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How To Make A Plaster Cast
If while you are out and about you discover a really good set of tracks, you can photograph or measure them, both of which are a good way of recording the prints, but a cast gives you an example you can keep for good and show people.
Plaster casts work well on any kind of animal track not just Big Cats, here we show you how to get the best results from a track.
The items you will need are:- Plaster of Paris
Some water
A container to mix it in
A strip of cardboard at least 2 cm wide
A paper clips
Firstly select the best impression that you can find.  Mud, sand or wet ground usually yield the best results. 
Once you have selected the mark you wish to cast, clear any small stones, twigs and loose dirt from around it, if there is water inside the track then it is best to remove this, use a pipette or tissue being careful not to actually touch the track.
Now that the track is prepared for the cast we need to place a frame around it, this can be just a strip of cardboard, 2 cm wide using paper clips join the strip together to form a circle, this will act as a dam and stop the plaster from running away when poured.
Place the frame gently into the earth around the track making sure that the frame is larger than the track and that it does not disturb the track when pushed into the ground.
Now we are ready to mix the plaster of Paris use a ratio of 2 parts plaster to 5 parts of water to get an ideal consistency, this should be like thick cream.
If the mixture is too thin then the cast will be brittle, if it is too thick then the cast may become crumbly with time.
Gently pour the mixture into the frame being careful not to disturb the track you are making the cast of.
Leave the cast to set until it is firm to the touch this can take around 30 40 minutes, depending on the mixture and the weather conditions.
Once the cast is set, gently remove it from the ground and brush away any large pieces of dirt.  Do not try and give it any form of cleaning beyond this at this point as it will damage the cast.
As a point of reference use a pen and write on the cardboard frame the time, location and surroundings where the cast was taken, you can use this data to mark the cast when it has completely set.
When you return home, place the cast somewhere where it will not be disturbed, leave it there for up to a week, 7 days is plenty of time to let the cast fully set and harden thoroughly.
Now you can give the cast a clean without damaging it, use an old toothbrush and gently brush away any loose but now dry dirt and grass that may be sticking to the cast.
Once clean you may wish to paint it to really make the imprints stand out, be sure to mark the actual cast with a permanent marker or sticky label to ensure you always know where it came from.
If you do find a Big Cat track please do let us know, full details on how to contact us are on the contact page, you can even send us your cast if you wish!
www.ukbigcats.co.uk