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The glossary is a resource of tracking and military terms used in this site and throughout the tactical tracking and general tracking communities. The terms are from various source and many have more than one interpretation. The glossary key provides source information on were the definition was acquired from. There have been quite a few attempts in the tracking community as a whole to try to standardize tracking terms. For instance, Tom Brown Jr. in his book “The Science and Art of Tracking” explains how he is trying to have a universal language for trackers, with the terms and nomenclatures presented in that book as the base. David Scott-Donelan has attempted the same in his work, the book “Tactical Tracking Operations” for the military and law enforcement tracking communities. Therefore, within this glossary I list all relevant terms for both tactical and general trackers, because of all the crossover usage of terms used by both communities of trackers.

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 Process of determining time lapse since sign was made, considering all factors of vegetation damage, rain, sun, and other natural element effects.




Active Track

A hot follow-up conducted while the fugitives are still on the move.


Action Indicator

Foot or body marks left upon the ground indicating that a certain identifiable action has taken place.


Aging Factors




Those areas that would cause a person to take extra steps, change stride, or travel pattern and leave signs more obvious or observable that the normal travel route to trackers. Most often referred to as Natural Barriers and Man Made Barriers.

See Also: Natural Barriers, Man Made Barriers.



Damage to Vegetation usually indicated by color variation contrasting with the surrounding area of the same vegetation, caused by the tearing or crushing of leaf or stem surfaces.



Walking backwards, usually across a road or natural barrier, generally associated with an attempt to confuse sign by showing an incorrect direction of travel.


Broken Twigs

Small particles or twigs which are uniquely broken in such a way as to indicate damage from human footprints.


Brushing Out

Using a branch, grass or clothing, etc . in an attempt to erase tracks from an area, primarily used to conceal numbers in a party, but not their presence.


Box Search

A planned and systematic search for tracks, used when tracks are lost and cannot be found by standard lost spoor procedures. Natural lines which surround the area are identified from the map and systematically searched for evidence of tracks cutting that line.


Blood Spoor


Blood Trail

Spoor or sign left by passage or removal of wounded or dead personnel.




Compressed Areas

Areas of ground surface compressed in the correct size and shape to reflect the impression of a human footprint. Footprint compressions may be found on loose ground surface soil or debris, vegetation both dead and living and even surface moisture on pavement.


Continuity of Sign

The evidence of footprints in proper sequence and spacing along a line of sign that may or may not be unidentifiable.



The natural weeping of vegetation fluids (sap) resulting from footfall damage to the vegetation, also evident in bruising.



To attempt to confuse, disguise or conceal sign by covering with natural substances, brushing out or using a means to cover or make sign difficult to see. Also used to deceive or confuse the direction of travel, or disguise the number of persons in the group.

See Also: Deception.



Any and all methods, techniques or attempts, to counter a trackers active efforts to find, follow or read sign.

See Also: Camouflage, Deception.


Cutting For Sign

An operation used principally along natural barriers to locate human sign.



This is the person who controls a follow-up and is responsible for its tactical decisions, movement , formations and the general conduct of the team. He is always in visual contact with the Tracker and provides the Tracker with close in defense and protection.


Command and Control (or Command Post)

The C2 element of a follow-up is normally static and is the higher formation to which a tracking team reports. It follows the progress of a tracking operation, deploys other teams and assets according to the developing situation, liaison with other organizations, arranges re-supply to the tracking teams but does NOT, repeat NOT interfere with the conduct of the teams on the ground.


Conclusive Evidence

Tracks or other evidence left on the ground which are indisputably left by the fugitives.


Combat Tracking

See; Tactical Tracking 




Attempting to confuse, disguise or conceal sign by walking backward, brushing out, or other means, to deceive or confuse direction of travel, number of persons, or presence of sign.

See Also: Camouflage.


Deliberate Vegetation Damage

Tips or tops of branches, brush or weeds broken by persons as they pass through an area or other intentional damage to mark or blaze a traveled route.



Any disturbance of the natural state of ground surface, i.e. disturbed leaf litter, loose debris, and duff caused by a footprint.


Dislodged (Stick or Rock)

A rock, stick or other object dislodged or moved from its previous position by footprint movement. The dislodged object may be adjacent to the area from which it was moved or not within the prime sign area.



Embedded Object

Any small object, pebble, stone, stick, etc. impressed into soil or vegetation due to footprint compression of the ground surface.


Extended Cast



False Trails

Animal routings or trails or other seeming natural pathways most commonly through grasslands or underbrush, but not having been left by the person or persons being followed. False trails may be the result of either human or animal travel.


Flagged / Flagging

Vegetation such as leaves, branches or grasses turned in the direction of travel. Other types of flagging are the underside of leaf surfaces, small branch entanglement, grasses swept into a rounded form or with tops pointing at an angle in the direction of travel.



See Also; Flank Tracker.


Flank Tracker

There are two flank trackers in a tracking team, one positioned on each side and slightly ahead of the tracker. Their primary function is to protect the Tracker and Controller from ambush and to assist in the search for lost spoor. Their secondary mission is to undertake close-in recon and the identification of "track traps". They must remain in visual contact with the controller at all times unless deployed on wide 360 searches or recon tasks.


Follow-Up Group

This is a group of armed individuals who accompany a tracking team, always in the rear and in radio contact, to provide additional fire power to the tracking team if the tactical situation requires it.


Grass Trail

The shine, flattening, bending, intertwining of grass due to footprints through grassy areas.


Ground sign



Heel Marks

The curved mark, indication or depression on the ground surface made by initial impact of the heel portion of footgear usually a result of the normal walking motion.



The process by which vegetation closes and cures damaged areas caused by human footfalls or passage, and animal or other natural circumstances. This is a primary sign-aging element.



Interlaced Vegetation

Brush, weeds or long grass stems that become intertwined due to footfall and lower leg travel brushing them in the direction of travel.


Initial Cast


Inventing Sign

Seeing sign that is not present, usually because of fatigue and/or a "need" to see it. To fabricate within the "mind's eye." A trackers tendency to try to make footprint characteristics where natural surface imperfections, shadowing, or disturbance occurs.


Initial Commencement Point (ICP)

The point on the ground where a tracking team commences following the spoor. This need not be the site of the incident but could be at another point somewhere along the trail.



 The ability to read the "story" left by the tracks.


Investigative Tracking

Refers to the use of tracking skills to detect track evidence at a given scene, recreate the events there, and meticulously identify various individuals who had been at the scene.




The forceful impact of a footfall or portion thereof that makes a definable impression and generally scatters ground surface often throwing surface materials or debris in the direction of travel.

Also See: Explosion.



Last Known Place (LPK)

A term used to denote the “Last Known Place” where the subject was. This location is often established as the result of tracking efforts.


Light Angle

The correct angle from the viewers’ eye to the sign and to the available light source for the optimum observance of sign.


Line of Sign

The sequential sign indicating a human or animal route of travel.



Scattered debris, rubbish, or trash that may be dropped or deposited in the presence or passage of humans.


Last Definitive Sign



Man-Tracking (Mantracking)

Tracking of human beings and, by extension their devices, such as vehicles.


Man Made Barriers

Those man-made areas such as roads, fence lines, edges of fields, ditches, etc. which can interrupt human passage or cause change of stride, exaggerated or additional footprint sign that will be more easily seen by trackers.





Natural Barriers

Those naturally created areas such as stream beds, banks, hill sides, brush lines or other changes in vegetation, or ground surfaces that generally can interrupt human passage, or cause change of stride, exaggerated or additional footprint sign that will be more easily seen by trackers.



Place Last Seen (PLS)

The place where witnesses or evidence indicates the subject was last seen.


Perimeter Cut

A term associated with sign cutting operation of looking for sign in relation to a known point or object, often the PLS or LKP. Perimeter cuts are used to limit or eliminate search areas by looking (or cutting) for sign around the perimeter of the search area.


Point Person

One member of the three person tracking team described graphically as the top point of the triangle formation. This person is responsible for print identification, determining the prime sign area, and tracking stick location of the "next" print focus in the step-by-step process.


Prime Sign Area

The area of correct size and location in relation to the other sign, in which the next print should be located.




This word is used as an alternative to "fugitive", "target", or "the pursued."



Sand Trap

Usually, open surface soft dirt areas, occurring naturally or man-made, which by their nature will impress, depress or compress easily leaving obvious footfall evidence.

See Also: Track Trap.


Sent Picture


Scuff Mark

The mark or sign caused by footfalls contacting firm ground surfaces and disturbing the surface indicating movement in a determinable direction of travel.


Sign Cutting

The skill of locating, following and identifying evidence of human presence or passage. A tracking operation used principally along natural and man-made barriers to locate human sign and/or that operation used in conjunction with multiple team operations to advance the prime sign in an organized and regimented manner.

See Also: Man Made Barriers, Natural Barriers.


Sign Cutting Stick

A stick or other suitable object, used by some trackers as an aid for measuring, marking and locating prime sign areas.


Stride interval

A tracking measurement from tip of toe of one normal walking step to back of heel of the next successive step. This measurement is commonly associated with the tracking stick and used to locate the next footprint in the prime sign area.



 The light reflection from human footprint damage or compression of ground surfaces. Grasses and loose debris are compressed or compacted together uniformly causing the reflection of light from a surface within the compressed or damaged area.



All evidence, not limited to footprints of a persons presents or passage.


Sign Passage

Evidence of a person's passage.

See Also: Sign.


Signature Track

Footprint evidence clearly displaying unique characteristics so as to be unmistakably identifiable as the footwear being followed.



Spoor means a set of tracks laid upon the ground and visible to a tracker. For example, "following the spoor." Spoor is totally interchangeable with the words "tracks", "trail", and "set of prints".


Sustaining Evidence

Evidence left on the ground which is inconclusive in itself but taken into account with other evidence is considered as likely to have been left by the quarry.


Spoor Separation Point

A point on the ground where the fugitive group splits up into more than one distinct group.



Is a individual trained to employ aggressive and interdisciplinary (spoor/sign awareness, field craft, and tactics) approach to man-tracking and military style scouting and patrolling.


Step-by-Step Tracking

Universally accepted method of training personnel to detect, interpret, and follow very subtle track evidence. This method of tracking involves finding and analyzing the area of every footstep in a given line of tracks.



Tracker Burnout

The condition in which a tracker is totally fatigued to the point of losing concentration, focus and ability to be mission effective.


Trackers Blindness

A trackers physical condition usually caused by extreme eyestrain and evidenced by the inability to recognize obvious sign and/or creating sign where there is none, and/or the inability to determine the difference between possibilities and probabilities of sign.


Track Picture



Soil, debris, green chlorophyll (vegetation) or other evidence impacted on footgear in one footfall and carried forward to the next and possibility succeeding footprints and deposited as a part of that footfall impression.


Track Trap

An area occurring naturally or specifically prepared; such as a sand trap, to capture the footprint evidence of the presence or passage of a person.

See Also: Sand Trap.


Tracking Team

When tracking or conducting a follow-up of armed and dangerous fugitives, a four-man tracking team is employed. A Tracking Team consists of a tracker, two Flank Trackers and a controller. It is a trained, self-contained tactical unit which provides its own protection, moves in various formations according to the situation, terrain and vegetation conditions. It is capable of confronting and overcoming most tactical problems it may face whilst deployed on a follow-up. Teams may never be smaller then two persons for mutual security.



The tracker is a member of a tracking team who is physically looking for and following a set of tracks. * NOTE: A tracker is NOT, and at no time should be used as, a "Point Man". His sole task is to search for and follow the spoor.


Three-sixty (360)

When involved in lost spoor procedures, trackers, under the direction of the controller, systematically move round in a circle in an attempt to locate the lost tracks. This circle is known as a three-sixty, after the 360 degrees in a circle.


Time and Distance Gap (T/D Gap)

The theoretical distance which fugitives could move over the ground between the time of the incident and the time which the trackers arrive to commence a follow-up.



Refers to the art and science of detecting, interpreting, following, and preserving the evidence of the presence or passage of any animal or thing.



The act of following any given set of tracks to its conclusion.


Tactical Tracking

This is the relentless, aggressive, team based approach to tracking armed and dangerous quarry, which has been developed and refined in military and police operations worldwide.


Technical Tracker

A tracker who has learned a set of skills and can apply those skills within the context in which they were learned.


Top Sign


Tracking Stick

Also See: Sign Cutting Stick.



Vegetation Damage

Broken, abraded or otherwise damaged leaves, stems or branches of plants often described by trackers as bruising, smashing, crushing, splitting or other damage caused by the deliberate or inadvertent footfall or stepping resulting from the presence or passage of a person.


Visual Tracker

A term used when in conjunction with a tracking group that also has a tracking dog. Dogs are scent trackers, hence the title visual tracker for the human tracker.











THIS PAGE LAST UPDATED: Friday, January 17, 2003 03:05:43 PM .

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