How Animal Tracking Is Like Problem Solving

Animal tracking is like problem solving; it is an ecotherapeutic practice that provides a good lesson, applicable to life skills. I’ve been learning more about it in a course I’m taking called Ecotherapeutic Guide Certificate. It’s for anyone who loves nature and wants to connect more with it. Animal tracking is one of the topics in the course. Let me explain:

Yesterday, I went outside for a long walk. Toward the end of my hike, I decided to go into the woods and find animal tracks. It didn’t take long for me to locate deer tracks.

I began by determining the direction the deer were going. Then, I followed the tracks through the few inches of spring snow. The tracks disappeared where the snow had melted and revealed dead, thick swamp grass. I had to look more closely for the tracks, but after a few steps a deer trail showed itself.

Deer trails are plentiful in the woods where I live. A network of roads, they wind through the trees and brush. They are typically easy to follow. Well-used by the deer, the trails are obvious.

As I followed along the trail, I noticed several piles of the pellet-like deer poop. Eventually, I came to an area that looked as if some deer had bedded. There were large depressions in the grass. In the same vicinity, I found a brushy area where the deer had been munching on some woody winter browse. 

I came upon a fork in the deer trail. At the split, one trail went along a wetland and the other led into the woods. I followed the woodland trail because there were fresh tracks on it. There were many more signs of deer, same as I had seen before the fork. I observed and enjoyed the process.

When I finished tracking the deer, I contemplated the life skill it reminded me of. Problem solving. When there is a problem, the usual thing to do is track a solution. First, determine direction by beginning with the first track left by the problem: the root cause. It is important to determine root cause because without it the problem is likely to repeat. 

Track the other events that helped cause the problem. An eventual fork in the road will lead to either repeating the problem or finding the solution.

With the right tracking skills, the direction of the solution can be found. Look for the signs, do the detective work, find the solution.

Animal tracking is one of many therapeutic nature activities that benefit wellness and help grow life skills (like problem solving). If you’ve never tracked an animal, and you are able, I highly recommend it.

And if, after reading this, you have a question mark in your mind, the answer is “no.” I did not see any deer yesterday. But I’ve had success in tracking deer in the past. I’ve also tracked a grouse with success. Like some solutions to problems, animals can be elusive and difficult to find. The trick is to keep at it!