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The Escondido Creek Conservancy hosted partner organizations on June 21 at the George Sardina preserve to learn about wildlife tracking. The event was coordinated by the San Diego Habitat Conservancy and led by the San Diego Tracking Team. 

During the event, which included staff from the Center for Natural Lands Management and Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve, instructors focused on teaching identification techniques of small, medium and large mammals. For example, the attendees learned the difference between feline and canine tracks. 

“We saw mountain lion, deer, skunk and squirrel tracks,” said Juan Troncoso, conservation manager for the Escondido Creek Conservancy. “We could also see owl pellets, bird whitewash (bird poop) and quail tracks. Often these animals do their best to avoid humans. Being able to identify tracks gives us an idea of the type of animals present, which can be a clue to the health of the ecosystem.”

Canine tracks generally have a vertical oval shape with four toes and a heel pad. The third and four toes are parallel with a toe tuck behind them neatly. 

Also, in a canine track you are able to draw an “X” on the heel pad. If you draw a line starting from the inside of the fifth toe to the opposite bottom of the heel pad and a line from the inside second toe to opposite side of the heel pad. This will form an “X.”

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Animal tracks have very distinct characteristics based on their physiology. For example, some animals like mountain lions carry more weight on their front legs therefore their front paws are bigger than their hind paws. 

Other smaller animals like raccoons carry more weight on their hind legs so their hind track is bigger. If the animal climbs, digs, stalks prey or runs away from predators, this will determine the characteristics of their paws.