Animal Tracks: Bear, Coyotes and…. a robin

Animal Tracks: Bear, Coyotes and…. a robin

People in snowy climates are lucky in one regard – they can see great animal tracks after snowfalls. Here in So. California I need to drive a half hour up to the mountains. The last two times I’ve seen some interesting tracks in the snow. On yesterday’s hike to a favorite area of mine  (Jenks Lake off Hwy 38  -San Bernardino National Forest, close to Big Bear) I got to see coyotes stalking, of all things, ducks on the lake.

I knew something was up as I approached the lake since a mallard was honking loudly.  Two coyotes ran off when they saw me, but the third didn’t run off until I rounded the lake near it. Could there be ducks nesting so early on the shore; otherwise wouldn’t they would just fly away? Anyway, what’s good is I saw the coyotes run up the slope so I could take photos of their tracks. Mr. Mallard stopped honking once the third one left.

So, how to tell a coyote track from a dog? (Even in Chicago, where an estimated 4000 coyotes roam, this could be helpful….) I asked Camilla Fox, director of Project Coyote  and she said the following info taken from the web is accurate. The one that fits most with my photo is how coyotes are ”perfect steppers”. Their front and rear paws land in the same spot when the coyote is traveling in stride. Otherwise, dog sizes vary so much which makes comparison difficult, but in general, coyote tracks are pointier and more elongated than dogs, which are more circular. There’s also more space between the pad prints, and if you have a direct comparison you might be able to see that you could draw an X-shape in the negative space of a coyote track.
Bear and Other Tracks
On another hike closer to home, I came across these great bear tracks (but no bear sighting….) and alas, my only other tracking of certainty is the above robin. I can’t end with a robin, so I’m including one other, which when compared to my footprint appears to be a bobcat.
Open to other interpretations from any trackers out there, but please be nice and don’t mock my robin tracking abilities…
About Linda Richards

My goal is to educate about the science of nature in layperson speak, through my writing, science and education background. I grew up in the Chicago area, loved living in Minneapolis before gravitating to the West, which is now home.


  1. Pretty cool! I was just visiting Jenks Lake this morning.

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