How to make plaster cast of animal tracks

My kids are part of “nature pal” group. Every season, we go out on nature expeditions, collect treasures from nature, label them, package them and mail them out to our “nature pals”. Every season, there is also a specific treasure to look for  or an assignment to send to our nature pals. This past Winter season, our assignment was to take an impression of an animal footprint. The first question was how to get an impression of an animal footprint. We were instructed to use plaster to make a cast of the animal track.
Make Plaster Cast of Animal Tracks
The most critical question was, though, where and how to find the animal tracks.We had chickens in our backyard. But they left tracks behind only in snow. They are too light to leave any footprints in the dirt.
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We decided to go to one of nature preserves nearby to look for treasures and tracks. We usually see lots of deer in that area.
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Lo and behold, on that beautiful and rather a warm day, the preserve was full of deer. They are used to seeing humans. We still kept our distance.
Making plaster for casting animal footprints
We had our materials ready with us:

  • Plaster of Paris Dry Mix- 4 lb tub from or local hardware store. Costs about $5-$6.
  • Bottle of water
  • Measurement cup
  • Container for mixing
  • Spatula or wooden stick for mixing

Instructions

We followed the instructions on the tub.

  • Measure 2 parts of Plaster of Paris powder to 1 part water.
  • Put 2 parts Plaster of Paris powder to your mixing container.
  • Slowly add on 1 part water while mixing with a spatula or mixing stick. Break up any lumps that might form.

Make plaster casts of animal footprints
Prepare your plaster after your find your tracks. Otherwise, the mix will dry up until you find a good animal print. It hardens up pretty fast, especially in cold weather.

Once you identify the animal track you want to make the cast of and the mix is ready,  slowly pour the mix on the track. Depending on the consistency, you might want to put a border around the track using a cardboard to stop the plaster mix to spread out.
IMG_0459 Our plaster mix was dense and the surface was rough enough that we didn’t need any borders. After pouring the mix, you need to wait about 15-20 minutes. This wasn’t easy to do in cold weather. I prepared the mix a little bit thicker on purpose, for it to dry quicker.
Make plaster casts of animal tracks Once you determine the plaster has dried and hardened, using your stick or spatula, pull the cast out of the soil or dirt. I had to poke the stick into the soil and lift the cast up from underneath.

The dirt was wet, so we waited for it to dry completely and I brushed off the rest of the dirt, stones, and pebbles off of the cast.They were good looking deer hoof impressions. Kids had a lot of fun. I hope our nature pals treasured them as much as we had fun making those casts.

Do you see animal tracks that you can make a plaster cast of with your kids of in your area?

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