Backyard Tracking

In this activity, students set up a plot in their yard to get a glimpse into the secret lives of wildlife.
Grades: K-7
Seasons: All
Time: 5 -10 mins set up
Supplies: Flour sifter/sieve/small strainer, sticks or string, soil or sand. Optional: baking pan, measuring tape, camera.
Resources: Animal Track ID
Lesson Plan PDF


1. Choose a spot in your yard where you think animals would visit. There are two ways to do this activity: using an area in your garden with bare soil (or only a few plants growing), or using a baking dish anywhere in your yard. Hint: if you have seen animals in your yard before, try that location!

2. Mark out your plot with sticks or string.

3. If you’re using a baking dish, place it flat on the ground. The lower the better, so animals don’t trip or think it is a barrier to avoid. Fill the baking dish with a layer of soil or sand. You can use any type of soil from your garden or borrowed from potted plants. Sand from your sandbox or alleyway could work too!

4. Sift a small amount of soil through the flour sifter/sieve/small strainer. This will leave a thin loose layer of soil on top of your plot. If you don’t have a tool to sift soil, lightly sprinkle soil onto the surface of your plot with your hands. Loose soil shows tracks better.

5. Take a “before” picture of your plot.

6. Leave your plot overnight or for a few days.

7. Return to your plot and take an “after” picture and compare with your before picture. Can you identify any of the tracks in your plot? Did you see signs of animals other than tracks?

Tips for Identifying Tracks:

• Count toes

• Look at the pattern of the steps

• Look for claw or tail marks

Additional Resources:

• Search any field guide books you might have to help you identify your tracks.

• Check out the Canadian Wildlife Federation for common tracks

• Use page 2 to help identify animal tracks in your plot!