How to Identify Deer Tracks From Other Similar Footprints
By Jason Knight
Have you ever needed to identify deer tracks?
If you are in an area where deer are the only hoofed mammal, identifying their tracks from other species can be quite straightforward. Their tracks have two toes (hooves), that make an upside-down heart-shaped track. The photo to the right is an example of a typical deer track.
Many areas in North America contain additional hoofed mammals with similar sized tracks, such as pronghorn antelope or mountain goat. In these areas, differentiating deer tracks from tracks of other species can be much more difficult.
The illustrations and track characteristics listed below highlight key features that can be used to identify deer tracks from other hoofed mammals within the same size range.
Deer (Odocoileus spp.)
- The track has an upside-down heart shape.
- The sides of the track are convex.
- The front tips of the hooves are located towards the inside of the track.
Pronghorn Antelope (Antilocapra americana)
- The track also has an upside-down heart shape.
- The sides of the track are concave (rather than convex).
- The front tips of the hooves are also located towards the inside of the track.
Mountain Goat (Oreamnos americanus)
- The overall track shape is blocky.
- The front tips of the hooves are centered within each half of the foot.
- The front tips of the hooves are wider and more rounded than the tips of deer and antelope tracks.
Bighorn Sheep Ovis canadensis
- The overall track is wedge-shaped.
- The front tips of the hooves are more pointed than mountain goat tracks, yet less pointed than deer tracks.
- The sides of the track are straight.
Wild Boar Sus scrofa
- The overall shape of the tracks is wide and rounded.
- The tips of the hooves are blunt.
- Dewclaws frequently register behind the track (not shown in drawing).
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For additional information on how to identify deer tracks, as well as many other North American species, check out Mark Elbroch's excellent field guide, Mammal Tracks and Sign.
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