Wildlife ID

How we can identify animals by Footprints, Pellets, Nuts and Seeds, Droppings and Skulls

Footprints - Mammals

Shrew PrintSHREW

Very faint, with five toes on the front feet (mice and voles have four.)


Mouse PrintMOUSE

This is a wood (field) mouse: the house mouse is only about half this size!


Vole PrintsVOLE

Rather like a mouse print, but broader – they also have shorter tails which may not show in soft mud or snow.



Like mouse trails but much larger. Often found in dust in warehouses.


hedgehog PrintHEDGEHOG

Five toes on each foot but often looks like four because the thumb is faint. Front foot much broader than the hind foot.



The track is almost circular with four toes showing and no claw marks because they are retracted when walking.


Rabbit PrintRABBIT

Pointed foot with springy patches of hair rather than pads, so usually not very clear. Trails often double back then disappear! But how?


Squirrel PrintsSQUIRREL

Squirrels move by hopping, so the prints appear in groups with the front prints behind the back ones! Trails nearly always start and end at a tree.


Fox PrintFOX

Similar to the dog but usually narrower with longer claw marks.


Dog PrintDOG

Like the fox above, but can be any size, and the pads are bigger.


F = Front footprint
H = Hind footprint
All prints shown are actual size.

Footprints - Birds


Sparrow printSmall birds like sparrows usually hop, so their prints are in pairs.

Actual size

Pigeon PrintPIGEON

A walking, rather than hopping bird, so that the prints are alternate, and face inward (they really are pigeon-toed!)

Actual size

Crow PrintCROW

A perching bird, so a strong backward pointing toe. Crows have rough feet and leave a "jointed" print.

About half actual size

Gull PrintGULL

Webbed feet and pointed claws. The webs may be faint.


Duck PrintDUCK

Like the gull, but with claws and inward pointing tracks.


Actual size

Coot PrintCOOT

Difficult to confuse with anything else - coots have lobed, not webbed, feet.


About half actual size

Swan FootSWAN

Large webbed feet so couldn't be anything else except a duck in snow shoes.

About quarter actual size

Heron FootHERON

Large and powerful. Although a water bird the foot is not webbed.

About half actual size

Bird Pellets

Gull PelletGULL

Pellets vary depending on the type of food. This one's recently had a meal of beetles.



Grey cylindrical, slightly pointed. Contains the remains of small birds, mice, sometimes shrews and insects.


Crow PelletCROW

Usually oval and containing plant material especially grass, insect remains, and small stones,

Nuts and Seeds


Pine cone eatenA pine cone eaten by a squirrel becomes frayed. They are nearly always found out in the open.


Pine cone eaten by mouseA cone eaten by a mouse has more tidily gnawed scales and the cones are found in sheltered places.


Pine cone attacked by wood peckerA cone attacked by a woodpecker. The scales are split longways.



hazelnut eaten by adult squirrelAn adult squirrel gnaws a small hole in the top and levers the nut open with its teeth.


Hazelnut eaten by young squirrelA young squirrel gnaws all over the nut until a hole appears.


hazelnut eaten by mouseA mouse usually attacks the side of the nut.


Hazelnut eaten by mouseMostly nuts eaten by birds like the great tit show beak marks on the smooth brown surface.


An acorn and a horse chestnut (conker) eaten by a field mouse.


almond eaten by house mouseAn almond eaten by a house mouse.

Animal Droppings

squirrel droppingsSquirrel droppings:

mouse droppingsMouse droppings:


rabbit droppingsRabbit droppings:


rat droppingsBrown rat droppings:


hedgehog droppingsHedgehog droppings are shiny, black, and cylindrical and contain mainly insect remains.


fox droppingsFox may contain anything from bones to berries. Droppings are often left on raised areas like tree stumps to mark territory.

Skull ID

This is called a key. Its an easy way of identifying small skulls found in owl pellets, on the ground, or in thrown away milk bottles. At each stage you need to make a decision between which of the two descriptions the skull is most like. Then you go to the next stage. Each stage gets you nearer the type of animal it is.


Image: Wildlife ID by David Kaspar