"The first thing you realize is that you seldom watch an animal satisfactorily just by luck. This certainly applies to mammals. An animal detects your presence long before you know it is there. In every case it is a contest of wits-you are pitting your knowledge against the instincts of self-preservation of a wild animal, instincts that are helped by acute senses, particularly those of smell and bearing."
Watching Wildlife by Richard Philips
In general wild animals are shy and elusive. Many times visitors to a National Park are disappointed on not spotting any wild animals especially big game like the tiger and leopard.
Tracks or pugmarks provide important clues. Not only do they tell us of the presence of wild animals but they can also indicate the size, sex and sometimes even the age of an animal.
The marks of animal feet on the roads of the park reveal their presence and the freshness of the tiger's pugmark reveals its whereabouts.
Tracks on the road can also reveal the presence of cubs with a tigress.
Look out for the scratch marks on trees where tigers leave territorial signals that demarcate their home range. These trees are also marked by their scent.
Alarm and scare calls of animals like sambar, chital, bluebulls, chinkara, langur monkey or even peacock provides clues to the exact location of the tiger.
Understanding and interpreting visual signs and sounds is an art in itself. And one of the most enjoyable to learn while you drive through the forest. Always pause, listen and assess the clues that the forest provides about the tigers presence. Remember that the edges of the roads will have scats (droppings) of tigers and their scrape marks, which are also indicators of the freshness of their presence.
Crows on a tree are also good indicators of meat nearby and provide clues to a kill. Tree pies do much the same by either calling incessantly or flying over a specific spot.Remeber to look for low circling vultures if they are dropping down at a spot. They are excellent indicators of a kill. All these scavenging birds can lead you to tigers, leopards or jackals.
- Fateh Singh Rathore
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