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Wildlife Detective

Use your habitat map you created to explore your area for
animals and their habitats.


Remember that sometimes animals are not easily seen so looking for 'clues' is important. Your detective work should take place over several trips at different times of the day and even during different seasons. Your expedition involves three parts;

1. Preparation - Take the following things with you;

  • A friend, parent, or guardian.
  • A notepad and clipboard to record your observations.
  • Your Habitat Map (or copy of it) from Activity 1. 
  • A digital camera or mobile phone to photograph animal clues or habitat.
  • A pair of binoculars (if you have them) to help you see animals at a distance.
  • A magnifying glass (if you have one) to see tracks and traces up close.
  • A spotlight or torch if you are heading out at night.
  • Good walking shoes.
  • A water bottle, sun hat, sunscreen, and snacks!
  • Insect repellent.
  • Weather dependent: a raincoat and/or waterproof walking shoes!
  • A field guide – which may be a published guidebook, app (see Handy Links) or research you have collected about your local wildlife.

2. On the expedition - walk around your local area slowly and quietly – if you are too fast and noisy you may miss clues or scare animals off! Pay attention to places you think animals may like to hide especially hedges, trees, dark spaces or near water and food resources. Look up, down and under – think like an animal, as you look for them, and their clues!

3. Recording - design a table to record the information you find. These are the things you should consider recording;

  • Take a photo or do a sketch of your clue or record any sounds so you can identify it later.
  • Identification: If you see any animals, note the size, shape, colour, behaviour, and any markings or features (such as stripes or tail length) which may help you identify it later. 
  • Location: Mark the location where the clue (or animal) was seen. Include as much information as you can, such as the kind of habitat, and whether it is natural or made by humans and why an animal may be using it. Also note how old the clue is (such as a dry scat compared to a fresh one).
  • Distribution: Most field guides and the Atlas of Living Australia offer a distribution map which can assist in determining which species may live in your area. This is especially helpful when determining between similar species.
  • Behaviour: Write some notes about what the animal is doing to try and understand its behaviour. 
  • Context: Record whether the animal is alone or in a group. If there are many animals, how many are there, and are they all the same species? What time of year is it? What are the conditions like including the temperature, wind, rain, or other factors such as smoke haze? Note the date, season, and time of day.

If you would like more detail on how to be a wildlife detective,
see page 26 of the Embrace the Wild book.