Skins, Skulls, Tracks and Scat (FLWCRNC)

Summary:

Participants will see and touch some of the furs and skulls of several common Arkansas mammals. They will also look at scat (replicas) and tracks left behind by these animals. Participants will learn how these clues help identify the animal and give insight on how it survives, where it has been and what it has been eating.

Grade Level:

K - 12 (This program is suitable for all grades. Use age-appropriate vocabulary.)

Recommended Setting:

Indoor or outdoor classroom

Outdoor Activity:

No

Location:

Forrest L. Wood Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center, Jonesboro

Contact:

Education Program Coordinator, 870-933-6787

Duration:

45 minutes - 1 hour

Suggested Number of Participants:

25 - 50

Special Conditions:

Must have a minimum of 25 students

Objectives:

  • Identify physical characteristics of mammals.
  • Identify different species of mammals found in Arkansas.
  • Discuss how those animals live, their basic biology and their place in the food chain based on their color, tooth shape, track size and scat contents.

Key Terms*:

Camouflage

Carnivore

Furbearer

Generalist

Herbivore

Omnivore

Reintroduction

Ruminant

Scat

Specialist

Stalking

Wildlife management

*See glossary for definations

Materials:

Assorted mammal skins

Assorted mammal skull replicas

Assorted mammal scat replicas

PowerPoint presentation

Track molds

Soap kettles

Soap blocks

Paper for nametags

Background:

Mammals are a class of animals that has backbones, breathes oxygen and cares for its young. Females in this group produce milk. This is the only group of animals to have true fur. There are more than 70 species of mammals that naturally occur in Arkansas. They range in size from the tiny southeastern shrew to the huge Rocky Mountain elk. Many mammals in Arkansas are prized for their fur or meat.

 

Hunting and trapping fuel the Arkansas economy and have a long history in the state. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission brought back several populations of large game species that were overly hunted to dangerously low levels. This was accomplished through species reintroduction and wildlife management.

Procedure:

  1. About 30 - 45 minutes before class, fill soap kettles with soap blocks and turn them on to melt the soap, and get the track molds ready. Next, select several mammal skins, skull replicas and scat replicas to discuss.
  2. Ask participants what they know about mammals and their characteristics as opposed to a bird, fish, reptile or amphibian. Highlight all characteristics they did not list and spend time talking about each characteristic.
  3. Next, talk about how varied mammals can be. Talk about the smallest (bumblebee bat in Thailand) and largest (blue whale, the largest animal to ever live on Earth) in the world and in Arkansas.
  4. Show some furs of common Arkansas mammals and discuss their basic biology, noting that most are well camouflaged. Discuss population trends and how the AGFC has restored populations after too much hunting or habitat destruction.
  5. Close the program by taking questions.
  6. Add in the soap dye and scents (optional) and explain the activity to the participants.
  7. Have each person make a nametag and pick a track mold. Have them bring the mold to the leader and set it on the table with their nametag underneath it. Fill the mold with their choice of melted soap and let it sit for about 45 minutes. After it has cooled, pop the soap from the mold and place it in a plastic baggie for the participant.

Review:

  • List the characteristics of mammals.
  • Name the largest and smallest mammals in the world and in Arkansas.
  • List 10 mammals found in Arkansas

Resources:

Wilson, Steven N. (1998). Arkansas Wildlife: A History. Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press.

Glossary:

Camouflage – colors, tones, patterns, shapes or behavior an organism uses to blend with its surroundings; also concealment that alters or obscures the appearance; also protective coloration, a common animal defense

Carnivore – any animal that consumes other animals that are living (predation) or dead (scavenging)

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

Generalist – a species which can thrive in many environmental conditions with a variety of resources

Herbivore – a plant-eating animal

Omnivore – an animal that eats both animal and vegetable matter

Reintroduction – releasing individuals of a species that has been extirpated, or nearly so, into an area that historically supported that species

Ruminant- any even-toed, hoofed mammal of the suborder Ruminantia, being comprised of cloven-hoofed, cud-chewing quadrupeds including domestic cattle, bison, buffalo, deer, antelopes, giraffes, camels and chevrotains

Scat – an animal’s fecal droppings, especially a wild animal

Specialist – a species that can only thrive in a narrow range of environmental conditions or has a limited diet

Stalking – stealthily approaching prey, quarry, etc.

Wildlife management – application of scientific knowledge and technical skills to protect, preserve, conserve, limit, enhance or extend the value of wildlife and its habitat