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Animal Detectives Search for Clues

This article first appeared in the 8/2/19 edition of the Davis Enterprise.

Animal Detectives Search for Clues

A few of the animal tracks found in the flour track traps at Explorit. Photo by Sara Thompson

Animal Detectives Search for Clues


By Sara Thompson

Special to the Enterprise


The campers in this week’s Explorit Summer Science Camp learned about animal tracking and how to be animal detectives. A project the campers had ongoing for the week is observing changes in several track traps set up in the Mace Ranch Park.  These are simple traps that do no harm to the animals or insects who may investigate them.


The tracks traps we used are simply flour placed on the ground in an area that is frequented by animal activity.  Our educator cleared away dead leaves from an area and lay down a reasonable dusting of flour.  We placed one on our back steps and two more in the Mace Ranch Park, away from the walking paths so they are not disturbed by curious humans. The idea is to place them where wildlife if frequently spotted and have them walk through the flour and leave behind a very recognizable foot print, that would otherwise be lost in mud or soil.


The first couple days were just flour, no bait or other attractant, just to get an idea of who or what was in the area.  The later half of the week, the track traps were baited with some cat food to see if there was any additional interest or if the bait would attract something new.  Over the course of the week the campers have found evidence of raccoon, Virginia opossum, California ground squirrel, domestic cat, western scrub jay, and unidentified small rodent tracks.  


At the end of the week, the flour is either swept up and discarded, or covered in soil and leaves to decompose naturally.  This is a very safe and easy way to get fun tracks and evidence of what kind of animals are in your area.  It is recommended to find places away from sidewalks and streets so to not endanger any animals, and to keep curious humans from disturbing your track trap.  If you do it in a community neighborhood or park, asking neighbors is also advised, as a baited track could attract more activity to an area.  A quiet corner of own yard could be a nice place to set a trap to identify any bird, insect, or other animal activity at your own home.



Explorit's coming events:

  • Visit Explorit's latest exhibition, Earth Explorations. Explorit'sExploration Galleryis open to the public every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 1:00-5:00 p.m.  Admission is $5.00 per person; Explorit members, teachers and children 2 and under are free.






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