Finding animal footprints on the beach, in a muddy estuary or along a tramping track can be fascinating. I’ve been excited finding kiwi foot prints (and beak marks) on Rakiura Stewart Island, hoping that I might find a kiwi around the corner.
On a sandy beach or estuary there can be quite a muddle of different footprints, and it can be fun to work out whose prints are whose. Check out this new website which can help you identify birds, mammals and other animals from their footprints or marks in the sand NZ Tracker.
Sometimes footprints are those of predators or other pests. A tracking tunnel might reveal geckos or mice are in the area. Or a muddy tramping track could show that deer or pigs are around. Check out Pest Detective for help with pest identification.
Or use iNaturalist to report footprint sightings and get help with identification iNaturalist.nz/home
Citizen scientists can use footprints to learn about wildlife, for example, using tracking tunnels to find out what animals live in a particular habitat (see the book New Zealand Nature Heroes for how to build a cheap tracking tunnel), or counting footprints to estimate the population size (see Penguin Walks – kororā count).
Citizen scientists are volunteers who collect data and information which scientists can use.