More Fun with Animal Tracks

This past weekend, we attended a fun nature class at Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont.  This free class for children aged 5+ and their family, called Family Nature Hour, is held on Saturday afternoons throughout the year.  Each week a different concept from the natural world is covered.  The one we attended on Saturday was about animal tracks.

We were fortunate to have the naturalist to ourselves on Saturday, as no other families attended.  To teach my son about animal tracks, first the naturalist laid out photos of animals that might be seen in Coyote Hills and throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.  These included pictures of…

  • Coyote
  • Fox
  • Bobcat
  • Mountain Lion
  • Deer
  • Opossum
  • Raccoon
  • Muskrat
  • Skunk

She also included photos of bears (both grizzly and black), even though they aren’t found in our area.

Then she pulled out rubbery samples of the footprints of these animals.  She had my son match the footprints to the pictures, while discussing the differences between a dog and cat print, bear, etc.  Very cool.

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Mountain Lion Print
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Black Bear / Grizzly Bear Prints

After my son matched up all the prints, the naturalist took us out on a walk to look for real animal tracks.  She knew of an area that would have some.  There we found the tracks of coyote, deer, and skunk.

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My son examining a footprint
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Skunk tracks

Lastly, we returned to the visitor center classroom to do one more activity.  My son made a print of an animal of his choice (using Crayola Model Magic).  He chose mountain lion.   Now we have a perfect mountain lion print at home for us to use as a reference for the ones we may find while hiking!

Las Trampas Coyote Hills 054
Preparing “Model Magic” to make print
Mountain Lion Print Replica 002
The mountain lion print my son made to take home

If you’re interested in attending this or other classes offered by East Bay Regional Parks, visit their website to check out upcoming classes… “Activity Search and Registration”

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  1. Deb Platt says:

    This seemed like a fantastic workshop. But like mmtread above, I was stunned that your son was the only participant.

    One of the pleasures of winter hiking in areas where it snows is that you see so many more animal tracks than you would normally… especially true of smaller, lighter animals that might not be heavy enough for their tracks to leave a depression in the dirt.

    I know we have coyotes around where I live, but I’ll be darned if I know how to tell a coyote track from a dog track.


    1. We don’t get snow here (though we’ve had frost and ice daily for over a week now due to below-freezing temps.. a bit unusual for our area), but we do see a lot of mud after the rains, which is perfect for spotting the animal tracks.

      When we took the train over the Sierras to Reno a couple weeks ago, I could see TONS of animal tracks in the snow. I was shocked at how many we could see! While zipping along in the train! I so wanted to get out and check them out more closely to see what they were.


  2. mmtread says:

    That looks AWESOME. (It’s kind of sad that you were the only ones there. How many young families do you think were at the mall that day?) I’ve sent my in-laws who live in Dublin a link to your site, and hopefully they’ll be inspired to get out and do some outdoor activities in the area. (They have two young sons who I’m pretty sure get exposed to very, very little of the natural world.) Thanks!


    1. It did make me sad that we were the only ones there (my son, however, was sooo happy to have the naturalist to himself). I asked her if that was normal, and she said it wasn’t. The previous week, ten families attended, but she said some days, nobody at all shows up. I do find it shocking that there aren’t more people attending these classes. I mean, this one is FREE. And the ones that are not free are rarely more than $6 or $7 per kid. Anyways, unfortunately, it says a lot about where priorities are. I’m sure the soccer fields and ballet classes were full that day, or, as you suggested, the mall.


  3. Alex Jones says:

    What fun. I was thinking as I read this how you cope with knowing mountain lions are roaming in your part of the world. If such an animal was free in Britain (bears too) there would be panic.


    1. It’s comforting to know that mountain lions are solitary, shy animals who hunt at night. They prefer to avoid people and are usually only seen at dawn and dusk. Of course, there are attacks frequently enough to keep us on our toes. Their victims tend to be women running alone… not a comforting thought for me. Though there is the famous attack a few years ago on mountain bikers (the lion was defending a meal), as well as the attack up north on two elderly hikers. It makes me feel that things might be somewhat OK in our world if these majestic predators can survive in the middle of our cities. Now, as I’ve stated in the comments of previous posts, I’m terrified of hiking in grizzly bear country. Black bears in Yosemite aren’t frightening at all…. they are actually quite nice to see (at a distance, especially if a mamma with cubs). Unless you are backpacking and a bear just stole your food for the trip…


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