Collecting Tracks, Scat and Skulls

auscraft

Henry Arthur Readford
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Over the next four post I will be adding collecting and record methods For Tracks,scats and bones. After all four posted i will also add the entire subject to the blogs section for ease of printing.
Part one
Introduction

Tracking wildlife is a lot of fun, but bringing home the evidence is even more fun. Be warned it can become addictive it can become a lifelong pursuit. It may even be messy, smelly and toothers very grotesque.

What I wish to discuss is the methods of collection and safe storage of the items you may find and the importance of correct record keeping. The methods and processes I will be informing you about are gathered information from Museums and dedicated collectors of these items, most methods and equipment are the same.

Areas I will cover are:

· Track collecting casting and storage
· Bone collecting cleaning and storage
· Scat collecting
· And record keeping methods

Why would you collect these things?

People collect many things fordifferent reasons, but with the collection of tracks, scat and other signs canbe for many reasons. The first reason I can say is for self-learning, a skill which is no longer taught. The second is for teaching others to help identify. Other reasons would include just ahobby, possibly to record proof of the existence of a species.

Methods of Collecting.

There are many ways these items could be collected and recorded. The first would be photographic evidence,which by many would be good enough for their own needs and wanted knowledge oftheir requirements. Along with this could be drawing and notes taken.
From here we go to actual collecting the sample and bring home. Each of the 3 collections I mentioned above will involve different methods to collect and store. The common factor ineach of the methods including photographic is the record keeping.
 
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auscraft

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Part 2

Track Collecting.

The method for physical collection of tracks is by castings. Casting is relatively simple method and can be an enjoyable activity even for children will bushcrafting. There is no expensive outlay and very little equipment involved.
Equipment required.

• Plaster (plaster of Paris or better yet Dental stone)
• Stipes of cardboard or plastic to make the mold.
• Paper clips, to secure mold ring.
• Water either you carry or get from location.
• A mixing vessel
• Spatula/ stick for mixing
• String for hanging.
• Brush for cleaning
• And paper towel for wrapping and water soaking.

Preparing and casting.

• Find a good Track (maybe easier said than done)
• Clear loose debris from track. Leave any item that has been compressed into track there as removal may damage the track.
• Make your mold ring. A strip of cardboard or plastic about 20 mm wide and long enough to have at least 30mm space evenly around the print.
• Place your mold ring over print a slightly press it about 5 mm into ground to make seal so paster does no leak out. The important thing here is to make the mold about 15 mm thick on top of the track and this before you mix your plaster.
• Mix the plaster as recommended to consistency of pancake mix. Be sure to remove any lumps and tap container to remove any bubbles. work fast as plaster is already setting
• Pour plaster on the outside edge of track (NOT directly into the track) letting it flow into it or the track may get damaged. After the print is covered fully you can add a length of string with a loop tied in it for hanging latter. The loop should point in the direction of toes so when hung all toes point up. If using plaster it will require reinforcing twigs or wire as being poured
• Have a break and allow plaster to set approx. 30min to handle depending on conditions. Or if travelling back through this way collect when leaving.
• When removing the cast remember, at this time plaster is not properly cured so be careful and lift evenly from each side. If it is cast in mud it may be necessary to dig out a bit of earth. The cast may take 72 hrs. to fully cure at which time you could brush or wash any dirt or material of your casting.
• Do not submerge plaster of paris as it will dissolve and after it dry’s completely you could paint a sealer over the top surface, not all surfaces moisture still needs to remove itself.

Tips

• The difference between plaster of paris and dental stone is, plaster of paris has a shelf life before it won’t set. You use more plaster of paris in mixing than dental stone. And dental stone is stronger and gives finer detail when set. So even with higher price tag I believe the dental stone in long term works out to be the same price with less being used and far better product that will last.
• Dental stone can also be scrubbed without eroding and retains finer detail.
• Dental stone can also be used if track has water in it.
• Plaster of paris will also require some reinforcing with twigs or wire for strength during pouring.
• Paper towel can used to soak water from track if wet, as well to wrap your casting.
• When you have completed the cast it will give a ‘’negative’’ impression so when properly cured and wider mold ring you could spray surface with some release agent and cast a ‘’positive’’ print, which could be used for print making and teaching.
• Mix enough to pour I one go
• Keep utensils clean don’t let plaster dry on them.

If storing the casts away in boxes or whatever each cast should be wrapped in paper, newspaper will transfer its ink to the cast and never in plastic. Records can be written on edge or back of mold, see the record method section for details of what should be recorded.
 

auscraft

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Part 3

Skull and Bone Collecting

Ethics
If bone or skull collecting interests you something you may need to consider is how are you going to obtain them? One thing for certain is killing animals just for your hobby is not justifiable or acceptable; you need to find other means. One way is to find the bones or skulls in nature; two buy them from other collectors, thirdly is finding a dead animal or finally which may sound gross is from road kill.
The last two ways will involve you too clean these items yourself, which is what I will explain.
WARNING

Watch for predators and vehicles only collect if safe to do so!
Dealing with dead animals or road kill you must take precautions before retrieving the carcass, always approach from behind to insure it is dead, if it is a marsupial check to see if it is carrying live young, if so take it to a carer refuge. Be prepared for strong odours and graphic sights.

Cleaning
The method I am going to discuss is a method called maceration; this is the method of using bacterial action in water to clean the bones. It is the simplest method and works best on large bones and skulls. This method is not recommended on very delicate bones such as birds and reptiles or skeletons you which to keep together. As all bones by this method will separate as it removes the all tissue that holds them together.

• Remove hide or tissue the best you can. Making cleaning faster
• Immerse completely in water
• Leave the container somewhere you won’t be bothered by smell
• Change the greasy, dirty water every 1 -2 days, gardens like the water. Re fill with new water. Also watch for loose bones that have separated.
• When water remains clear, bacterial process is finished.
• Use hydrogen peroxide to whiten and sterilize the bone, removing when required whiteness is reached and rinse.
• Some teeth may have fallen out or loosened, this can fixed by gluing them back with PVA glue (aquadhere)

Never use bleach as the chlorine will degrade bones and continue to eat at them eventually turning them to dust.

Another cleaning method which is also good for smaller animals and skeletons you wish to remain together is using insects to do the job for you(natural process). But removing hide will still make faster process.

Boiling is a quick method to removing tissue but will stain the skull/bones and you may find bones will require degreasing, not normally required with maceration.

Storage and handling
• Like most natural products they prefer cool and dry places. Constant temps are more appropriate than quick changing as the will cause them to swell and shrink causing breaks.
• Do not store wet bones.
• Don’t leave bones in direct sunlight.
• Handle skulls from below do not lift by eye sockets or cheeks
• If gets dirty wash with warm soapy water.
 

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Part 4

Scat Collecting

The easiest way for the collecting is by photography. Using rulers to show size is important in doing this. If you wish to collect the scat for further study or for identification it is important not to seal fresh specimens in bags. This will cause the scat to sweat and fall apart. Dry scat is safe to bag and seal.
Note herbivores scat will not be strong in odour even when fresh, however carnivores and omnivores will be.

Record Keeping
The most important part of collecting these items is good record keeping. Good records will be the best way to get positive ID if someone else needs to assist in identification.
What you need to record.

• Date
• ID #
• Location
• Name of collector
• Identification if known
• Notes of interest.
• GPS coordinates.

These notes are best kept with the item they record. With casts this information can be written on the base or sides of the casting. Bones and skulls can have labels attached by string zip tie. Scat can details entered on bag. All pictures taken should include the same details.
In order to keep records of what you have and where it is stored a log book should be kept with the corresponding information as well.
 
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Aussie123

Never Alone In The Bush
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Thanks Auscraft.

Sounds like some folk will need to put together a collecting kit so they can deal with items which they find. Ruler, garbage bags, plaster …

I'm not a big collector, other than with the camera; on occasion I may put a coin or some common item beside a specimen to give scale, but a small ruler would probably be better, esp if actively planning to collect.

Sounds like a log book would be handy too
 

auscraft

Henry Arthur Readford
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I think a basic set of things like a ruler is important if you enjoy tracking anyway. And as i mentioned Photography is the easiest way to collect info on of what I wrote but you don't have a 3d sample but measurements for pics is important if you can not ID in field or if showing others.
 
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