Track Tube Construction and Field Protocol for Small Mammal Surveys with Emphasis on the Endangered Pacific Pocket Mouse (Perognathus longimembris pacificus)

Techniques and Methods 2A15
Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Marine Corps, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton
By: , and 



Track tubes are used to identify small animals by their tracks. Animals that are small enough to fit into the tubes walk over ink pads and onto cardstock paper to obtain bait within the tube, leaving their footprints. The tracking tubes described in this document are designed to be set on the ground with free access and exit at either end with additional design components for stability, durability, and efficiency. They are also designed to prevent dirt from getting onto the ink pads and to decrease the ability of birds and other mammals to pull out track cards or bait.

We describe detailed methods for constructing, setting and checking track tubes, as well as measuring and identifying small mammal prints for a small mammal study. The protocols described are for monitoring the Pacific pocket mouse (PPM); however, this method can be applied to many small mammal species that have uniquely identifiable tracks in relation to co-occurring species.

We have deployed track tubes for over 5 years on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton for PPM discovery efforts and to monitor the three extant PPM populations on Base. We have shown that nightly detection probability is similar to that of live-trapping, but the track tubes can be checked weekly or bi-monthly. We use this passive and economical method to assess timing of annual emergence and torpor, seasonal activity, and localized colonization and extinction events. Using this method, we can model occupancy dynamics in relation to habitat and disturbance covariates that directly inform management and support a monitoring and management feedback loop for this species.

Suggested Citation

Brehme, C.S., Matsuda, T.A., Adsit-Morris, D.T., Clark, D.R., Burlaza, M.A.T., Sebes, J.B., and Fisher, R.N., 2019, Track tube construction and field protocol for small mammal surveys with emphasis on the endangered Pacific pocket mouse (Perognathus longimembris pacificus): U.S. Geological Survey Techniques and Methods, book 2, chap. A15, 18 p., plus appendix,

ISSN: 2328-7055 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Track Tube Components
  • Track Tube Construction
  • Track Cards and Track Card Base Construction
  • Field Protocol
  • Track Interpretation
  • Acknowledgments
  • References Cited
  • Appendix 1
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Track tube construction and field protocol for small mammal surveys with emphasis on the endangered Pacific pocket mouse (Perognathus longimembris pacificus)
Series title Techniques and Methods
Series number 2A15
DOI 10.3133/tm2A15
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description v, 30 p.
Country United States
State California
Other Geospatial Camp Pendleton
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details