Saturday, February 2, 2013

Elkhart County Parks--Furry Animals!

I brought the boys to the Furry Animals presentation by Elkhart County Parks at Concord Mall this last Thursday. The natural interpreter, Krista Daniels, always does a great job with these presentations. She talked about mammal characteristics. She uses the audience, asks questions, and connects to prior knowledge to make the presentations interactive.


She talked about teeth, scat (yes, poop!), eating habits, fur, etc. I learned many things, such as most rodents have orange teeth except for groundhogs. I knew their teeth kept growing and are curved which is why they chew and gnaw on things. I also learned that beaver scat looks like wood shavings. White tail deer were extirpated and then reintroduced by the DNR. They are now the biggest mammal that lives in the area, as the black bear moved north to Michigan. The mountain lion is no longer here as well. She calls animals that eat just about anything they can find opportunivores, which is a fun thing to say. Skunks have long claws to dig for grubs. They can spray up to ten feet, but will try other techniques like stomping their feet before they spray. The spray is also used as a base for perfume as it is so potent (smell removed, of course).

My youngest was really enjoying this red fox fur. We didn't touch any of the taxidermy animals to help preserve them, but furs were passed around later. The red fox is an omnivore, eating rabbits, insects, and the like. The gray fox can climb trees with partially retractable claws. The long bushy tails help foxes keep warm. 

While we can read about all these animals on the Internet, these presentations are fascinating as we get to see and touch things up close and personal. We get to hear stories of using kernels of corn to see echolocation (like playing Marco Polo) working with bats. There are up to 7 different species of bats in the area. Many myths were dispelled. Many facts are presented, such as the hog nose bat being the smallest mammal and a heart of a whale can be the size of a car. One shrew is so light it is the weight of an envelope! Opossums often have frostbite on their ears and tail, as there is no fur to help protect these parts. These marsupials don't really act dead, they really are stunned for the moment. 


Many mammals from the area are no longer endangered, like the bobcat (sightings at least as close as LaGrange), the badger, and the river otter