Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Animal Tracks

The Oldest Island Boy was working towards his Tracking Merit Badge in Boy Scouts so part of our last trip to Point Washington was to find some tracks, identify them and then make a plaster cast of some.

It's not hard to find tracks out there - the woods are full of deer, hogs, raccoons and even a few black bears.

Identifying the tracks is not something I'm good at but the Island King has been hunting his whole life and can identify almost any track we find.

The boys and I learned a lot listening to him tell us about the tracks. What kind they were, was the animal running or walking, how big was the animal, all kinds of interesting info.

This is a hog track we found.

See how far apart the two marks in the front are?

The toe prints are more rounded than a deer and spread farther apart. When the toes are spread really far apart it means the hog was either running or is very heavy.

Because of the way the sand is piled up we think he was running.

This is a deer track. Notice how the front of the hoof comes more to a point than the hog's track.

And see the little track next to it?

According to the Island King the babies always walk where momma walks and it's not uncommon to see a little track inside of the bigger track. This baby stepped just to the side of where momma walked.

These two tracks also tell us that the bigger track is a doe because babies don't walk around with bucks.

We aren't sure about this track.

If a deer is running the hoof will spread and can look a lot like a hog track so we aren't sure if it was a small hog or a running deer.

The Island King is leaning towards a small hog but as I said we aren't sure.

Once we'd found some good clear tracks it was time to make casts of them.

They mixed plaster of Paris and water to make the mold with.

I've been telling the Island King he needs glasses for a while now and I think this picture proves my point LOL

The Oldest mixed up the plaster

Made a circle out of cardboard to act as a dam for the plaster

And then they carefully poured the plaster. You have to pour it a little to the side of the track and let it flow into the track so that it doesn't mess the track up.

This what it looked like once the plaster was added.

It takes about 30 minutes for the plaster to set so we wandered around looking for more tracks and making more molds while we waited.

After about 45 minutes we went back and scooped out the tracks.

The plaster was still a little soft when we got home so the next day the Oldest and his Dad cleaned them up a bit.

These "negative" casts are what he needed for his scout badge but we've decided to try making "positive" casts out of them too.

I think it would be really cool to make stepping stones for my yard out of all different kinds of tracks.

They'll be interesting to collect and fun to have around the yard.
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