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Introduction to Human Tracking
for Search and Rescue Volunteers
- Use freely for any not for profit training use

- Click Here to download .pdf files of the manuals -


A glossary of tracking terms having to do with sign and indicators of a foot strike:

  • ferns.jpg (58530 bytes)Aged Vegetation - looking for a known amount of decay on damaged vegetation
  • Broken Stems, branches and twigs
  • Bruised Vegetation - if a plant has merely been bumped it may show a bruise even though it didn't break

    (Bruised and aging ferns with broken stems provide enough sign to easily identify a footstrike - right)
  • Compressed Areas - caused by the weight of a foot, will be mostly focused at the heel and ball of the foot
  • Continuity of Sign - The evidence of footfalls is in unbroken sequence and spacing
  • Disturbance - any disturbance that could indicate a footfall. Disturbed leaf litter, animal droppings or soil
  • Dislodged Sticks or Stones - any object dislodged from where it had been for a long time will leave a sign
  • Embedded Object - a stick or pebble embedded into the ground or underlying vegetation by compression
  • Grass Trail - vegetation that is turned, flipped or twisted towards the direction of travel
  • Kick or Toe Kick - a depression with debris scattered by a footfall and then movement of the foot pushing off towards the next step
  • Light Angle - looking from one side a slight depression will show a shadow but not from the other. Another reason to work in groups of three

    barrier.jpg (74858 bytes)(Pictured Right - a Line of Sign that leads up to a natural barrier. The subject turned right to go around it)
  • Line of Sign - same as Continuity of Sign above
  • Oblique Lighting - a process whereby a flashlight is held horizontally and parallel, low to the ground while shining the beam at the suspected track. The light angle is moved to accentuate the sign detail by creating artificial shadows. Used in low light or dark conditions.
  • Prime Sign Area - the area where the next footfall should appear, found using a properly set up tracking stick
  • Scuff mark - dragged debris or scraped surface from a dragging toe or a slip or turn while stepping
  • Shine - vegetation that has been stepped on will often appear to shine by surfaces being turned in a uniform direction
  • Signature track - unmistakable footprint evidence
  • Stride interval - the distance between the tip of the toe of the one footprint and the back of the heel in the following one
  • Toe Dig - indented mark made by the toe in a normal walking motion
  • Tracker Burnout or Blindness - what occurs after reading the entire list above and after tracking too long

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- Content and images copyright Roy Reehil, 2004
This tracking training page is hosted by the Forager Press, LLC
  Copyright The Forager Press, LLC - Use freely for any not for profit Search and Rescue Volunteer Training