Scenic Erie Station Village

What Animal Track is That?

Graphic showing footprints of several common animals

January 2022


Even though it’s winter, there are quite a few different critters around Erie Station Village. You’ve probably seen footprints in the snow and wondered whether they were made by a dog, cat, squirrel, or Godzilla. Luckily, it’s easy to learn how to identify the most common tracks you’ll find around the property. And your friends will think you’re Davy Crockett, Jr. when you point to a set of tracks and declare, “it’s just a common housecat.”

When it comes to identifying animal tracks, there are two things to focus on. The first is the walking pattern. Some animals hop, some waddle, and some walk perfectly straight. The second is the size and shape of the foot. How many toes, are there nails, are the front and back feed different, etc.?


Deer typically walk in a straight line. They have a split hoof with two toes that leave a distinct impression. The toes curve in a way that often forms a heart shape. Because their hind feet tend to step on their front tracks, their prints can become distorted.


Unlike most birds, turkey predominantly live on the ground and leave a lot of tracks. Most birds hop when on the ground, but turkey walk leaving alternating prints. They have three thin forward-facing toes and leave tracks that are 3-4 inches long.


Squirrels are hoppers with back feet that are larger than their front feet. Additionally, their front feet have four toes, and their rear feet have five. Their feet often land side-by-side producing a repeating series of four distinct prints.


Rabbits are hoppers and move by placing their larger hind feet ahead of their smaller front feet. Unlike squirrels who keep their feet together, rabbits stagger their feet producing a “Y” shaped track.


Dogs often zig zag when they walk because they’re constantly exploring with their noses. The size of their footprints will vary based on the breed but are typically 2-3 inches wide. Look for four toes, nails, and a triangular shaped pad behind the toes. Also, the fore prints will be smaller than the rear prints.


House cats tend to meander when walking. Like a dog, they have four toes and a heel pad. However, their heel pad has three lobes at the bottom edge giving it the shape of a letter “M”. They’re also smaller than a dog’s print and average around 1 inch wide.