How to identify wildlife paths and beds

Tall vegetation in midsummer makes it easy to spot the regular paths that wild animals take - and where they rested.

ID-Signs-logo_0-30c0aed

The tall vegetation in midsummer makes it easy to spot paths and lie-up sites.

Advertisement

Mammals tend to follow specific paths between favoured foraging and sleeping areas.

They also often share paths, but it is easy to identify the main user when the path passes under an obstruction – badger and fox paths will go under logs less than 30cm off the ground, while deer (other than muntjac) require a much taller space.

Footprints can help to confirm your identification.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR: 
Deer rings
  • Roe deer sometimes make well-trodden circular or figure-of-eight tracks around trees or bushes. Ring-running occurs most frequently in the August rut.
  • Fallow deer occasionally create circles of bare ground 3m in diameter around old stumps that appear to be the focus of play.
Red deer wallow
  • A wallow is usually found in damp, boggy places and is used in summer by both sexes when they are shedding their coats.
  • A wallow is also used by stags in the rut, when they urinate and then roll in it.
  • Fallow deer leave pungent urine in scrapes – these sometimes resemble red deer wallows.
Hare form
  • Usually found in the middle of fields, occasionally in hedges. In summer, most commonly in long grass.
  • Where in short vegetation, forms are often dug up to 10cm into the ground so that only the hare’s back and top of its head are visible.
Couches
  • Badgers make couches from bundles of dry grass or other vegetation to lie-up above ground during the night between bouts of foraging. Usually under bushes and recognised by black-and-white badger hairs among vegetation.
  • Otters make couches close to the water under bushes or in dense vegetation.
Deer lie-up sites
  • Red, fallow and roe deer lie in long grass in the middle of hay fields or on the edge of fields under overhanging trees.
  • It is sometimes possible to count a series of individual impressions.
  • The size of the impression is indicative of the species; roe about 1m long, red 1.5m long.
Paths
Advertisement
  • Fox paths are very narrow, often little more than an impression in the grass.
  • Badger paths are typically up to 30cm wide, bare, most conspicuous near setts or leading into fields regularly used for foraging.
  • Otter paths are a similar size to badgers’, often cutting off bends in rivers or leading to ponds, sometimes with muddy slides into the water.
  • Deer paths are most conspicuous where they lead into small copses or where deer scramble up banks; paths become incised with regular use.