Making Wolf Print Casts

The afternoon started with straightforward plans: that evening my neighbor and I and others would be listening to a couple of area folk singers at Wild West Pizzeria, but in Yellowstone the changing conditions mean you have to be flexible.

My cell phone rang and it was my neighbor: “Can you be ready a half hour earlier? Wolf prints a few miles outside of town.”

No problem at all, and soon three of us were heading west of West Yellowstone to take a look. From what we could piece together, two adult wolves and two younger ones had walked down the muddy road the day before.

Wolf print

Wolf print next to dollar bill for sizing

We followed the prints until they veered off into a field, and then retraced our steps to find the best ones, eventually spotting two that were next to each other.

The light was declining quickly, no one had bear spray, and the band was getting ready to play, but there was still time for my neighbor to make a mold.

The first step was to clean the print of tiny pebbles by blowing it with compressed air. Then we mixed the Plaster of Paris with water and poured it into the prints, gently smoothing it over the entire area.

At that point there was nothing to do but wait for the plaster to set, so we headed into town to listen to music for a couple of hours.

Even though the moon was only one day short of being full, it was still dark because of the cloud cover as we made our way back (no street lights for miles in this part of the country). Bear spray in hand we walked down the road, found the cast and gently lifted it from the ground. Mud and rocks were still attached, but otherwise it looked good and just needed to be cleaned.

The cast made it much easier to see the details of the wolf print, and it looked bigger than what we saw in the mud. It gives you a new perspective.

Cleaning the wolf print

Cleaning the wolf print with compressed air

Mixing the Plaster of Paris

Mixing the Plaster of Paris

Creating the mold

Pouring the plaster into the wolf print

Lifting the cast

Lifting the dried cast

The wolf print

The finished wolf print. Just needs to be cleaned off.

I’m not sure if this can be done inside of Yellowstone National Park – the best thing would be to talk to a ranger first. But otherwise, it’s easy to get the material from the local hardware store and then keep your eyes open for animal tracks so you can bring home a unique memento. And also remember to keep your schedule flexible.

More posts in this category: Life in West Yellowstone



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  1. Here I am trapped in Mammoth. I got pulled out of the check-in line last week and talked into being a Guest Services Agent. I have been in class ever since. We are to move to Old Faithful on Sunday, if the roads are open. I’m not sure I had planned on working this hard, but I am loving the surroundings. If I get sick of working with tourists, I’ll be knocking on your door for a job. I hope to get to West Yellowstone as soon as I can to check it out. Sounds like a lot of fun.

    Love all the work you put into the wolf prints.

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