On a Jungle Safari, learn to recognize the Tiger Pugmarks!! – WildTrails | The One-Stop Destination for all your Wildlife Holidays
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On a Jungle Safari, learn to recognize the Tiger Pugmarks!!

Tiger pugmark WildTrails

If you are planning a jungle safari, or if you are on a tiger trail, understanding tiger pugmarks is real fun, trying to see where it went, in what direction and how fresh it is will add different dimensions to your safari experience. You might or might not see a Tiger but you are sure to run into new pugmarks all over the trail. Studying them and understanding them is lot more fun. Not just that, recognizing & understanding Tiger pugmarks might even lead to spot those elusive tigers for sure.

Read the article, understand their pugmarks and how it  is and learn how to get lot more info just by the look of it and be a Pro at the Safari 🙂

(Wish they give a class before the Safari and explain all these including Dos & Don’ts like they do in the US or elsewhere in the world)


What’s a Pugmark?

Pugmark is the term used to refer to the footprint of most animals. “Pug” actually comes from our Hindi and means foot (Sanskrit पद् “pad”). Every individual animal species has a distinct pugmark and as such is used for identification.

Tiger Pugmark WildTrails

Pugmarks are also used for tracking rogue animals which may be a danger to mankind or even to themselves because of injuries etc. It is possible to make an accurate identification of species, sex, age and physical condition of an animal by those trained in the field.


Is studying pugmarks, an art or a science?

Reading pugmarks is an art that had once been perfected by professional trackers known as shikaris during the heydays of tiger hunting in colonial India. Unfortunately, the skills of trackers were never documented and were practiced only as an art and not as a science. The knowledge was either acquired through practical experience in the field or was passed down from father to son


Characteristics of a Tiger Pugmark

A tiger’s paw or its pugmark can be divided into a pad and four toes.

Tiger Pugmark WildTrails

The pad is 3-lobed at the rear end (as shown in the figure)

A fifth toe commonly called the dewclaw, is placed high and can be found only on the front limbs.

Ordinarily, the dewclaw does not touch the ground and hence you don’t see this in the pugmark left by the Tiger.

Dew claws are retractable and are part of the tiger’s weaponry.

Like human Hands with our left & right middle finger being the longest, so are tiger paws too [check out the picture]


How do you measure a Tiger’s pugmark?

You use something called PML & PMB to measure Pugmarks and also you use that to draw many conclusions on the sex of the animal and also whether they are the front legs or the hind legs and also you can find out whether the animal is injured or not.

Tiger Pugmark WildTrails

Pugmark Length (PML) is the measurement from the tip of the farthest toe to the base of the pad along the line of walk.

Pugmark Breadth (PMB) is the measurement between the outer edges of the first and last toe



How to differentiate whether the pugmark is of a front paw or a hind paw?

Front pugmarks are larger than hind pugmarks

The front one, the forward most points of the two middle toes are almost at the same level.

Tiger Pugmark WildTrails

The hind one, the forward most points of the two middle toes are distinctly at different levels.



Male Tiger or a Female Tiger?

Yes you can even makeout whether the pugmark is left by a Tiger or a Tigress too!!

male versus female tiger pugmark. tiger versus tigress pugmark

In male tigers, the PMB of the front pug is mostly greater than its PML.

The pugmark of a male almost fits into a square, while the pugmark of a female fits into a rectangle.

The shape of toes in a male is more rounded, while the shape of toes in a female is elongated.

In a male, the difference between PML and PMB is less than 1.5 cms, while for a female, the difference between PML and PMB is more than 1.5 cms (almost square versus almost rectangle)


Can you find out a Tiger is injured from its pugmarks?

Absolutely yes but you need to be an expert at this to find that out. Ameturers luke us cannot but yes, the Pros can easily.

Since front legs/paws are used for killing prey, injuries if any, are sustained on the front paws. Studying closely the front pugmarks might help to decide whether the tiger is injured or not.

[Unfortunately man caused injuries could be sustained on any of the pugs and hence tough to find then]


So where to search for tiger pugmark while at Safari?

While on the safari, keep looking for pugmarks in the areas such as:

Dusty or damp ground,

Forest paths and roads,

Near water holes

River and stream beds etc

If you can’t see them yourself, ask your naturalist to show them. Ask him whether they are male or female and also see whether you can identify cubs pugmarks (usually much smaller and you will also always see tigress pugmarks along with it) and also ask him how fresh they are.

You will surely see the pugmarks and many a times you can feel the freshness of it  (how well the shape is still retained) and many a times you might get lucky if you follow the pugmarks and maybe waiting there for quite sometime say near the last pugmark might enable you to see the tiger say it might just emerge out from bushes!!!



Where to get  such Tiger Safaris?

In the South, Nagarhole (Kabini & Coorg) & Bandipur are famous for their tigers and have one of the highest densities as well as the number of tigers in the country (both places are approximately 230 kms south of Bangalore). You could also get onto jungle Safari in Bhadra Tiger Reserve (280 kms from Bangalore) or Biligiri Rangaswamy Tiger Reserve (BRT or k-gudi) which is approx 200 kms from Bangalore or Dandeli-Anshi (Kali) Tiger Reserve (closer to Pune and Hubli) or you could even get to see them in Mudumalai or Sathyamangalam Tiger reserves (are also very close to Bangalore). In Central India, you have Tadoba, Bandhavgarh, Pench, Panna etc and in the North you have Jim Corbett, Ranthambore and many more.



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PS: Please be a responsible wildlife tourist; No littering, No sounds, No feeding, no getting down from the safari jeep (when on safari), No phone calls. Remember that we are visiting their home and when we are there, let’s follow their rules.

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