Woman holding binoculars Join today and get outside at one of our 60+ wildlife sanctuaries.
Woman holding binoculars Join today and get outside at one of our 60+ wildlife sanctuaries.
boardwalk trail through a grassy meadow
Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, Wellfleet

Why Learning to Track the Cape's Wildlife is a Good Idea

July 24, 2023

Many people view tracking wild animals as challenging--a skill reserved for more advanced naturalists and one they’ll likely never master.

But Cape Cod Region adult programs coordinator Kiara Kortis argues that it’s easy to learn basic tracking skills and that once taught, those skills will make any walk outdoors more meaningful and memorable.

Appreciating What You Don’t See

You may know that White-tailed Deer and raccoons are around, but how often do you actually see them? Kiara says there’s a much better chance of finding their tracks or sign—such as scat or fur.

“The track and sign these animals leave behind helps us to paint a picture, tell a story, and peer into a world we seldom get to observe up-close. Just because that animal is no longer in the area, doesn’t mean we can’t understand where it was going, what it was doing, and how it was influencing (and in turn, influenced by) the surrounding environment.”

Periwinkle at the end of a trail in the sand by Sean Kortis

Join a Tracking Field School this Fall

Kiara, who will be leading a Cape Cod Field School on tracking over the first weekend of November, says fall on Cape Cod can be a perfect time for deciphering what local critters have been up to.

“As the Cape quiets down, not only does wildlife return to its haunts more frequently, but the lack of human activity also ensure that fresh tracks won’t be trampled, disturbed, or covered over. The windier weather of the fall also ‘cleans the slate’ along our sand and dirt trails more frequently, allowing us to find an explore new, fresher tracks along the way.” Fall weather is also perfect for hiking!

The Art of Tracking

Kiara says because tracking teaches us how to become more observant and to see new patterns, it’s also an opportunity to see the world differently, which can inspire how one sees a tree, a leaf, or even a tiny snail.

“Have you ever learned to identify a plant (or a bird, or perhaps your friend just got a new car), and then, suddenly, you see it everywhere? This new thing pops out at you down every pathway, even though just a few days ago, you didn’t know it existed,” she says.

Kiara adds that tracking combines other environmental mediums together into a more holistic experience while exploring outdoors. “So, at times we will plan to stop or move slowly as we work together to tell the story the habitats around us hold. If you like to combine walking with art, observation, exploration, and detective work – then this is the field school for you!”

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