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The Ultimate Mammals Homeschool Nature Study Using Outdoor Hour Challenges

You can enjoy a simple mammals homeschool nature study with these resources we have gathered for you to use in your own backyard. It is such a delight to study and learn about these beautiful creatures!

NOTE: All of the mammals homeschool nature study resources listed are available as an Outdoor Hour Challenge in our Homeschool Nature Study membership. If you have a membership, you will be able to pull up the Outdoor Hour Challenge curriculum and print any notebook pages, coloring pages, or other printables for your mammals nature study.

Wondering how to start? Grab our FREE Getting Started with Homeschool Nature Study Guide!

Mammals Homeschool Nature Study Using Outdoor Hour Challenges (in Nature Study Membership)

  • Animal Tracks Hunt – Mammals Outdoor Hour Challenge
  • Bats – Summer course
  • Bear – Forest Fun course
  • Beavers
  • Cats – Spring course
  • Cattle and Deer – Winter Continues course
  • Chipmunks – Autumn course (An example of a chipmunks and squirrel study with Homeschool Nature Study here)
  • Coyote – High Desert course
  • Elk – High Desert ebook
  • Goats – More Spring Nature Course
  • Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel – High Desert course
  • Horses – Autumn course
  • Moose – Forest Fun course
  • Mountain Lion – High Desert course
  • Mouse – More Summer course
  • Muskrat – Creepy Things course
You can enjoy a simple mammals homeschool nature study with these resources we have gathered for you to use in your own backyard.
  • Pig – Autumn Continues course
  • Pocket Gopher – High Desert course
  • Porcupine – Forest Fun course
  • Rabbits
  • Raccoons – Summer course
  • Rats
  • River Otter – High Desert course
  • Sheep – More Winter course
  • Skunks – Summer course
  • Skunks and Badgers
  • Squirrels and Squirrels with Rodent Notebooking Page
  • Winter Mammals from Winter Wednesday course
  • Winter Mammals Hiberation – Winter Wednesday course
  • Winter Mammal Tracks – Winter course
  • Wolf, Fox, and Dog
  • Woodchuck, Groundhog, Prairie Dog, and Marmot
We’re starting with a favorite topic, black bears! Enjoy a bear nature study in your homeschool with this Outdoor Hour Challenge and bring the Handbook of Nature Study to Life in your homeschool.

Additional Mammal Homeschool Activities Included with Membership

  • Mammal Outdoor Hour Challenge Notebook Page
  • Mammal notebook page
  • Running List of Mammals printable notebook page
  • Looking for Signs and Tracks
  • Mammal nature study journal idea printable. Mammals at the zoo.
homeschool nature study membership for families

Join The Homeschool Nature Study Membership for Year Round Support

Can you believe all of these mammals resources you will find in membership? You will also find a continuing series on mammals plus all the Outdoor Hour Challenges for nature study in our Homeschool Nature Study membership. There are 25+ continuing courses with matching Outdoor Hour curriculum that will bring the Handbook of Nature Study to life in your homeschool! In addition, there is an interactive monthly calendar with daily nature study prompt – all at your fingertips!

first published 2011 by Barb and updated by Tricia 2022

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January Nature Study – New Printables, Plan, and Planner Page

I don’t know about you but I’m so ready for a fresh start this month. December has been a busy month and the only formal nature study lesson I completed was the first day of winter activity. We took a very long walk in the woods even with snowy trails and it reminded me that I need to be more intentional about getting outside every week with a focus. (You can read my entry on Focus and Consistency from the archives for a little inspiration if you need it.)

So, making a fresh start in January will be easier with a little pre-planning. If you’re a member, you have a schedule and a planning page in your printables library. For everyone else, the January plan is printed below. We’ll mostly be working in the Winter Nature Study Continues ebook over the next couple of months.

My Winter Weather Notebook Page

01/01/21 Winter Fun – Weather Study – 2 printables from the Member’s Library

01/08/21 Cattle and Deer Nature Study – Winter Nature Study Continues ebook

01/15/21 Feldspar Rock Nature Study – Winter Nature Study Continues ebook

01/22/21 Orion Constellation Study – Winter Nature Study Continues ebook

01/29/21 Crystals Nature Study – Winter Nature Study Continues ebook

Animal Tracks Notebook Page

Running LIst notebook pageNew Printables for Members

  1. Animal Tracks Notebook Page: This time of the year is a fantastic time to get outdoors to look for animal tracks. On a recent hike we spotted some large elk tracks in the snow and mud. We frequently have squirrel tracks, goose tracks, raccoon tracks, and dog tracks around our yard. Have you spotted some signs of animals in your neighborhood? Use this notebook page to make a sketch of the track. Older students may wish to try to make them actual size and then use a field guide to identify which animal made the tracks.


  1. Running List Notebook Page: We’ve often used the simple practice of list making to keep a record of our nature observations. This set of pages gives you a variety of styles to choose from to make lists of a particular subject like birds, trees, butterflies, etc. Or you can use a running list notebook page to record things you observe in a particular place. We often would make lists while on vacation. See the samples below.

Tracks Scats and Signs Nature Book ClubYou may be interested in viewing this post from my archives: Winter Mammal Study- Tracks, Scat, and Signs. This thorough post will give you plenty of ideas for using the Animal Tracks notebook page with your family.

Printables for Members Button

Click the graphic above to view the complete list of printables available as part of an Ultimate Naturalist Library membership.


January 2021 nature planner page

Members also have access to the Nature Planner pages in their library. Print out this month’s page and use it to stimulate your weekly nature study time.


Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020

If you’d like to have access to the member’s printables and the newsletter archive, I invite you to join with an Ultimate Naturalist Library membership. Your membership will be valid for one year.

You can use the discount code NATURE5 to receive $5 off your Ultimate Naturalist Library membership.





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Outdoor Hour Challenge Winter Mammal Study – Looking for Signs and Tracks

Tracking mammals in the winter can be a fascinating nature study experience. If you have snow, ice, mud, or other conditions, it may make it easier to spot tracks. Look for and then follow any tracks you find. Examine them carefully, noting the size and shape of the tracks.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Winter Mammals Looking for Signs and Tracks

Read the original challenge here: Outdoor Hour Challenge – Winter Mammal Study.

Make sure to note the links and additional resources suggested for your mammal study. If you want to pick a particular mammal to study this week, there’s a link to a printable Mammal Notebook Page within the challenge.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Mammal Nature Study Index @handbookofnaturestudy

Check the Handbook of Nature Study index for your mammal or use the mammal tab at the top of my website to see if there’s an archived Outdoor Hour Challenge for you to use in your study.

Winter Nature Study ebook @handbookofnaturestudy

Please note this challenge is found in the Winter Series ebook found in the Ultimate Naturalist Library membership. Log into your membership and scroll down to the ebook download link. Included in the ebook, there’s a custom notebook page for this challenge.

OHC Plan 18 to 19 Join Us

You can find the complete plan for this school year in all levels of membership here on the Handbook of Nature Study. Also, if you have an Ultimate or Journey level membership, there’s a file in your library that has all of this year’s notebook pages in one file.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Signs of Winter Mammals

Please note this is the very last Winter Wednesday challenge from the ebook and next week we’ll be moving on to the Learning About Birds with the Outdoor Hour Challenge ebook. You can get a copy with your Ultimate Naturalist Membership. Use the discount code NATURE5 to receive $5 off an Ultimate Naturalist Membership.


Winter Mammal Study Tracks @handbookofnaturestudy

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Signs of Winter Mammals

From the Archives and the Winter Wednesday ebook

I’m really looking forward to the nature challenge this week! I’ve spent a lot of time this winter following and photographing animal tracks in the mud and snow, and now I want to slow down and really try to identify who is making these tracks.

You’ll find a fantastic online resource in the archive link to a website to use along with your field guide. I would love to hear which animals you’ve found tracks for this winter.

Nature Book Club Mammals Feb 2018

I just posted a review and activity here on my blog to go along with the book Tracks, Scat, and Signs and I would love for you to read it. It’s part of the Nature Book Club link-up for February and if you click over to read that entry, you’ll find even more resources for studying small mammals from a fantastic group of bloggers from all over the world. Don’t miss the chance to receive a Kid’s Spring Ecojournal!

If you’re interested in seeing how our family completed this challenge way back in time, here’s a blog entry from the archives: Another Glorious Winter Walk Searching For Mammals.

Winter Mammal Notebook Page

If you have access to the Winter Wednesday ebook in the Ultimate Naturalist Library, there’s a custom notebook page available to use as a follow up to your nature study.

Readers Digest North American Wildlife book review @handbookofnaturestudy

Another resource that I love and use all the time is the North American Wildlife book from Reader’s Digest. I wrote a review of this book in 2015 that shows how beneficial it is as a supplement to the Handbook of Nature Study.


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Winter Mammal Study – Tracks, Scat, and Signs

Tracks Scats and Signs Nature Book Club

It’s another month of nature book fun here on the Handbook of Nature Study. Last month we were learning about birds using the fantastic resource, Backyard Birds. This month I’m again joining with the same group of bloggers for another fun nature topic: small mammals!  We’ll all share a book and activities that go along with that theme.  You can use the links at the bottom of this post to see all of our books/activities.


Nature Book Club Mammals Feb 2018

Tracks, Scats, and Signs: So many people have this book on their shelf but have never actually used it for their nature study.  (It’s part of the Fun With Nature Take Along Guide as well!) I’m hoping to help you use the fantastic information in this book to get outside and look for some signs of animals in your yard and neighborhood.  Look for the book at your local library!

(Note there are affiliate links in this post)

Simple Idea for Using Tracks, Scats and Signs for Your Nature Study

  • Read the book Tracks, Scats and Signs with your family before you go on a nature walk. Keep it light and enjoy the words and illustrations, noting any animals you may have in your local area. Each topic in this book shows an illustration of the tracks and the scat that each animal makes so you know what to look for during your outdoor time.  You will need to explain the word “scat” to younger children; expect giggles as they realize it’s just a fancy word for animal poop. Along with each selection, there’s a short description of where to look for each animal and a little bit about their behavior.


tracks in the snow


  • Take a nature walk looking for tracks, scat, and signs. We were always excited when we found animal tracks in the snow, mud, or ice!  Take photos of any animal tracks you find as you explore.  You may wish to bring along a ruler to measure the size of the animal tracks you find for future reference.  Take a few minutes to use your imagination about who made the tracks and what they were doing.
  • When you get back home, make a nature journal entry recording any observations you have from your nature walk. I have used the illustrations in the Tracks, Scats, and Signs book to help me draw the tracks and scat into my own nature journal.

elk scat

I’ve written a few Outdoor Hour Challenges that you could use along with the Tracks, Scats and Signs book.

  • Winter Mammal Tracks: Use the idea during the winter months to learn more about the animal tracks you observe during your outdoor time.
  • Signs of Mammals: We’ve found in our family that many times we don’t actually see small mammals but we observe signs of them during our outdoor time. This challenge helps you do some research about signs you find and then make a nature journal entry.

Tracks Mammal Activity

Look for these additional books at your library:  Track Finder by Dorcas Miller and   Whose Tracks are These? by Jim Nail.

Winter Nature Study ebook @handbookofnaturestudy

I’m hoping you will consider using my Winter Nature Study ebook with your family in the future. There are many more winter nature study ideas for you to include with your outdoor time each week during the cold winter months.

NOTE: There are ebooks for each season here on the Handbook of Nature Study. You can find a complete list of the ebooks in my library here: Join Us! Right now I’m offering a $5 discount for every level of membership. Use the discount code OHC10 at checkout.

Handbook of Nature Study Subscribe Now 2

Make sure to subscribe to my blog to follow along with those mammal-related nature study activities.

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Mammal Study Big Grid Nature Study

The Handbook of Nature Study newsletter topic this month was a focus on mammals. I was hoping that everyone could find a local mammal not only to learn about but to observe up close.

Mammal study @handbookofnaturestudy nature journal deer (3)

I know this is a challenge that depends on creating some opportunities to be in the right place at the right time AND to be ready to seize the time when it happens. Well, I have been keeping my eyes open this month. Here are the results.

 deer november 2015

We spied a deer in our front yard last week…a buck! This was a great reminder that I haven’t completed a nature journal page for our local and very often spotted mammal. This buck was just walking up the street, taking his time, and looking for an easy meal. This is a California mule deer…..this year, especially with the drought, we have seen more and more deer right in our neighborhood.  We have no vegetable garden to speak of so they are not as unwelcome as in the past. They are just trying to survive in a very dry habitat.

Doing research for this entry I found out that it is illegal to feed deer in California: Keep Me Wild Deer.

deer pair buck mammal november 2015 (1)

Then,  we saw these two in our neighborhood this week. The buck was most definitely keeping a close watch on the doe. She seemed annoyed more than anything else. We actually spotted this pair three times this day and the last time she had curled up inside a big leafless bush. He seemed to be trying to get inside the bush too but his antlers were in the way.

Mammal study @handbookofnaturestudy nature journal deer (1)

One thing we have seen an increase in is “near misses” as we drive along. I can’t tell you how many times there are deer that leap right out in front of my car. We had an incident just two days ago where we had to slam on the brakes or hit a rather large deer. My husband and I were a little shaken up and our dog riding in the back of the Highlander was knocked over but we all survived. My husband has had two major collisions with deer int he past and we have seen with our own eyes how much damage it can do. With the increase in the population of deer living in so close of quarters with humans and their vehicles, the increase in deer strikes on roads and highways is something to always be aware of in our part of the world.

mammal tracks (2) raccoons

Looking for tracks is easier after a good rainstorm! We drove down by the river after a day of rain and walked along the sandy shore until we found some prints. The ones above where just under the water line in the very shallow water. I couldn’t tell if they were old prints and the water had covered them up or if they were fresh prints where the raccoon had walked in the water?

mammal tracks (4) deer

There were many distinct deer trails along the river and this one is an easy identification with the two hoof marks.

The most useful reminder for me this month from the newsletter is the Mammals Big Grid Study page (page 4). It has lots ideas that can fit any habitat or any level of nature study interest. There are 24 ideas there to choose from or mix and match. If you are a subscriber to the blog, make sure to download and save your newsletter so you will have access to this Big Grid Study page for future reference.

Mammal study @handbookofnaturestudy nature journal deer (2)

Other Miscellaneous Mammal Related Experiences This Month

We had fox scat right in our own driveway. I didn’t take a photo….aren’t you glad? We know we have red foxes in our neighborhood but we weren’t able to actually observe any this month.

Squirrels! This is a busy time for squirrels in our neighborhood. We have lots of oaks and they can be spotted scurrying up and down, around and across. I never get tired of watching these little acrobats. We have Western gray squirrels in large numbers in our area. There are also red fox squirrels that visit us in our yard. Both of these squirrels are tree squirrels and can be found in, under, and around our birdfeeders.  You can read my entries on fox squirrels here: Sad Story of Our Walnuts.

Fox Squirrel
This image is from my archives…taken in my front yard.

Here is a link to a mammal nature walk from three years ago that you may be inspired by: Taking an Autumn Hike and Looking For Signs of Mammals.

 Outdoor Hour Challenge Mammal Nature Study Index @handbookofnaturestudy

You can find all of my current mammal related challenges under the “mammal” tab at the top of the website. There are quite a few specific challenges and some free printables for you to use with your mammal study. If you are a member here on the Handbook of Nature Study, you can find the coordinating notebook pages for each challenge in the ebook noted next to each mammal challenge.


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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Winter Mammals


Outdoor Hour Challenge:
We are at our last winter themed challenge for the season. Try some of these challenges or pick a mammal that lives in your neighborhood and look it up in the Handbook of Nature Study. 

Winter Mammals – Hibernation: Winter Wednesday ideas
Outdoor Hour Challenge – Winter Mammals: Look for tracks.   

Printable Notebook Page
My Mammal List: You can use this printable page instead of the running list notebook page if you wish to keep your mammal list by season. Reprint this page for every season and then compare your lists.

Getting Started Suggestion:
If you already own the Getting Started ebook, complete Outdoor Hour Challenge #1. Take a walk looking for signs of mammals and find two things to investigate further. Complete the notebook page from the ebook after you return home. 

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Looking For Signs of a Squirrel – Our Rodent Nature Study

Squirrel nature study happens quite frequently at our house. We tend to have squirrels that are not shy about making themselves at home in our birdfeeders and in our trees, especially the walnut tree. I knew we had a squirrel challenge to complete this month so I have been waiting for one to come along to observe. Wouldn’t you know it? We could hear them chattering up in the tree a few times over the past few weeks but we have not actually seen our resident squirrels.

Our Outdoor Time
Kona and I completed this squirrel challenge on our own today…it was a drizzly, gray day. Kona is the squirrel hunter in our family and she will chase them along the fence line and watch them from the base of the tree. She loves a good squirrel chase. Today though there was no squirrel around.

We made use of our time by trying to find some signs of squirrels. We found quite a few walnut shells which are dead giveaway. We looked up in the tree but we couldn’t see any squirrels up there. We made our way around to the side of the house and the birdfeeder where the squirrels sometimes sit and munch on seeds. No squirrels today.

We then went around the side of the house and we saw some tracks in the mud. I think they are cat tracks.

One last tree to check out…nope, no squirrels today.

Well, we didn’t see a squirrel to observe but we ended up really enjoying our time outside. I gathered a colorful leaf bouquet, watched a flock of finches in the feeder (post to come), and we got some fresh air before it really started to rain. Successful….yes!

I did pull out the field guide and look up squirrels and read through the pages. Mr. B and I will be keeping our eyes out for squirrels as the month goes by and once the leaves are all down for the season I know we will be able to see more clearly when we hear the squirrels chattering.

Don’t forget you can study any rodent this month and there is a free printable notebook page for you to use with your Handbook
of Nature Study.Rodents included in the Handbook of Nature Study are the muskrat, house mouse, woodchuck, red squirrel, and the chipmunk.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Signs of Mammals

“The alert field naturalist learns to look for signs of mammals, even where there is little likelihood of seeing the animals themselves. He becomes an expert at interpreting tracks in mud, dust, or snow; at analyzing scats; at recognizing claw marks, gnaw marks, nests, houses, mounds, ridges, food piles, and other telltale indicators.”
Complete Field Guide to American Wildlife by Henry Hill Collins

Outdoor Hour Challenge:
For this nature study challenge we will be looking for signs of mammals. You can look for mammal tracks, holes, scratches on tree trunks, scat, hollows in the trunk of a tree, burrow, holes in the lawn.Record your findings in your nature journal along with a drawing, the date, the weather, the time of day, and the type of animal if you have identified it at this time.

We always enjoy following tracks to see where they will lead…this is especially fun in the snow! Make a mental note to try this activity the next time you have snow in your area.

Helpful challenge from the past: Winter Series #9 Mammals – Tracks
Helpful Link: Animal Tracks – Mammal Tracks
Printable Track Guide: Pocket Guide to Animal Tracks

I am highly recommending this book from, Scats and Signs.

I know many of you own it already and now would be the perfect time to pull it off the shelf. It is also contained in this book if you own this one instead: Fun With Nature: Take Along Guide.

Printable Notebook Page

Mammal Letter Notebook Page:After your Outdoor Hour time, write a letter to a friend or relative and tell them about your experiences. You can share anything you observed including any mammals or signs of mammals that you found. Include a sketch of your mammal, the tracks you saw, or tell a story about a mammal. If you saw some tracks, explain how you think the tracks got there. Was the animal looking for food? Finding a place to hide? You can make a copy of your letter and put it in your nature journal.

Getting Started Suggestion:
If you already own the Getting Started ebook, use the suggestions in Outdoor Hour Challenge #1 for your Outdoor Hour time. Although we are looking for signs of mammals this week, make sure to follow up any interest that comes from your time outdoors. You can use the notebook page provided in the ebook to record your experience or you can use the suggestion above to write a letter to a friend or relative about your experience. Above all, enjoy a few minutes outside in your own backyard or neighborhood.

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Winter Snowshoe Hike – Jays, Tracks, and Weeds

Winter Snow and Weeds
Tahoe National Forest – California

When I posted on Facebook yesterday that we were going to head out to snowshoe, the weather forecast said something like “partly cloudy, high of 52 degrees, and 10% chance of precipitation”. Sounded good to me. Well no one told us that between our house and our hiking spot that there was going to be dense fog, drizzle, and the temperatures were falling into the 30’s.

I knew Mr. B was anxious to test out his new snowshoes so I didn’t want to disappoint him and we kept going up over the mountain. Once over the mountain it cleared up and we had lots of clouds but no rain.

Tracks in the snow
Needless to say, we kept our eyes on the sky, checking for signs we were going to get rained or snowed. We had the snow to ourselves, not counting the many animal tracks that were visible. So many tracks going so many directions…there must be a whole forest full of animals out there.

Stellers Jay in the bushes
Isn’t this a surprising sight of brilliant blue on this winter day? Steller’s jays are common and this one was posing for my camera. I love the blue feathers on the nose. My field guide says that these jays are “inquisitive, intelligent, and noisy”. Yep, that totally describes this bird.

Stellers Jay flying
We couldn’t resist seeing if we could lure the jay closer and Mr. B had a pocket full of pretzels. One little bit of pretzel and that Steller’s jay came swooping down for a tasty treat, making his shook-shook-shook sound as he flew.

Snowshoe Taylor Creek
We had to go the long way around since the beavers have now completely dammed up the water in the creek and the resulting pond has spread over the normal trail. This is where we saw the salmon spawning last fall and the mama bear with cubs. No signs of them now, although it smells rather fishy around this bend in the creek from all the dead fish remains.

Taylor Creek with snow and tracks
We hiked along the creek a little way and we noticed that there are places where the creek mud is piled up onto the banks. We could see lots of little animal tracks around the mud but I’m still not sure what kind of animal did this and what they were doing. Winter hikes can lead to lots of questions. You can see the muddy sludge…it is the black stuff there along the edge.

Aspens in the Snow
I never get tired of looking at the landscape here at Taylor Creek. The patterns of the tree trunks against the Sierra sky in the winter is amazing and beautiful. Some people get to look out their living room windows and view a similar scene and I wonder if they stop seeing the awesomeness of it. I come here a dozen times a year and I never tire of this place.

Snowshoe tracks
When you are on snowshoes, you can follow tracks as much as you want but I am always a little afraid of getting out into the forest too far….I have a terrible sense of direction. This area is easy to navigate because I can hear the highway in the distance and I generally know which direction I need to head to get back to the trailhead. Here is an example of a nice clear print in the snow.

Winter Weeds
We did a little preliminary winter weed study while we were out traipsing around the woods. There were plenty of subjects even with snow on the ground. I just liked the way this one looked. I think it is a corn lily. Next week we plan on doing a whole winter weed study so we will revisit these images then.
Winter Snoeshoe Hike
So our first real snowshoe of the year is over and we didn’t get rained or snowed on. We were bundled up warmly so it was really a delight to be outdoors exploring just the two of us. Mr. B decided his snowshoes were perfect and now we will be able to explore the woods in winter as part of our Outdoor Hour Challenges.

You can read more about hiking in winter on my Squidoo page for tips on how to make it fun:
Winter Nature Walks