How to identify winter animal tracks

The muddy footpaths of the countryside are the perfect canvas for animal hoof, paw and footprints. Learn how to identify animal tracks in winter in the British countryside with our handy wildlife guide.

Animal Tracks Snow Scene, The Cotswolds, UK

Winter is one of the best times to look for signs of life in the countryside. Turn your gaze to the ground and you’ll spot evidence all around you, from the pronounced claw prints of a mink to the interdigital pad of a badger.

Advertisement

Learn how to identify animal tracks in winter in the British countryside with our handy wildlife guide.

1

Otter

6-8.5cm long, 6cm wide

Otter-84fcfa7

Easy to spot if webbing is visible. This is round in shape, with five toe prints arcing around a large inter-digital pad. Short claws project directly from the digits.

Starlings

2

Roe deer

4.5cm long, 3.5cm wide

Roe20deer-0746da1

Each foot has two slender and sharply pointed parallel cleaves. All deer species are rather similar, differing in size and, only very subtly, in shape.

British deer guide: how to identify and best places to see

Just six species of deer live in the British countryside, but it can often be difficult to tell which is which – learn all about these spectacular animals with our deer identification guide, plus discover the best places to see the autumn deer rut.

Deer rutting in Richmond Park, London

3

Badger

6cm long, 5-5.5cm wide

Badger-55c0209

This can sometimes look like a small human handprint. All five toes radiate in front of the large interdigital pad. Long claws leave marks well in front of the digits.

4

Fox

5-7cm long, 4-4.5cm wide

Fox-e042cc0

These prints show four distinctly oval toes, two of which are obviously in front. The back print, the interdigital pad, is the same size as the rest.

5

Gull

3-6cm long (species vary)

Gull-1d663b9

The three front toes are joined by webs with a straight front edge. The toes diverge in a straight line. Note the claws projecting from the toes.

Guide to British seabirds: how to identify and where to see them

The fortunes of Britain’s seabirds are in decline, with climate change and overfishing reducing their food stocks, but you can still find teeming colonies on our coasts. Learn to identify some of the more common species found in the UK.

Colony of seabirds on the Farne Islands

6

Pheasant

6-8cm long

Pheasants-287617a

Birds tend to leave prints that look like arrowheads. The pheasant is large and heavy, so its print is clear and even. Found in farmland and woodland. After spotting their prints, get to know the pheasant even better by collecting one of their feathers and drawing it.

7

Rat

1.8-2.5cm, hindfeet 3.3-2.8cm

Rat-e97c13e

Rodent tracks show four toes on the forefeet. Hindfeet show five toes and a long heel. Water voles are similar, but have more splayed toes and a short heel.

8

Mink

3-4.5cm long, 3.5-4cm wide

Mink-8f73df7

Much smaller than those of the otter, less rounded and more star-shaped. The claws are longer and usually make a sharp imprint beyond the digits.

Advertisement

Main image and illustrations ©Brin Edwards