The purpose of the Trailing Evaluation is to assess the tracker’s ability to follow a individual animal’s (or group of animals) spoor across the landscape, and to evaluate the tracker’s ability to interpret behavior of the animal(s) on the trail and to locate that specific animal or group. Locating the animal involves finding, approaching to within a reasonable distance, observing and exiting the area without alerting the animal to the tracker’s presence. The species followed during an evaluation depends on the species available at the venue with consideration given to the difficulty of the substrate and terrain. Animals commonly followed include all of the large North American ungulates(deer, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, feral hogs ect.) as well as large carnivores (bears, mountain lions and wolves). Human trails are occasionally used for Level I candidates or in combination with animal trails when there are venue or weather constraints.
Five aspects are evaluated:
(1) Spoor recognition is the ability of the tracker to recognize and follow spoor at a reasonable speed. Indicators may include: Not looking down in front of feet, but looking for signs five to ten meters ahead; Moving at a steady rate, not in stop-start manner; Recognizing signs in grass or hard substrate; Recognizing when there are no signs, and when no longer on trail; Ability to recognize sign after losing spoor.
(2) Spoor anticipation is the ability of the tracker to anticipate where the animal was going and therefore where he or she will find the spoor further ahead. Indicators may include: Looking well ahead, reading the terrain to look for most probable route; Interpreting behavior from tracks; Using knowledge of terrain (water, feeding areas, clearings) to predict movements of the animal; Not over-cautious (too slow), but not too confident (too fast); Anticipating where to find tracks after losing spoor.
(3) Anticipation of dangerous situations is the ability of the tracker to read the terrain and be aware of hazardous situations and potentially harmful encounters. In North America a dangerous situation may include but is not limited to: surprising a bear at close range; carnivores protecting a carcass; large ungulates protecting calves or bears with cubs; thickets of poison ivy/oak or other poisonous plants; ticks; extremely steep terrain. Indicators may include: Awareness of wind direction; Knowledge of behavior, e.g. animals resting at mid-day; Animal behavior indicating danger, time of year for calving or rut activity; Avoiding danger by leaving the spoor and picking up the spoor further ahead; Determine the position of dangerous animals without putting him or her self at risk.
(4) Alertness is the ability of the tracker to spot animals before the animals spot him or her. Indicators may include: Looking well ahead for signs of danger; Stopping to listen when necessary; Awareness of warning signs, alarm calls and smells; Awareness of signs of other animals; Seeing the animal before it sees the tracker.
(5) Stealth is the ability to approach animals without being detected by the animals and maintaining a low level of disturbance in the field. Indicators may include: Minimizing noise levels (talking vs. hand signals, etc.); Low impact on other animals; Use of cover to approach animal and exit the area; Appropriate proximity to animal(close enough to observe, but not too close to alert/disturb); Maintain animal’s unawareness to trackers presence.
Basic Requirements and skill sets:
Trailing I Certificate: The candidate must be a fair systematic tracker and be able to track humans or large animals. He or she must have a fair ability to judge the age of spoor. To qualify for the Trailing I certificate the candidate must obtain 70% on the Trailing of a human or large mammal spoor.
Trailing II Certificate: The candidate must be a good systematic tracker and be able to track large animals. He or she must have a fair ability to judge the age of spoor. To qualify for the Trailing II certificate the candidate must obtain 80% for the Trailing of a large mammal spoor.
Trailing III and Trailing IV Certificates: The candidate must be a good systematic tracker and be able to track medium or large animals. He or she must have a fair ability to judge the age of spoor. To qualify for the Trailing III certificate the candidate must obtain 90% on the Trailing of a medium or large mammal spoor. To qualify for the Trailing IV certificate the candidate must obtain 100% on the Trailing of a medium or large mammal spoor.
Trailing Specialist Certificate: The Trailing Specialist evaluation is done in varying (easy, difficult and very difficult) terrain on an animal that is difficult to follow, and must be conducted by both an Evaluator and an External Evaluator. The canadite must be a good speculative tracker: This includes the ability to predict where spoor will be found beyond the immediate area, i.e. beyond the vicinity directly ahead of the tracker. He or she must be good at judging the age of spoor and must be able to detect signs of stress or the location of carcasses from spoor. The Trailing Specialist must obtain 100% on the Trailing of a difficult animal spoor.