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Practical Tracking: A Guide to Following Footprints and Finding Animals Paperback – March 8, 2010
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About the Author
NOBA award-winning author Mark Elbroch has contributed to numerous research projects in North America, including the capturing and collaring of cougars and Glacier National Park's bear sign survey. He lives in Vermont. Louis Liebenberg is managing director of CyberTracker Conservation, an associate at Harvard University, and author of The Art of Tracking and Field Guide to the Animal Tracks of South Africa. Adriaan Louw is a leading trainer of ecotourism guides in South Africa, past chairperson of the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa, and professional member of the International Society of Professional Trackers.
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This book is not meant for the beginner tracker. It is a presentation of advanced skills and techniques by story telling. It is very well written, entertaining, and informative.
Be warned that much of the information and most of the experiences are African based. While the principles still hold true in both South Africa and the United States, the animals vary some from the United States. There are wonderful stories of tracking lions to within 12 feet, of tracking elephants, all kinds of deer and antelope, African hare.
The authors are excellent trackers themselves, but equally important, all have trailed animals in Africa with some of the best trackers in the world, and it shows in the insights they share. But this isn't just about tracking in Africa. The authors have tracked on other continents as well. Indeed, Mark Elbroch lives and writes in North America where he is the Initial Evaluator for the CyberTracker evaluations of tracking skills, and where he has authored or co-authored some of the most respected field guides available. As the authors write, "Remember--tracking transcends location, and if you do not recognize the name of some animal, do not be distracted from the overall discussion. It doesn't matter what sort of animal you track, the concepts are all the same." Consistent with that introductory comment, the book uses animals from both continents to illustrate the tracking principles they're teaching. So you get pages like 104 (the trail of hippos) right next to 105 (an American badger's burrow) when discussing spoor recognition. The topics covered are also varied, ranging from recognizing gaits and track patterns to anticipating spoor and making predictions to anticipating danger and safety, and many others.
What I liked best were the first person stories interspersed throughout the book by the authors, providing personal insights into the authors' experiences. These stories, written in italics to separate them from the primary text, make the reader feel as if he or she is actually sitting with the authors beside a track or around a fire listening to them teach tracking through storytelling. It is amazingly effective and wonderfully interesting.
Finally, the book explains the CyberTracker evaluation process, which includes both track and sign identification, and trailing. These evaluations are not only mirrors to an individual's skill and knowledge, but also an excellent way to learn, and should be considered by both serious trackers and hobbyists alike, as should this book.
This is a book that is meant to be read and read again, as an invaluable compliment to time in the dirt.
NOTE: The reviewer is a member of the San Diego Tracking Team, which does wildlife surveys based on tracks, scat, and sign, a hunter, and a certified tracker through CyberTracker Conservation. He has been fortunate enough to track with all three of the authors.