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
|1.25 to 4.0 inches in length||Has two toes on each foot|
|Between 0.75 to 2.75 inches in width||The tracks taper at the top|
|Front tracks are usually larger||Forms 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.
2. Elk Tracks
|Often 4-4.5 inches long and 3-4 inches wide in the front||Similar to deer hooves in that there are two toes on each foot|
|Roughly 3.5 inches long and 3 inches wide in the rear||Rounder 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.
3. Moose Tracks
|Typically, 4.5 to 6 inches in length||Two toes on each foot|
|Between 3.5 and 5 inches in width||Has 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.
4. Cattle Tracks
|5 to 8 inches in length||Two toes on each foot|
|4 to 8 inches wide||Very 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.
5. Sheep Tracks
|1.25-4 inches long||Two toes on all four feet|
|1-2 inches wide||Rarely 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.
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!
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- NWF, Available here: https://blog.nwf.org/2014/12/who-goes-there-identifying-animal-tracks-in-your-backyard/
- 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
- NPS, Available here: https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/fauna6/fauna2k.htm#:~:text=Ewe%20tracks%20generally%20average%20about,long%20and%202%20inches%20wide