Mountain Lion Tracks

Often, domestic dog and coyote tracks are mistaken for mountain lion tracks. While there are some similarities that make it easy to misidentify these tracks, there are a few key differences that can help you distinguish between them.

Feline tracks, in general, lack claw marks and are wide as they are long. Mountain lion tracks are larger than a domestic dog or coyote track, ranging in size from 2.5 – 4.0 inches. The toe pads are shaped like tear-drops and the front paw has a leading toe that sticks out farther than the others. Claw marks are almost never seen on a cat track.

The bottom edge of the heel pad has three distinct lobes, in the shape of a W or M, depending on how you look at it. The front edge of the heel pad is flat, with a divot in the middle. The hind print is slightly smaller than the front print, and the heel pad takes up half of the track.

Mountain lions, like bobcats, will often place their hind foot where their front foot stepped to minimize noise. This is known as direct register. Walking in this way helps maintain a level of stealth that helps cats hunt!

If you are uncertain of the track, take a picture with a ruler, pen, or your hand next to the track for a size reference. You can either pick up a track guide or search online for other photos of lion tracks so you can compare the two!

If you have a cat at home, check out their feet. It will give you a good idea of what to look for when you’re out exploring!

Jessica Whalen

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