Tracking Glossary

Most of these terms apply to all types of tracking.
The signs you look are the same when tracking animals as well as humans.
Some of these terms apply to tracking humans only.
Animals don't try to cover their tracks.

Aging: Process of determining time lapse since sign was made, taking into consideration vegetation damage, rain, sun, and other natural elements.

Backing: Walking, usually across a road or natural barrier, in a backward motion, generally in an attempt to camouflage track by an incorrect direction of travel.

Broken Twigs: Small particles or twigs, which are uniquely broken in such a way as to indicate damage from human footwear.

Bruising: Footfall damage to vegetation.

Brushing Out: Using a branch, grass, or clothing article, in an attempt to brush or erase tracks from an area.

Camouflage: See Deception.

Compressed Areas: Areas of ground surface compressed in a manner which give an indication of human footfalls.

Continuity of Sign: The evidence of footfalls in proper sequence along a line of sign, generally unidentifiable.

Counter-tracking: Countering a tracker's efforts to track you.

Crying: The natural weeping of vegetation fluids resulting from footfall damage.

Cutting for Sign: An operation used principally along natural barriers to locate human sign.

Deception (Camouflage): Attempting to confuse, disguise or conceal sign by walking backward, brushing out, or other means. To deceive or confuse direction of travel, number of persons, or presence of sign.

False Trails: Leaving a good trail, or sign, into a poor sign area, then departing on another route.

Flagged: Leaves or grass turned in direction of travel, showing the underside surfaces.

Flankers: The two members to the right and left, behind a point person, who make up a tracking team.

Grass Trail: The bending, intertwining of grass or brush indicating human passage.

Heel Marks: The curved mark or depression on the ground surface made by the walking motion of the heel portion of the shoes.

Healing: A process with live vegetation in which human damage is repaired. Used to age sign.

Inventing Sign: Seeing sign that is not present, usually because of fatigue and/or a "need" to see it. To fabricate within the "mind's eye."

Light Angle: The correct angle for seeing sign utilizing the primary light source.

Line of Sign: The continuity of sign evidencing human passage.

Littering: Scattered debris, rubbish, or human feces that are sign of human presence.

Natural Barriers: Areas such as streams, banks, and roads, which generally interrupt human passage, and show sign well.

Place Last Seen (PLS): Place where witness or evidence indicates the subject was last seen.

Perimeter Cut: A sign cut method of limiting a search area, or locating sign along natural barriers.

Point Person: The principal tracking person who is in front of other team members and generally (on the ground) identifying each footprint step-by-step.

Prime Sign Area: The area of correct size and location in relation to other sign, in which the next print should be located.

Sand trap: Dirt areas, occurring naturally or man-made, which, by their nature, show sign well.

Scuff Mark: The mark or sign caused by footgear contacting the ground surface.

Shine: The light reflection from human footfall damage or compression.

Sign: Evidence of a person's passage.

Sign Cutting: The skill of locating, following and identifying evidence of human passage.

Sign Cutting Stick: A stick, or other suitable object, used as a sign cut aid for measuring, marking, and locating prime sign areas.

Signature Track: Footprint evidence clearly displaying unique characteristics so as to be unmistakably identifiable.

Stride: Sign cut measurement from tip of toe of one normal walking step to back of heel of the next successive step.

Toe Digs: The indented mark or sign left in a normal walking motion when one foot propels the body forward.

Tracking Team: Ideally, a three-person team, each with specific functions, following a line of sign.

Transfer: The evidence of dirt or debris being carried by footgear and re-deposited on succeeding footfalls.

This glossary comes from course materials supplied by Universal Tracking Services. Used with permission. For more information about tracking classes offered, visit their site by clicking on the logo below.


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Visit Beartracker's Nature Store online store at:  Happy tracking!!

What else can you find in the nature store? Beartracker's T-shirts, sweatshirts, journals, book bags, toddler and infant apparel, mouse pads, posters, postcards, coffee mugs, travel mugs, clocks, Frisbees, bumper stickers, hats, stickers, and many more items. All with tracks or paw  prints, or nature scenes. Custom products are available. If you don't see the track you want on the product you want, email me and I can probably create it. Proceeds from all sales go to pay the monthly fees for this web site. You can help support this site as well as get great tracking products! Thank you!


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Also visit these fine stores for more products of interest:

NDN Pride shop - For Indian Pride items for all tribes. Custom items available on request.

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Get Every Child Outdoors (Get E.C.O.) - My shop dedicated to nature and getting kids interested in nature and the outdoors.

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Glossary Copyright Universal Tracking Services