Virtual Dirt Time

An Adventure in Tracking Online

Learning to track animals in the wild requires many hours in the field, much of it on hands and knees, studying animal signs up close. Trackers have come to call this "dirt time." Since most of us do not have the luxury of spending as much time as we would like in the field, this web site is dedicated to sharing experiences and discoveries with other trackers. My own field experience is concentrated in Pacific Northwest, with occasional trips to other Western states. My hope is that others will reciprocate with unique contributions from their own area.

Dennis Deck
Tigard, Oregon

Novice | Who Done It | Reference Notebook | Journal

Track Identification

If you are new to tracking, you will want to start here. I provide a simple key for identifying the track of each mammal family and various other resources for the novice. Click here for the novice page.

Who Done It

This section is dedicated to testing your skills in interpreting animal sign. The focus here is on identifying unusual tracks, deciphering fragmentary evidence, and unraveling interesting stories. Click here for Who Done It

The Reference Notebook

Many of the great naturalists (Audubon, Seton, Murie) were wonderful artists and journalists. Alas, some of us find our own skills lacking in that department. However, the digital camera has given us a new tool to capture what we encounter. This reference section provides a photo notebook organized by order and species. Click here for Reference Notebook

The Journal

This section offers reports on various wildlife census projects in the Pacific Northwest and articles that explore tracking issues in more depth. Click here for the Journal.


Browser. I have kept the formatting of these pages simple to reduce problems of compatibility with different browsers. However, if a page does not appear to render correctly, try Internet Explorer or Netscape.

Warning. If you have a slow dialup Internet connection, please note that the Notebook and some Journal pages include many large photos and may load slowly. Performance in displaying these pages will be more satisfactory with fast Internet connections (i.e., DSL or cable). However, some delays during peak periods may have more to do with the load on my Internet Service Provider (ISP) so you may want to try again later.

Contributers. A number of individuals contributed to this section. I give special thanks to James Halfpenny who gratiously provided access to his extensive tracking collection and encouraged a critical approach. I would also like to acknowledge that my interest in both digital photography and sign tracking were partially inpired by Paul Rezendez in Tracking and the Art of Seeing.

Send any comments, suggestions, contributions, or corrections to Dennis Deck at

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Copyright 2013. Text and photos by Dennis Deck unless otherwise noted.