Scientists working in the field make copies of things that are delicate or difficult to move. Animal footprints are a perfect example. Taking a cast of animal tracks is easy, and it can help you identify the animal that made them. Read on to find out how...
An animal track in the mud. The frame around it will hold the plaster mix we're about to pour in.
Before you leave the house to hunt for footprints, make sure you have the right amounts of plaster and water with you. Check the plaster of Paris packet instructions.
Measure out the plaster powder into the plastic freezer bag (wear a dust mask to avoid breathing in the fine powder).
The best footprints are made in soft mud, so check for animal tracks near water or in muddy woodland. If you can’t find any wild animal tracks, you can practice making casts of a pet’s footprints.
Squeezing the plaster mix into the animal track.
After 24 hours your cast should be fully dry. You could varnish or paint it.
Our finished cast. Can you guess what animal made this paw print?
The size, shape and pattern of tracks are clues to what animal made them. Try looking them up in a library or online, or asking your local wildlife society.
If you can’t identify the tracks, contact the Museum's Identification and Advisory Service at the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity. The team will do their best to help.
A version of this article was originally published in Wild World, our magazine for kids.