What are Gait Studies? Gait refers to the movement pattern the animal is using and the corresponding gait pattern is left for trackers to interpret. In human terms, walk, jog, run, sprint, sit, stand, kneel, etc, etc. Think of an action an animal can take and where its feet need to go, in what order, in order to do that movement. The pattern of tracks left behind is what we read to determine what the animal was doing.
Gait studies often intimidate our students into glazed eyes and forlorn stares reminiscent of my 10th grade math classes… We start throwing out weird tracker jargon and it starts to feel very conceptual and foreign. So I want to focus on a couple things, what can you learn to interpret if you put the time in to understanding gaits and some ways of going about learning them in the first place. The winter is an obvious time for this because we get to see strings and sets of tracks all over the place we never get to witness in the summer!
Why Study Gaits…
Source: Winter Tracking II- Gait Studies- Why and How
Great blog piece by Mark Elbroch!
Among my favorite activities is investigating mountain lion kill sites—meaning the work of actually going into the field and finding the remains of prey killed by mountain lions. We just published new research in the Journal of Mammalogy that shows that these expeditions in search of prey remains are not just enjoyable, they are also the best way to study carnivore foraging behaviors.
Every kill site is different, and some are tough to find. But over the years, I’ve begun to better predict where a cat might feel secure enough to feed and hide the remains of their prey. Flies are a great clue too—the sound and sight of them have often drawn me to a hidden carcass or a subtle area blood-flecked and sprinkled with tiny bits of tissue and bone easily overlooked. Magpies and eagles are even better, their vocalizations provide guidance from afar and if you can spot them on the ground, then you’ve found your kill.
Continue reading Mark Elbroch’s piece on his Blog