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Tracking Quizzes

Quiz #26 - Answer

The answer is GRAY FOX.

The way you figure this out is first notice some of the basics:
  • This is a diagonal walking animal
  • The animal has an oval-shaped foot, four toes, and claws show in the tracks. This narrows it down to the dog family (domestic dog, fox, coyote, and wolf).

Then its a process of elimination.

  • The size of a diagonal-walking animal is approximately 2 strides (in this case, 16 to 24 inches quite small). This rules out a medium or large dog, adult coyote, wolf, and also borders on being too small for an adult red fox.
  • The perfectly consistent gait, especially over difficult terrain, strongly suggests this is a wild animal, not a domestic dog.
  • The animal was alone, which pretty much rules out juvenile coyote.
  • Note the extreme narrow trail width (2 to 3 inches) this is almost zero straddle, as if the animal was walking on a tightrope. This further adds credence to ruling out the above larger members of the dog family.
  • So its a type of fox. Red foxes do not inhabit Arizona. Kit foxes do not inhabit the high mountains. So this pretty much isolates it to gray fox.

The tiny size of the prints, their delicate appearance with fine claws, almost zero straddle, and the agile cruising down a boulder field that was made extra tricky by being only partially covered by the shallow snow layer are all consistent with gray fox.

Gray fox is a beautiful animal, graceful, balanced and secretive. These tracks emulate all these characteristics, and were very inspiring to see.

By the way, take a look at Photos 26K / 26L / 26M (below). These tracks are not as pristine as the previous ones. But note how you can identify an X shape in the toe ridges in the center of the track. The X is another indicator of the dog family, and if you only had these prints to look at, you could in theory still arrive at the correct answer. A tip to keep in mind to quote Tom Brown Jr, The track that is the hardest to see has the most to teach.

Good tracking,

Photo 26K


Photo 26L


Photo 26M



Quiz #26 - Question      ...on to Quiz #27

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