a few signs that wildlife is not too far away.

European mole (Talpa europaea) emerging from molehill and showing large, spade-like forepaws with huge claws
Most of us won't have ever seen a mole but signs of this curious creature can been see across Britain Getty

Become an animal tracker with our guide to spotting signs on wildlife in the British countryside.

Owl pellets

Short-eared owl pellet and feature (Asio flammeus)
short-eared owl (Asio flammeus), cast with feather Alamy

Dropped by barn owls, these are commonly found on the floors of old barns. The birds regurgitate indigestible rodent fur and bone. Soak in water to unravel the pellet’s mysteries.

Red Squirrel on branch, Getty

Nibbled hazelnuts

Hazelnuts on woodland floor
Hazelnuts on woodland floor Alamy

Voles, mice and dormice all nibble holes in hazelnuts. A dormouse’s toothmarks run around the rim of the hole. Mice and voles leave vertical toothmarks in the hole’s rim.

Animal prints

Animal footprint
Animal footprint in the mud Alamy

Riverbanks, damp paths and beaches are the perfect canvas for animal hoof, paw and footprints. Learn how to identify animal tracks in the British countryside with our handy wildlife guide.

Fur on the wire

Animal fur on fence
Animal fur on a fence Alamy

Barbed wire snags the fur or wool of passing animals. You’ll most often see sheep fleece but look out also for the coarse dark hairs of badgers and brown/red hairs of foxes and rabbits.


Molehills in grass
Molehills in grass Getty

Molehills are easy to spot – they are the waste earth from the mole’s tunnel digging. However, a field of molehills may be the work of a single mole. It can dig 20m of tunnel a day.

Woodpecker nest hole

Woodpecker drilling a hole in tree
Woodpecker drilling a hole in tree Alamy

Great-spotted woodpeckers drill their circular nest holes in live or dead trees. Studies have found the holes usually face north-east, especially in dead trees.

Snail anvils

Thrush eating snails
Thrush eating a snail Alamy

Ever spotted broken snail shells scattered around a large stone? This is a song thrush’s work. The bird uses the stone to smash the hard shell so it can eat the snail’s soft body.

Stripped pine cones

Scots pine (Pinus sylvestis) cone that been partially eaten by a red squirrel
Scots pine cone partially eaten by a red squirrel Alamy

Both red and grey squirrels nibble pine cones to leave a ‘core’. Find out more signs that animals have been feeding here.

Animal pathways

Badger track in grass
Badger track in the grass Getty

Badger clans have regular foraging paths in their territories, often making a distinctive line across fields, as well as under hedges and barbed wire.


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