Amateur Casting Activities damaging to Tumbler Ridge Dinosaur Track Sites

?Take only pictures, leave only footprints? is a well-known mantra for enjoying the outdoors but, for some people, pictures are not enough. They want the footprints, specifically the dinosaur footprints. The Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation (TRMF) offers summer tours to two dinosaur track sites that are well known in the region: the Wolverine Track Site, where night-time lantern tours are offered, and the Cabin Pool site on Flatbed Creek, where footprints of ankylosaurs (armoured dinosaurs) and theropods (carnivorous dinosaurs) can be found. The TRMF produces a souvenir track replica that also supports fundraising activities.

Now that the snow is melted and the tracks are exposed, some individuals have started making their own track replicas as souvenirs. While these individuals are not stealing the tracks, their activities are still destructive. The track casting process used by these individuals is an out-of-date technique that involves pouring Plaster of Paris directly into the footprint after applying a chemical separator to the footprint surface, such as petroleum jelly. This technique has not been used by palaeontologists for many years because of the damage it causes to footprints. The petroleum jelly does not come off of the track with the plaster, but remains behind as a slimy residue. Plaster soaks into porous surfaces such as rock, and any surface on the footprint that is exposed will absorb plaster like a sponge and cannot be removed.

The footprints at the Cabin Pool site are deeply impressed and have many overhanging edges which are broken off when the cast is removed from the track. These three factors will speed up the natural erosion of the track surface. While the track casting method employed by the caster(s) is good for making copies of modern animal tracks, it is ill-suited for use on fossil trackways.