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:

happy isles bear scat sign:

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

See: for more photos of various bears poops, each looking quite different depending on the current diet of the bear, for example, grass or berries.

At that page they say: “What other types of poop may you come across? Here in Yosemite, you may stumble upon coyote, raccoon, mountain lion, or bobcat poop, all of which can be confused with bear poop. Coyote poop is also tubular and may contain the same foods, but it usually looks like a pile of twisted rope. Raccoons go to the bathroom in the same spot over and over, so their poops will be found in large piles called latrines. Bobcats and mountain lions both have segmented poops, a characteristic common to felines. Their poop is dense and won’t flatten if you step on it. All of the poop piles mentioned above are smaller than a bear’s.”

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.)

fog over colors blue and green in a narrow photo strip


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

full coyote or wolf tracks (footprints) 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 track (footprint) will fit easily within an adult’s palm, a mountain lion’s larger foot will fill it or almost fill it

NPS track of an otter

coyote track courtesy of NPS

NPS track of a wolverine

longtailed weasel:
NPS track of a long tailed weasel

NPS track of a marmot

and see a photo of a Marmot and a Pika sitting side by side on a trail at Rocky Mountain mammal size comparisons.

a narrow band of sunset clouds

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


NPS moose track print


pronghorn (not really an antelope but often called an antelope):
NPS track ( footprint) of a pronghorn

mountain goat:
NPS track of a mountain goat

row of rocks carved into brick shapes
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:

For your safety while wildlife viewing, stay 25 yards away, at least, for most wildlife, and 100 yards for bears, moose, elk, bison and wolves, whether on foot or in your car.

Keep the animal’s line of travel or escape route clear and move away if wildlife approaches you.

How far away is 100 yards? Picture the length of a football field without the end zones.

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

If you have an accidental, surprise or inadvertent closer encounter with wildlife you must remove yourself to those distances, including while driving on a road.

NPS drawing of a human and various animals showing how far away we need to stay from wild animals

NPS drawing of a row of buses depicting the distance people need to stay away from animals

Grand Canyon National Park rangers say: “Follow the rule of thumb: if you can cover the entire wild animal with your thumb you’re at a safe distance. This distance is usually 25 yards from most wildlife and 100 yards from large wildlife . . . If you are close enough to take a selfie with an animal, you are too close. ”

Parks Canada warns, along with keeping a proper distance from animals :

“If you spot the following defensive warning signals, pull back even more or leave the area:

Bears make a ‘woofing’ noise, growl and snap their jaws;
Bull elk and moose put their heads down and paw at the ground;
Cow elk flatten their ears, stare directly at you and raise their rump hair.

If you cause an animal to move, you are too close.”

You will really want your own binoculars.

and a telephoto lens for your camera.

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 diet‐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

On the 2019 Yosemite winter trip we compared our paws to the tracks of a bear in the snow, in which we could clearly see claw tracks. (Black bears in Yosemite are not true hibernators. Some sleep on and off, some never go into hibernation.)

person puts his hand in the snow next to a bear paw print