Finding Animal Signs [4-H Activity]

Do you know how many animals live in our yards, fields, woods, and streams? You may not always see them, but you can almost always find animal signs.

Take a walk through your yard, neighborhood, or a local trail. (Be sure to get permission first, stay safe, and practice social distancing.)

Stand quietly in one spot and listen. What do you hear? Leaves rustling? Birds singing? Chipmunks scolding?

As you walk, look for animal signs. What kind of signs can you find, using your senses of sight, smell, and hearing? (Best not to use taste or touch for this activity!) Look for animal tracks (footprints), disturbed leaves or soil, holes in the ground or in trees, chewed leaves, scat (animal droppings or poop), scratch marks and more.

Here are some hints to help you observe more animal signs:

  • Slow down. You will notice less if you hurry. Take time to pause, look, and listen.
  • Wet or muddy places are great places to see clear animal tracks.
  • Dead trees are often home to insects. Many birds feed on those insects and may leaves signs on the tree.
  • If you see a lot of bird droppings in an area, look up. There might be a nest above.
  • Go out at different times of day (dawn, dusk, bright sunny day, cloudy day) to see different kinds of animals and animal signs.

Take it a step further: keep a journal! Take photos of what you see. Write down your observations and keep your pictures in a journal with the date and location of your observation. Try to visit the same place at different times throughout the year to see what changes have happened.

What have you found? Share your favorite animal sign photo in the NH 4-H Community Group on Facebook!

Take only pictures, leave only footprints! Please do not disturb any animal signs, and especially do not collect nests – some animals use their nests more than once.

Here are some example photos of animals signs we found:

bird droppings on plant
Bird droppings on a plant
bird's nest in tree
Bird's nest in a tree
insect chewed leaf
Leaf chewed by an insect
chipmunk hole
Chipmunk hole
insect activity in dead tree
Insect and woodpecker activity in a dead tree
woodpecker holes
Woodpecker holes in a tree



Mary Davis
State 4-H Animal Science Program Manager
Assoc Field Specialist
Phone: (603) 862-2188
Office: Cooperative Extension, Kendall Hall Rm 403, Durham, NH 03824