I love helping my kids with identifying animal tracks. I always tell them that when looking at a wild animal track you will be able to know what animal has been around. On this page I am going to show you pictures of animal tracks that are frequently found in Yosemite National Park. Animal tracks in snow, soft dirt and mud are easy to recognize.
How I Identify animal tracks
Every kind of animal makes a different kind of track. If they walk on something soft (like mud, snow or dirt), they will leave a track behind. Horses and deer have hoofs and therefore leave a big mark. Bears, coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, raccoons and squirrels have paws.
I tell my kids to notice the size of an animals paw. Then count the toes. Look at how close or far apart the paws are from each other. These things will help you to identify which animal was there before you.
In addition to tracks, I notice that the bears in Yosemite will also claw the trees. If you keep your eyes open you will see bear claws on trees. Bears cause more property damage in Yosemite Nat Park than any of the other animals. Identifying animal tracks of bears is easy since they leave such a big mark.
There are mountain lions in Yosemite National Park, but they are rarely seen. Their tracks are usually found in the higher elevations of Yosemite and not in the valley. Although, I have seen them behind the Ahwahnee Hotel. These large cats feed mostly on deer and fear people.
I think that the odds are in your favor that you will be able to identify animal tracks of a deer in Yosemite. And I would bet that you will see a deer when you are here. Only one human has ever been killed by an animal in Yosemite. It was by a Mule Deer. Their front feet are powerful. So do not get to close to them, especially in spring when they are mating. I usually find the mule deer eating in the meadows in the early mornings or the late evenings here in Yosemite.
Coyote tracks are not hard to find if you are hiking or if you look down by the edge of the river. I see coyotes quite often, running across the road or standing in a meadow here in Yosemite. Keep your eyes peeled for them. If you don't see them, the odds are good that you will at least see their animal tracks.
I think that you're very fortunate if you see a bobcat in Yosemite. Recently they have been spotted in the early mornings at Lower Yosemite Falls and Bridalveil Falls. If you look closely around these areas you might spot the bobcats animal tracks in the soft dirt or muddy areas.
Raccoons are commonly seen in and around Yosemite National Park. Their animal tracks are seen in muddy areas, snow and in soft dirt. I usually see them when they are looking for food around the eating areas in Yosemite. I have noticed that there are several raccoons living in the trees around Curry Village's cafeteria.
Squirrel tracks are easy to find and identify here in Yosemite! They will be at your campsite, your cabin, up on top of waterfalls...just about everywhere.
It is a challenge identifying animal tracks that are tiny. Such as those that come from the deer mouse. But if you are keeping your eyes open for animal tracks, you will be amazed at what you will find. The deer mouse is the animal that spreads the Hantavirus.
Every animal has a different set of tracks. Just like we humans have different fingerprints. When identifying animal tracks of the gray fox, I tell my kids to notice how close together the tracks are. This is an animal that likes to be alone. It does not run in a pack. Most of them that I see in Yosemite are about the size of a medium dog.
Chipmunks have a beautiful stripe down the middle of their back and tail. They are much smaller than a squirrel. You will see lots of them in Yosemite, especially when hiking. Notice how small their prints are.
A nocturnal animal that comes out at night. They like to eat mice but the bobcat and the owl likes to eat him! If you are trying to identify animal tracks of the ringtail, look around the caves and piles of rocks here in Yosemite! The ringtail sleeps in the caves of the rocks during the day.
My kids and I read that the gopher has very poor eye sight but excellent hearing. They are easily found in and around rocks, caves and up on top of Yosemite, like Tuolumne Meadows. Look for their tracks...they are around!