Please see left a representation of what a Thylacine print should look like. Note that the toes should face slightly inwards and look for the presence of dermal ridges in the pads. The vast majority of prints that we see are dog prints or wombat prints. There are many wild or feral dogs in the wilds of Tasmania and other parts of Australia.
According to Pocock (1926), as sited in the great thylacine reference site, Thylacine Museum, The thylacine is digitigrade, meaning it normally walks on its toes. The feet of the thylacine differ significantly from those of dasyurids (Pocock 1926).
The pads of the feet are granulated rather than striated. The front foot (manus) has a small, largely non-functional thumb (pollex) which sometimes (although rarely) will leave an imprint in tracks made in soft mud. Unlike those of a dog, the thylacine's toes have no webbing between them. In canids, this webbing serves to hold the digits together when running. In the thylacine, there is a fusion of the three interdigital pads to form a single, tri-lobed plantar pad.
All the large dasyurids, Thylacine included, have very similar feet. One rock solid feature is the ratio of the size of individual planter pad of 6 to 7:1. This ratio holds for Eastern Quoll, Spotted-tailed Quoll, Tasmanian Devil and Thylacine in dehydrated and, as far as I can tell, fresh feet. The canid and felid equivalent falls between 2 and 3:1 (Mooney, pers comms, 1995)
Another characteristic of animal feet is the axis of the toes. On a canid or felid foot the junction is just behind the planter pad - as in the top image immediately below.
Whereas with the dasyurid the axis junction is almost the length of the planter behind as is seen with the thylacine print lower left and the devil print lower right. (Mooney 1995)
At the Thylacine Research Unit (TRU), we are frequently approached by enthusiasts and researchers eager to share footprint casts, images, and other potential evidence related to the elusive thylacine. However, it's essential to shed light on the reality that the overwhelming majority of these prints are easily identifiable as canine footprints, often belonging to wild dogs inhabiting even the most remote corners of Tasmania. It's a surprising revelation for many, highlighting the existence of these creatures in unexpected places.
Additionally, our evaluations often reveal prints from other native inhabitants, such as wombats and various marsupials, particularly macropods. The enthusiasm to contribute to thylacine research is commendable, yet it's crucial to distinguish between different animal tracks to avoid potential misinterpretations.
Among the thousands of prints we've scrutinized, only a small handful have been considered as potentially belonging to the thylacine. In these rare instances, plaster casts were presented to us, adding a layer of complexity to our analysis. The challenge lies in determining the age of these prints, a factor that significantly influences the reliability of the evidence. Despite the hurdles, our commitment to thorough examination remains unwavering as we continue to sift through the diverse array of submissions to uncover genuine thylacine-related evidence.
Navigating the Maze of Footprints: A Closer Look at Our Findings
Have a footprint you would like us to look at?
At the Thylacine Research Unit (TRU), we welcome submissions of footprints from individuals eager to contribute to the ongoing exploration of thylacine-related evidence. However, it's important to note that, based on our extensive experience, approximately 99% of the submissions we receive are likely not indicative of thylacine tracks.
All submissions are treated with the utmost confidentiality, and we assure contributors that we will not use or reproduce their prints without explicit permission. Our assessment process is a meticulous one, involving the collective expertise of at least two, if not all three, TRU members.
For a thorough evaluation, we request that the owner of the print provides original, unaltered photos. Whenever possible, these images should include a scale for accurate measurement. Additionally, crucial details such as the time, date, and approximate location of the print's discovery (e.g., Mt Field National Park or the closest suburb) are essential for our assessment.
Before sending any images, we kindly request contributors to reach out via email for further instructions. It's worth noting that email correspondence may be limited by file size restrictions, so we appreciate your understanding and cooperation in this regard.
Your participation is invaluable to our research, and we look forward to the possibility of uncovering genuine thylacine-related evidence together.