Category Archives: Spoor Tracking

Identifying Spotted Hyaena spoor

In the previous post, I briefly discussed the African Wild Dog. Let me give you a tour on another species of my interest, the Spotted Hyaena. I am not an expert on Spotted Hyaena, but let me share with you a few things I learned during my two years of field experience and involvement with this species. My work involves track sampling large carnivore species in the Okavango region. I simply scan and identify large carnivore tracks on the road and count them.  One of the hardships I encounter is identifying tracks and distinguishing between individuals of the same species. It may sound easy but, honestly, it’s a difficult thing to do. Distinguishing Spotted Hyaena tracks is the most problematic, as footprints of individuals may look similar in size and shape. This may lead to double counting and eventually yield biased results. Animals may use the road, leave it and join it again, and one may count the tracks as a different individual.  This will lead to over counting.


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Efforts to identify individuals include finding  hyaena dens and visiting them at night  to obtain picture shots. Picture above shows  an adult female hyaena with young.


Spotted Hyaena tracks show claws on the ground. The front footprint is always larger than the hind one.


Prints of hyaena walking on the road. I often encounter tracks of one spotted hyaena during spoor surveys.



Pic. Dry Spotted Hyaena droppings. These may be found at a particular spot.

Although spotted hyaena may not be as beautiful and admired as leopards and cheetahs, they are all fall under the same level in the food chain. Just like any other predator, spotted hyaena do suffer from human persecution because of livestock depredation.  

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African Wild Dog Spoor

 Animal tracks can be useful in a variety of different ways. The occurance of animal spoors signify the presence of those animals in our study area. Our project uses these tracks as an indirect measure to obtain large carnivore abundance and distribution in the various habitat types found in the Okavango region. One may ask how this is done. We simply scan and count large carnivore tracks seen along the selected roads (referred to as transects), which requires the ability and skill to identify the tracks. We normally do the spoor count survey early in the mornings and, in some cases, in the late afternoons for  easy spoor detection . In the previous post I mentioned to you that I will share with you carnivore spoor pictures. Below are some.

Picture 1: African Wild Dog 

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 African Wild dog Tracks

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Picture 2: African Wild dog tracks. The front foot print is usually larger than the hind. Picture 3: Sometimes counting tracks is not easy, especially for a socially organized carnivore species like wild dogs. African wild dogs normally travel and hunt in groups.  This picture show tracks from a pack of wild dogs encountered during the spoor count survey in the Moremi Game Reserve. 


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Picture 4 : Fresh wild dog scats seen on the road about one and a half hour after sunrise.

I hope you will visit again soon for more!