What Do Deer Tracks Look Like vs. Other Common Animals?

Written by Kyle Glatz
Published: November 2, 2022
© iStock.com/epantha
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People that live in suburban and rural areas are no strangers to deer. Sometimes, you’ll see them standing in a field eating during the day, and other times they’ll give you a scare by standing on the side of the road at night.

Like many other animals with hooves, deer tracks are rather distinct in soft soil, mud, and snow. How can you tell deer tracks from others, though?

We’re going to show you what deer tracks look like compared to other common animals so you can confidently identify the animals that are walking around your yard.  

Deer Tracks Versus Other Common Animals

Generally speaking, the size and shape of the tracks, the location where the tracks are found, and the distance between tracks will tell you a lot about the animal you’re tracking.

For one thing, you can rule out a lot of animals based on where you live. The chances of seeing moose tracks in Texas are low, but you can expect to see a lot of different deer species in certain parts of the state.

So, we’re going to focus on the general size and shape of various cloven-hooved animal tracks to help you understand the difference between deer tracks and other common animals.  

1. Deer Tracks

SizeShape
1.25 to 4.0 inches in lengthHas two toes on each foot
Between 0.75 to 2.75 inches in widthThe tracks taper at the top
Front tracks are usually largerForms a heart-shaped impression in the dirt
Tracks may have two, smaller impressions from the two dew claws on their feet, especially when running

Deer tracks are often described as being heart-shaped. The two toes of these creatures start thick on the bottom and narrow near the tip. Depending on a few factors, these tracks may have two declaw marks on the back of each foot. That is especially true when the deer is running.

Deer tracks vary in size. Like many other hoofed animals, the tracks left by hind legs are smaller than those left by the front legs. The tracks average between 1.25 inches and 4 inches in length and between 0.75 and 2.75 inches in width.

Deer tracks
Deer tracks are often described as “heart-shaped.”

©Chris Brannon/Shutterstock.com

2. Elk Tracks

SizeShape
Often 4-4.5 inches long and 3-4 inches wide in the frontSimilar to deer hooves in that there are two toes on each foot
Roughly 3.5 inches long and 3 inches wide in the rearRounder than deer tracks
The top of the deer tracks don’t taper as much
Often make deeper impressions due to greater weight
When running, their dewclaw marks and footprints become very obvious

Elk tracks look similar to deer tracks, but they are larger and rounder in overall shape. The average elk tracks are between 4 and 4.5 inches long, and they can reach between 3 and 4 inches wide on their front legs. Needless to say, you can tell them apart from deer tracks by size alone, unless several large deer species live in the area.

Moreover, the top of their tracks doesn’t taper as much, and the impressions are often deep in the ground because of the elk’s weight. If the elk are running, their dewclaw markings and overall footprint will be large and obvious.

Elk tracks
Elk tracks are much larger than a deer’s, about 4 to 4.5 inches long.

©Grisha Bruev/Shutterstock.com

3. Moose Tracks

SizeShape
Typically, 4.5 to 6 inches in lengthTwo toes on each foot
Between 3.5 and 5 inches in widthHas heart-shaped tracks
Tracks get narrow near the top
Hooves point inward near the tops
Frequently accompanied by two dewclaw markings

Moose tracks are very large since the animal can weigh over 1,000 pounds. Their tracks range between 4.5 and 6 inches in length and can get as wide as 5 inches! They also have heart-shaped tracks that narrow near the top and have a noticeable inward curve.

Their tracks are often accompanied by dewclaw marks on the back of the track. You’ll have no problem differentiating a full-grown moose’s tracks from a deer’s based on size alone.  

Moose tracks
Moose tracks can be up to 5 inches wide!

©Bree Reza/Shutterstock.com

4. Cattle Tracks

SizeShape
5 to 8 inches in lengthTwo toes on each foot
4 to 8 inches wideVery round tracks
Deep tracks form due to their weight and slow movement
Wide split between the individual toes

Cattle tracks are very large and very round. They form deep tracks due to the cattle’s weight and habit of standing in the same place for a long time. You’ll notice a wider split between the toes than on other two-toed ungulates. Their massive tracks measure between 5 and 8 inches in length and between 4 and 8 inches wide.

Young cattle tracks can look like other animals on this list, including deer and elk, but adult cattle tracks are very hard to confuse for anything else.  

Cow cattle tracks
Cow tracks are very large, between 5 and 8 inches long.

©ParkerDP/Shutterstock.com

5. Sheep Tracks

SizeShape
1.25-4 inches longTwo toes on all four feet
1-2 inches wideRarely leaves a dewclaw imprint
Blocky appearance with straighter outer and inner edges
Less pointed near the top

Sheep are like the other animals on this list that have two toes on all four feet. Their prints are somewhat small, measuring about 1.25 to 4 inches long and between 1 and 2 inches wide.

They are blocky in their shape, with straighter outer edges and inner edges with less narrowing near the top of the print. Furthermore, they rarely leave a dewclaw impression. As a result, it’s somewhat easy to tell these animals apart from each other.

Sheep tracks
Sheep tracks are on the relatively smaller side, measuring 1.25 to 4 inches long.

©Sebastian_Photography/Shutterstock.com

Final Thoughts

Deer tracks don’t necessarily have a unique shape to them compared to other common even-toed ungulates. However, learning about the animals in your area, the size and shape of deer tracks, and how other animal tracks look can help you determine what creatures live in your area!

Up Next


The Featured Image

Deer Legs
Deer hooves are toe tips covered by keratin.
© iStock.com/epantha

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About the Author

I'm a freelance writer with 8 years of experience. I've written in a variety of niches such as video games, animals, and managed service providers. I graduated from Rowan University in 2014 with degrees in English and Education. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games, reading, and writing for fun.

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Sources
  1. NWF, Available here: https://blog.nwf.org/2014/12/who-goes-there-identifying-animal-tracks-in-your-backyard/
  2. Cornell Vet, Available here: https://www.vet.cornell.edu/animal-health-diagnostic-center/programs/nyschap/modules-documents/procedures-prevent-spread-foot-and-mouth-disease-international-travelers#:~:text=Cloven%20hoof%20animals%20have%20two,llamas%2C%20alpacas%2C%20buffalo%20etc
  3. NPS, Available here: https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/fauna6/fauna2k.htm#:~:text=Ewe%20tracks%20generally%20average%20about,long%20and%202%20inches%20wide