Tracking spoor and field signs as a zoological research method

Arik Dorfman*, Aziz Subach, Inon Scharf

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Tracking technologies have revolutionized zoological research in recent decades; however, technologically simple methods of tracking spoor should not be removed from the researcher's arsenal. Tracking spoor, or field signs, is an old human skill, considered to be fundamental to our evolution as an intelligent species. It comprises finding and categorizing footprints, droppings and other animal-related signs, such as trampled paths and nests. Zoologists have been using traditional tracking methods as research tools for many years and still use them today. Tracking is being used mainly in the fields of animal behaviour and conservation. In animal behaviour studies, tracking is an important tool to measure behavioural responses while in conservation efforts, tracking is often an effective survey method compared to other methods. In this paper, we briefly review the history of tracking in human culture and zoology and present the different uses and methods of tracking employed in behavioural studies and wildlife surveys. We discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the methods and present the conditions required for each method to be effectively applied. Our main goal is to encourage researchers to use spoor tracking, as it is reliable, easy and cheap to use and can be incorporated with modern methods to gain otherwise unachievable information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-141
Number of pages9
JournalAnimal Behaviour
StatePublished - Sep 2023


  • conservation
  • footprint
  • foraging
  • habitat selection
  • ichnology
  • interspecific interaction
  • movement ecology


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