As a result of the hunter-gatherer adaptation, the human mind evolved the abilities to develop a complex language, to socialise, to love, to practise religion, to invent technology and to create science and art. Of the many complex abilities of the human intellect, it is possible that the development of the art of tracking played a significant role in the evolution of the scientific faculty. In this view, creative science (in the form of modern tracking ) may have originated at the same time, or soon after the appearance of a.m. Homo sapiens. Alternatively creative science may have originated just before or at the same time as the appearance of art. Significantly the earliest evidence of tracking lies in the form of footprints in prehistoric art.
. (The Art of Tracking: The Origin of Science ~ Louis Liebenberg)
I arrived with the sheep still on the island and I started scanning for tracks. First step is to look within the water itself as it is fairly clear with a clay bottom layer. This is a place where few people will look, but it is still sand/clay and any prints will be visible for days, especially in stagnant water. I soon found dog tracks up to a certain depth ... but no sheep tracks, so I knew the sheep entered the dam somewhere else.
Soon I picked up dog tracks on the dam bank, not very clear but they were there. At the far end of the dam I found the spot where the sheep entered the dam, with all the dog tracks hitting the water with force. From there on it was easy to back track the running sheep, through heavy bush and rock country, up to the paddock where it jumped a fence. I found a place on the fence line that looked suspect and entered the paddock from the high ground, as domesticated animals prefer that during the night. Soon I picked up the tracks of the running sheep and the tracks hit the fence exactly where I suspected the jump.
During the tracking process I found the carcass of a lamb taken a few days earlier. Only the skeleton left and freshly chewed heavy bones from the night before ... I set up the game camera, hoping they'll return the next few days ... although I know they'll spook the sheep again to get them out of the paddock.
Experience tells me that domesticated dogs will maul sheep anywhere and everywhere. Dingo crosses will maul a few, but drag a carcass out of view and eat it in a paddock if there's now way out. A dingo will make a clean kill and clean up a carcass from the back end ... stay away for four days before returning.
The tracks tell me it's two dogs ... a mature one and a younger one ... explains the reluctance to enter the water. Hopefully the camera will complete the whole story.
Tracks can tell you a million things, things that you can never pick up or see in real life during daylight hours. Tracks tell stories, it tells you all about the animal as if it's happening right before your eyes. When one tracks, you become whatever you're tracking, you're predicting the movement especially if you know the habits and patterns of the one you're tracking.
At one stage I found a jelly-like substance on last nights tracks, I picked it up and smelled it ... it looked like eye matter to me ... I scanned around and found the old carcass ... few days old. I'm sure it was a crow or other bird that picked the eyes out and sat in the tree above. There are all kinds of signs that'll tell stories, even if most of it was washed away by the rain of the night before ...
Tracking is not something you do only when you're looking for something or trying to fill in the gaps in a half told story. Tracking is something you need to do every single day of your life.
You can look at the tracks of your animals in your paddock. The vehicle and foot prints at your front gate. If I go for a run, I run on certain spots ... some easy and some hard, just so that I can track it back on my return. I do the same on a horse ... riding out ... riding back I see how much I can see, how much I can't see.
I watch my daughters go for a run and later I'll go out on a horse or for a run myself and I see how much I can pick up in tracks. I memorise the shoe and hoof patterns of my horses, the foot prints of my dogs, the tyre prints of our vehicles. When you open your gate, you'll know if something else or someone else were at your front gate.
If you loose your horse for some reason ... can you track it? If your dog chases after something ... can you track it? If you get lost, would you recognise your own footprints? My kids go for runs in very remote areas, I need to know what their shoe tracks look like, just in case ....
Tracking is a very mathematical process and making sense of various patterns within the 'chaos' of Nature, which is the most normal thing there is, takes practice, daily practice.
Personally I love the stories all kinds of spoor tell. Sometimes I go for a run or a ride and I'll cross the spoor of something ... I get lost in the mathematical scientific process of tracking ... I become the spoor and I predict and I move ahead, more often to make a mistake ... only to circle back and look at other options. A very similar process as towards the final solution of the scientific process.