animal sign comparisons

photos of and notes on scat and tracks

Please do not handle scat. Wolf scat, for example, can transmit tapeworm eggs to humans.

If the scat is steaming (on a cool early morning hike, for example) the animal may be VERY nearby.

Watch a Grand Teton National park video identifying and comparing animal tracks

bison: NPS bison dung 120 pxls:

bear: nps bear scat 120 pxls: grizzly:grizzly bear scat photo by J Schmidt:

cylindical, 2′ plus (massed if vegetation main food source) We’ve seen bear scat that was totally very dark green.

moose: NPS moose dung 220 pxls:

chips or massed when eating aquatic plants and thick grasses, pellets (a little more oblong than elk)when eating woody browse

elk: NPS elk scat 120 pxls:

chips like cattle when feeding in summer on lots of vegetation, pellets in winter when food is more dried grass

coyote: is like a dog’s but often with more hair

frequently deposited where they stop to look for prey at an open area

beaver: you won’t see this deposited on land very often

otter: short, round or flat with fish scales, bones or other aquatic food parts. Green and slimy when fresh.

(Sorry, these photos of animal scat are not printed here in a scale to show their size in relation to each other.)


Both the dog and cat family have four toes. Bear, otter, badger, wolverine have five toes.

full coyote or wolf tracks will almost always leave toenail imprints, a bobcat or mountain lion won’t

wolf track in snow: wolf track in snow photo by Barry O'Neill:

coyote has a walking stride of 6 to 8 inches and leaps of 10 feet, wolf has a walking stride of nearly 30 inches and leaps of 9 or more feet

a bobcat print will fit easily within an adult’s palm, a mountain lion’s larger foot will fill it or almost fill it

you won’t find deer or elk tracks as much in/near the water habitat of moose, and moose tracks are much larger, up to 5 to 7 inches long

Brown bear tracks photo from Gates of the Arctic National park:

Brown bear tracks, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve NPS photo

NPS photo Griz bear_tracks_in_mud: mud with bear footprints

grizzly tracks have less space between toes than black bears, black bears toes arranged in more of an arc than griz, claw length (from tip of claw to front of toe) longer than toe length on griz

smallest toe of the five may fail to print

North Cascades National Park notes: Differentiating Black and Grizzly Bear Tracks

“Biologists use front tracks to distinguish bear species. You can do the same when you are out in the wilderness. Establish a line through the lowest point of the outside toe and the highest point of the palm pad. Notice that the black bear’s inside (right) toe is mostly below the line, while the grizzly bear’s is above the it. The rear foot on both species looks the same.”

The Yellowstone bear tracks chart, shown below, notes include that a line drawn from under the big toe and across the top of the pad runs through the top 1/2 of the little toe on black bear tracks and through or below the bottom 1/2 of the little toes on grizzly bear tracks.

bear print comparison chart

see also nps drawing bears: drawing of a black bear and a grizzly for comparison Rocky Mountain mammal size comparisons

NPS photo Yellowstone wildlife montage Robert Hynes 180 pxls:

Bears sounds from the NPS:

Well worth looking at:

wolf pack in snow NPS photo:

For actual incidents of injuries from animals, usually caused by approaching them too closely, go to: fatal, near fatal or close call incidents/accidents in camping, backpacking, climbing and mountaineering

Look for the BEARS, MOUNTAIN LION, BISON, ELK and MOOSE sections.

NPS bear tracks:

Park rules say do not approach wildlife, stay 100 yards from bears or wolves and 25 yards from other wildlife including nesting birds. If you have an accidental, surprise or inadvertant closer encounter with wildlife you must remove yourself to those distances.

To visualize 100 yards, picture the length of a football field.

To visualize 25 yards, picture four car lengths, six kayak lengths or the width of an Olympic-sized pool like ours at the college.

What do grizzly bears eat?

A report from Grand Teton National Park listed what they found in grizzly bear scat:

“A recent synthesis of the available literature on grizzly bear diets (Gunther et al. 2014) determined that the most frequently detected items in 11,478 scats collected during 37 years between 1943 to 2009 were graminoids [grasses], 58.7%; ants, 15.8%; whitebark pine seeds, 15.4%; clover, 11.19%; and dandelion, 10.9%. Other items frequently detected were elk, 8.3%; thistle, 6.9%; horsetail, 5.6%; yampa roots, 4.9%; berries, 4.9%; cutthroat trout, 4.4%; biscuit root, 4.0%; spring beauty, 2.9%; bison, 2.8%; and fireweed, 2.7%. The review also noted the annual stability of the most frequently detected dietā€items during 33 years between 1943 and 2009. The most stable items were graminoids, ants, and elk, which were found in the collected scats in all years (100% of years); clover was present during 97% of years; and elk, thistle and horsetail were found in 94% of years.”

Read more at: bears

and important info for watching animals at wildlife jams

At different times of the day and night on The De Anza Outdoor Club winter Yosemite trip people shave seen raccoons, a coyote and ravens in the campsites. We also found tracks in the snow, below raven, raccoon and steel belted radials:

raven footprints in snow: raven footprints in snow with a human hand for size comparison raccoon footprints in snow: raccoon footprints in snow with human hand for size comparison tire tracks in snow: tire tracks in snow