This dynamic hot-linked glossary was originally populated with permission from Bob Brady. This is now a joint effort between GTA and Bob Brady, author of the Snohomish SAR website.


AGING: Process of determining time laps since sign was made, considering all factors of vegetation damage, rain, sun and other natural elements effects.  AGING FACTORS HI-LEVEL; AGING FACTORS DETAILED


BACKING: 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.


BARRIERS: A tracking term used to describe those areas that would cause a person to take extra steps, change stride, walk around or over and leave sign usually more obvious or observable than the usual sign left behind. Most often referred to as natural barriers and man made barriers.


BRUISING: Footprint damage to vegetation usually indicated by color change caused by the tearing or crushing of leaf or stem surfaces.



BRUSHING OUT: Using a branch, grass or clothing, etc . in an attempt to erase tracks from an area.



CAMOUFLAGE: 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.



COMPRESSED AREAS: Ground surfaces compressed in the correct size and shape to reflect the impression of a 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 that may not be identifiable in proper sequence, age and spacing that form a continuing sign line.



COUNTER-TRACKING: Any and all methods, techniques or attempts (see deception, camouflage), to counter a trackers efforts to find, follow or read sign.


CRYING: The natural weeping of Vegetation fluids (sap) resulting from footprint damage to the vegetation.



CUTTING FOR SIGN: An operation used principally along natural barriers to locate human sign.


DECEPTION: (Camouflage) 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.


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 a travled route.


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


DISLODGED ROCK OR STICK: 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.


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 or 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.



FLANKERS: The two members, one to the right and one left, just behind a point person that make up a three person tracking team.



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



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



HEALING: The process by which vegetation cures the damaged areas caused by walking on or through vegetation. Used to age sign.


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


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.


TOE DIGS: A forceful impact of a footprint or portion thereof that makes a definable impression and generally scatters ground surface debris in the direction of travel


LAST KNOWN PLACE (LKP): The term used by SAR to denote the “Last Known Place” where the subject was. This location is often established as the result of tracking efforts.


LIGHT ANGLE: The position of the tracker’s eye in relation to the sign and the available light source.



LINE OF SIGN: The sequential sign indicating a route of travel.



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


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 term used by SAR to denote the place where witnesses last saw the person.



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 where the next footprint or sign should appear, within the 60 degree arc, in front of the tip of the point person’s sign cut stick when the stick is properly “set-up” and on the last identified footprint.


SAND TRAP: Usually open surface soft dirt areas, occurring naturally or man-made, which by there nature will easily leave obvious footprint evidence.



SCUFF MARK: The damage caused by footprints contacting firm surfaces and either depositing footgear or distributing the surface from the contact.



SHINE: 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.



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



SIGN CUTTING: 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 manner.



SIGN PASSAGE: See SIGN. Evidence of a person’s passage.



SIGN CUTTING STICK: A stick or other suitable object, used by knowledgeable trackers as an aid for measuring, marking, and locating prime sign areas.



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



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.



TOE DIGS: The indented mark or sign of exertion evidenced by a normal walking motion. It is the result of the natural bending or flexing of the foot and footgear as the body weight is thrust forward from the ball of the foot and tip of the toe onto the next step.

TRACKING STICK: (see Sign Cut Stick) A stick or other suitable object, used by knowledgeable trackers as an aid for measuring, marking, and locating prime sign areas.



TRACKING TEAM: A three-person team, each with specific functions, coordinating and communicating in working a tracking mission.



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.


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


TRACKER’S 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 so sign.



TRANSFER: Soil, debris, vegetation, or other evidence impacted on footgear in one footprint and carried forward to the next and possibly succeeding footprints and deposited as a part of that footprint evidence.


VEGETATION DAMAGE: Broken, abraded or otherwise damaged leaves, stems or branches of plants often described by trackers as brusing, smashing, smooshing, splitting, or other damage caused by the deliberate or inadvertent stepping on vegetation.


Be Sociable, Share!