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Field Guide to Animal Tracks and Scat of California

Field Guide to Animal Tracks and Scat of California

Mark Elbroch
Michael Kresky
Jonah Evans
Michael Kresky
Mark Elbroch
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 398
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  • Book Info
    Field Guide to Animal Tracks and Scat of California
    Book Description:

    Spotting an animal’s fresh footprints in the wild can conjure a world for the hiker: Why did the deer tracks disappear? Where did the cougar turn off the trail? What does it mean when two sets of footprints seem to coincide? This beautifully illustrated field guide, the first devoted to the tracks and signs of California animals—including birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates like spiders and beetles—blends meticulous science with field experience to provide an engaging companion for both armchair exploration and easy field identification. Filled with useful tools for the wildlife expert, and essential background and visual aids for the novice, including in-depth information about the ecology of each species, this book goes beyond basic recognition of types to interpret what animals leave behind as a way of “seeing” how they move through the world.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95164-8
    Subjects: Zoology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-12)
    Mark Elbroch

    I arrived at Nettle Springs in the afternoon, a perennial water flow many miles up a dry desert canyon, surrounded by steep, unforgiving slopes of pinyon pine, oak, and juniper. I parked in some shade, filled a water bottle, and strolled up the dry, sandy wash above the springs, where tracks were easy to see. I was looking for an animal to follow. A few deer had crossed the wash early in the morning, but I was hoping for a soft-footed animal, which provided a greater challenge.

    Suddenly fresh Cougar tracks were beneath me. The tracks belonged to a mature...

    (pp. 13-30)

    We were faced with a decision at the start of this project. Given the size parameters of this field guide series, we could either present a detailed look at animals’ tracks and scats, or use a more superficial approach to a broader diversity of signs—that is, evidence of feeding, beds, and the like. In the end we decided on the former—an in-depth presentation of just several topics. This book is a visual presentation of the tracks, scats, and scent-marking behaviors of California’s wildlife.

    Interpreting wildlife tracks and signs is challenging detective work; it is an engaging exercise in...

    (pp. 31-78)
    Mark Elbroch

    To better visualize and understand tracks on the ground, we must study whole animals, starting with their feet. Feet make footprints, and footprints are the building blocks of track patterns. Here we begin with the morphology of mammal feet, then move on to study the morphology of mammal tracks, then look at how mammals move, and finally delve into the science and interpretation of mammalian track patterns on the ground.

    Thousands of years ago, the first mammals had five toes on each foot (Hildebrand and Goslow 2001). Over great lengths of time, through evolution and specialization, feet and legs evolved...

    (pp. 79-98)
    Mark Elbroch

    Countless tracks and trails you will encounter in California will not be made by mammals but by other animals. Here we attempt to better prepare you to begin to interpret the signs of numerous birds, as well as some other common creatures. This training is complementary to that for mammal tracking, because the tracks of all animals can be confused with one another, and if you catch the tracking bug (as each of the authors has), you will want to know what made every mark in the ground you encounter. There seem to be endless tracks and trails that still...

    (pp. 99-116)
    Mark Elbroch and Jonah Evans

    Animal scat, urine, and other secretions offer a wealth of information beyond proving the presence of a species. They often constitute chemical communications and animal behaviors, as well as providing insights into animal diets and natural history. Overcome any preconceived queasiness you might have and move in for a closer inspection. Terminology for feces, excrement, pellets, or droppings is colorfully varied, butscatis the general term used by biologists and trackers to describe the solid waste materials excreted by animals in general, and mammals in particular. The termdroppingsis generally used when referring to bird scat, and the...

    (pp. 117-120)
    Mark Elbroch

    Pellets are compressed masses of indigestible food remains regurgitated by birds that resemble some scats of mammals; they are composed of hair, bones, feather scraps, undigested hulls of mast crops, fish scales, insect carapaces, shells of bivalves, and numerous other odds and ends, including plastics and garbage. Owl pellets are notorious, yet grebes, cormorants, vultures, hawks, eagles, herons, rails, gulls, terns, crows, jays, thrushes, kinglets, flycatchers, shrikes, and warblers are also capable of producing pellets (Leahy 1982). However, pellets of small birds are very difficult to find, as well as those composed of anything but garbage, fur, or bone, because...

    (pp. 121-358)
    Mark Elbroch, Jonah Evans and Michael Kresky

    The following mammalian species accounts are organized following the taxonomical order found inMammal Species of the World(Wilson and Reeder 2005) and provide more detailed information about each species’ tracks, trails, scats, and other scent-marking behaviors. Our understanding of phylogeny and taxonomy continues to expand and change, resulting in a better understanding of how mammals are related to each other and in what order they have evolved. The first mammal to appear below, the Virginia Opossum,Didelphis virginiana, is considered the oldest mammal in California in evolutionary terms—meaning that the opossum as we know it today reached its...

    (pp. 359-366)
    (pp. 367-368)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 369-394)
    (pp. 395-395)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 396-396)