"And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good." -Genesis 1:25
The next time you go on a hike, take along some supplies for making plaster casts of animal tracks! Rabbits, raccoons, deer, bobcats, coyotes, foxes- maybe even a mountain lion! A day or two after it's rained is the best time. You can practice on the family dog before you set out.
Put the following items in your backpack:
HERE'S WHAT YOU DO
- Container of plaster of Paris
- Plastic bottle of water
- Popsicle stick for stirring
- Paper cup
- Strips of thin cardboard about 3" wide
- Paper clips
- Guide book
- Plastic bags to transport the finished casts
As you go on your hike, keep your eyes peeled for animal prints, especially near mud puddles or recently dried puddles. (Unless you are in a rather remote area, you will probably find a lot of dog tracks. Probably pets, although in the right part of the country, they could be coyote prints.) Use your guide book to help you figure out what kind of tracks you've found. Carefully remove any leaves or stones that may have fallen into the track.
Make a "collar" from a strip of cardboard, and fit it around the track. Fasten it with a paper clip. Mix up some plaster of Paris with the water in the paper cup, stirring until smooth with the popsicle stick. The mixture should be about as thick as a milkshake. Pour the plaster evenly over the track to a depth of about 1 to 1 1/2 inch. Using your ingenuity, insert a paper clip into the plaster to make a hanger so you can hang the cast up on your wall if you want.
It will take your cast a little while to dry, so continue on your hike, making more casts as you go. Collect them on your return trip. Carefully remove the cardboard collars and pick them up. Dust them off carefully, and place them in a plastic bag. You might want to wrap them in newspaper to protect them.
Start a collection of track casts! See how many different animals you can find.