Developing Wildlife Identification Skills
Developing wildlife identification skills is a basic requirement for hunters. Knowing the key characteristics of animals will help you distinguish between similar species and between the male and female of the same species. Mistakes in identification can lead to illegal harvest of game or non-game animals. To identify game properly, you must learn to recognize key characteristics of the animal you’re hunting.
Identifying animals accurately is a skill that improves with experience. It can be difficult, especially when you must observe quickly or when the differences between animals are subtle. Sometimes the difference between animals in the same species is only the size of their ears or distinctive coloring. Scat and tracks provide additional clues for identifying species.
Many resources are available for learning about wildlife. Good sources are books, television shows featuring hunting and nature topics, and websites such as that of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
It is common to categorize wild animals into groups that are similar in some way; for example:
- Large mammals
- Small mammals
- Upland birds
- Waterfowl and wetland birds
- Birds of prey
Within each of the groups above, species may be “threatened” or “endangered.”
- Some species are protected from hunting because their numbers are small and they produce no surplus to harvest. The bald eagle and spectacled eider are examples of protected species.
- Animals that are labeled “threatened” or “endangered” are protected by law.