Tracking Wild Animals - Explore! Tracking Wild Animals - Explore!

Tracking Wild Animals

Tracking Wild Animals with MyNature Animal TracksUpdated: November 25, 2011 – Whether tracking wild animals is your reason to explore or an addition to your other adventures, it’s a fun thing to do and can be a  wonderful learning experience.  When I was growing up,  I enjoyed finding tracks in the mud or snow and determining who made them, where the creature was going and what they were doing.  I used my Boy Scout Handbook and other books to help in that task.  When I recently thought of tracking as a great reason to explore,  I wondered whether there was something other than a book I could take on our adventures.  Sure enough,  I found an iPhone application that does this job perfectly and adds several great general-purpose features for explorers.  Given that we always carry our iPhones, the app adds lots of information and no weight or bulk.  Once this app is installed, no cell phone or wi-fi connection is required to use its key components.  That’s important for field book apps as you will often be outside the range of any network when you most need to use the app.

My Nature Animal Tracks

Home page of MyNature Animal Tracks

Home Page of MyNature Animal Tracks

The App is called MyNature Animal Tracks and costs $6.99 from Apple’s App Store.  Before purchasing it, we read some of the reviews.  Overall the app got a 4-star rating (out of 5 stars).  Many users gave the app five stars.  Those that didn’t generally complained that the app lacked features like photos of the animals, range maps, information on animal scat and animal sounds.  Those people apparently didn’t read the instructions.  The app uses a menu bar that scrolls left and right.  If you touch and drag it, you will find sections that include ALL of these things.  A common complaint was that the app didn’t have enough animals represented, particularly domestic animals like cats, dogs, horses and cows.  That’s a fair criticism.  The app does lack domestic animals.  For beginning explorers, those will be the most common tracks found.  To my way of thinking an application – or book – will never have enough animals.  This app is limited to North America and does include 47 species with five birds among the mammals.  We can hope that the author will regularly update the app with more species. If you like to collect things, you can collect tracks using the instructions provided in the app. The illustrated instructions explain exactly how to make a plaster cast of a track – if you happen to find a nice clear one.  It suggests using zip-lock bags to hold the plaster for mixing with water in the field.  This will work great as long as you have time to let the plaster set up enough to carry the cast home with you.  We find it easier to collect tracks with photos.

Identifying Tracks

Finding the correct tracks.Identifying tracks is simple with the app. Choose “Identify Tracks” then choose from a list of  six track types (drawings of each type are supplied):

  • Four Toed Tracks Front and Hind
  • Five Toed Tracks Front and Hind
  • Tracks with 4 Toes Front and 5 Toes Hind
  • Hoofed Tracks
  • Oblong/Obscure Tracks
  • Bird-like Tracks

After you choose one of these, you either get a list of animals or  a second list and sometimes third list to choose from.  Ultimately you’ll narrow the possibilities to a handful of species.  Then you can check the drawings and photos associated with those species to exactly match the tracks you found.  If confusion remains, check the range map for the animals that confuse you.  If any are not found in your area, you can drop them from the possibilities list.  If you find any associated scat, you can apply the app to the scat to further reduce the possibilities.

Identifying Scat

Identification of scat works like track identification.  You start with a list of six descriptions (with drawings):

  • Scat in loose pellets round, oval, elongated
  • Scat in clumped pellets
  • Scat in tubular form
  • Irregular shaped scat
  • Scat with little or no form, consisting of mostly berries, fruits, grasses, fish scales or plant matter
  • Scat with mostly a white liquid or one end covered with a white color

Again, a second or third list may be needed to narrow the possibilities.  Once you choose a species from the resulting list, you see photos of that animal’s scat so you can determine whether that’s what you are looking at or not.

The Animals

Coyote page.

An animal page, note the scrolling menu above the photo.

For each animal, the app provides a description of the tracks, a drawing of the tracks, some photos of the tracks, a drawing showing the gait of the animal, photos of the animal’s scat, photos of sign left by the animal, photos of the animal itself, a map showing the range of the animal in North America, and a sound file so you can hear the sound the animal makes. The animals in the current version of the app are: American crow, armadillo, badger, beaver, bighorn sheep, bison, black bear, bobcat, Canada goose, caribou, cottontail rabbit, coyote, elk, fisher, gray fox, gray squirrel, gray wolf, great blue heron, grizzly bear, jack rabbit, kit fox, lynx, mink, moose, mountain goat, mountain lion, mule deer, muskrat, opossum, otter, pine marten, porcupine, prong horn, raccoon, red fox, red squirrel, ringtail, ruffed grouse, skunk, snowshoe hare, weasel, whitetail deer, wild boar, wild turkey, wolverine, woodchuck and yellow-bellied marmot.

Journal

Journal Page

Journal Page

This app offers a great journal feature that will be quite handy whether you are tracking animals or doing anything else.  To use it you simply click on “Other info” then “MyNature Journal.”  Initially it will advise you that you have no records.  Just click “Ok” then the “+” button on the upper right to create your first journal entry.  The app automatically fills in the date, time and latitude/longitude of your position.  You can then enter temperature, weather conditions and whatever you want into your journal entry.  A nice feature allows you to add photos using your iPhone’s camera.  Simply click in the “Images” button on the bottom of the screen, click the “+” sign and choose whether you want to use the camera or choose a photo from your “Photo Library.” Clicking “Camera” opens the camera app so you can take a picture.  I had some trouble returning to my Journal entry after taking a picture.  After contacting the app’s author about the issue, it was fixed in Version 1.3 (November 22, 2011).  The process now works flawlessly. If you already have photos you want to discuss  in your journal entry, choose “Photo Library” and you can select photos from your camera roll or any photo albums you may have on your iPhone.  Remember to save your journal entry when you are done. If you have a cell or wi-fi network available, the app also allows you to post your journal entry, including photos, to Facebook and Twitter and to send them via email.  We thought the email option would be a great way to get the photos and all the information about them into our computer so that the would be ready to use upon our return.  Unfortunately,  photos taken outside the application, were distorted when sent by email.  The developer also fixed this problem in version 1.3.

Life List

Life List page

Life List Page

Another nice feature allows the collector of wildlife tracks to keep a life list of tracks, scat, sign or animal sightings.  The animals are not limited to those in the app.  To add one, simply click the “+” sign and provide the common and scientific name of the creature you want to add.  Once you have identified the animal to the application, indicate your experience (Identified Tracks, Identified Scat, Identified Sign or Animal Sighted). provide a title, enter a location and describe what you saw.  Again, you can add a photo in the same way you added a photo to your journal.  We posted a photo of an American robin to our Twitter account (www.twitter.com/gcexplore/ ) to see what would happen.  The app saved the, somewhat distorted, photo from our camera roll to img.ly/5fGI, inserted our comment and a link to the photo into our Twitter account – easy as can be. I tried this again with the latest version (1.3) of the app, but when I went to my life list and tried to open the American robin that I had added, the app crashed – every time I tried to look at that entry.  I had no such problem when I added a mourning dove photo to my life list. I sent my entry to Twitter as before, the photo (not at all distorted) was saved at img.ly/aQUd and it was linked to the post in our Twitter account.  Unfortunately the app left me stuck in the “Send to Twitter” page.  ‘Cancel’ did nothing and shaking the iPhone then clicking “Main Screen” did nothing.  I had to reboot the iPhone to regain access to the application.

MyNature Database

I was originally unable to get the database to work.  Jeff, the developer, told me that this was a new issue that the programmers were trying to resolve.  The idea is that when you add a confirmed find to your Life List, you can also add it to an online database (click “Share” then “MyNature Database” from the Life List page).  Initially you must register with a user name and password.  Then you can use your user name to search the database for information about your finds.  Ultimately, Jeff thinks the database will be helpful in refining ranges and migratory patterns of wildlife.  Unfortunately I was initially unable to get registered and couldn’t test the system.  However, with the advent of version 1.3, I was able to register an account from within the app and record an item to the database.  When querying the database from the app, our record appeared attached to a Google map of the location we recorded.  To further test the database system,  I went to www.mynatureapps.com/mynature-tracks/ and repeated the search done from within the app.  Sure enough, even with no login process on the website,  I was able to retrieve the information and mapped location of my reported find.  When I queried the database in a way that would get all reports,  it appeared that there were around eleven people that had posted a few reports.  For example, Skyview saw coyote tracks at Castle Rock, Colorado; Dustin saw white-tailed deer tracks in Miltona, Minnesota; and some folks, including MyNatureApps, posted some findings in the Adirondacks of northern New York, the home of the app’s creator.  At present, the database offers promise, but hasn’t been used enough to be particularly helpful.

Ruler

A final feature is a 3-inch ruler within the app.  To find it, shake the iPhone to make an “Options” menu appear.  Choose “Ruler.”  Touch the ruler to make it disappear.  The “Options” menu also offers a  way to quickly return to the main menu.

Conclusion

We think this is a great app for identifying animals based upon their tracks or scat.  However, it goes well beyond that with a nice journaling function that could be a stand-alone app itself.  Even with the issues we note, it is well worth the $6.99 cost and most off the problems have been resolved with version 1.3.

Credits

This article was written by Jerry Haugen, Pathfinder and is © 2011 Global Creations LLC, all rights reserved.  The illustrations are screen captures from the app and are used with permission.  For more information about this app and others developed for the MyNature series see: mynatureapps.com.

One Response to “Tracking Wild Animals”

  1. Shirley says:

    Thank you for this review I am searching for a track app and find the choices overwhelming

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