Arkansas Mammals (WSJCANC)

Summary:

This lesson highlights the wild animals in the state and the management techniques that maintain healthy populations

Grade Level:

4 - 8

Recommended Setting:

Indoor or outdoor classroom

Outdoor Activity:

No

Location:

Witt Stephens Junior Central Arkansas Nature Center, Little Rock

Contact:

Education Coordinator, 501-907-0636

Duration:

45 minutes

Suggested Number of Participants:

10 - 30

Objectives:

  • Identify characteristics that make mammals unique.
  • Learn management techniques exclusive to wild mammals.
  • Identify certain Arkansas wild mammals.
  • Recognize physical adaptation of mammals.

Key Terms*:

Adaptation

Anthropomorphism

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC)

Amendment 75 of 1996

Carrying capacity

Central Arkansas Nature Center (CANC)

Furbearer

Habitat

Hair

Mammal

Mammary glands

Vertebrate

Viviparous

Wildlife biologist

Wildlife management

*See glossary for definations

Materials:

“Arkansas Mammals” book

Ear tags

Gum tattoo

Jawbones and extractors

Live and leg-hold traps

Pictorial display

Radio collar

Skins

Skulls

Stamp pads

Track sheet forms and key

Rubber track molds

Teeth

Background:

There are more than 4,000 species of mammals in the world, with more than 70 naturally occurring in Arkansas. In Arkansas, mammals range in size from the tiny southeastern shrew to the Rocky Mountain elk. (This elk species was introduced into habitat once occupied by the extirpated eastern elk. The largest native Arkansas mammal is the black bear). The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is responsible for one of the more successful large mammal comebacks in its restoration work with the black bear. Furbearers are mammals characterized by thick coats commonly used in the garment industry.

Procedure:

  1. Introduce the teacher and the CANC. Explain that it is owned and operated by AGFC and showcases the agency’s mission. Also tell how Amendment 75 of 1996 funds paid for the facility and allow free admission
  2. Define mammals and discuss differences among mammals, birds, reptiles and fish. Explain that AGFC has wildlife biologists that manage wild animals, and point out that wildlife are not pets. Introduce anthropomorphism by asking if they can name some cartoon animals. Ask them if animals really exhibit such human characteristics. Explain why wildlife biologists practice scientific management methods on wildlife and the importance of not attributing human qualities (emotions, reasoning skills) to animals. Humans and animals are distinctly different, and wildlife biologists are careful to manage wildlife humanely. Note that no animal manages human populations, but wildlife biologists manage wildlife populations.
  3. Display various skulls, skins and jawbones and overview the differences and similarities between species.
  4. Discuss adaptation and how mammals have well-defined habits and are suited to distinct habitats.
  5. Ask them what “furbearer” means. If none knows, explain that furbearers are wild mammals whose hair has commercial value (primarily in the clothing industry).
  6. Discuss common human/furbearer conflicts (beaver dams) and some wildlife management techniques. Point out that alligators are important biological controls of beaver (and other) populations.
  7. Demonstrate some live and leg-hold traps, and tell why wildlife biologists use them to capture and study wild mammals. Point out that commercial and nuisance-species trappers use humane methods, just as wildlife biologists do. Explain that leg-hold traps, for example, do not harm wildlife but actually cause them to lose sensation in the trapped foot. Ask participants if they are permanently damaged whenever their foot “goes to sleep” and point out that is what the animal feels. Wildlife biologists often find animals calmly sleeping when captured by leg-hold traps.
  8. Help the participants use the rubber track molds, stamp pad and track sheets to choose a species they will research at school.

Modifications:

  • Use AGFC research data to compile math lessons on Arkansas mammals.
  • Participants can select a wild mammal species in Arkansas and compile reports.
  • Teachers can read “The Limits of Compassion” from “The Wildlife Professional” (summer 2007) to understand how wildlife biologists properly manage mammal populations and present this to the group.

Review:

  • What traits do most mammals have in common? (Females give birth to live offspring and have mammary glands to produce milk to nourish offspring, presence of hair)
  • How does the AGFC manage mammals differently than fish or birds? (While there is some overlap, mammals require distinct habitats, foods and space that wildlife biologists must consider.)
  • What would happen if mammal populations were unmanaged? (They could die from disease, overpopulation, habitat destruction.)

 

Participant Worksheets:

Arkansas Mammal Track Sheet

Glossary:

Adaptation – the ability of an animal to respond to changes in its habitat, diet, species population, health threats and other factors

 

Anthropomorphism – attributing human characteristics to animals that they do not possess; causes confusion when people mistakenly believe that animals have human feelings, emotions, and thought and reasoning processes

 

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) – the state agency responsible for managing fish and wildlife populations

 

Carrying capacity – the amount of wildlife an area of land can sustain which varies with the amount of food, water and shelter available

 

Furbearer – a wild animal whose hair is commercially valuable, primarily in the clothing industry

 

Habitat – living place for wild animals that includes available food, water and space

 

Hair – a body covering found only on mammals and humans

 

Mammal – a class of animals uniquely characterized by presence of hair, mammary glands, large and specialized brains, and birth of live young

 

Mammary glands – part of endocrine system found only in mammals that produces milk for nourishment of young

 

Vertebrate – animal that has a bony spine

 

Viviparous – animal characteristic of giving birth to live offspring; nearly all mammals are viviparous (duck-billed platypus and spiny anteater are exceptions)

 

Wildlife biologist – a scientist who studies and manages wild animals

 

Wildlife management – providing for wild animal populations by scientific processes including research techniques such as data collection, species counts, health monitoring, habitat improvement and more