Wild and Woolly Mammals (FLWCRNC)

Summary:

What characteristics are common of all mammals and what makes this class of animals different from other animal classes? Participants will look at several skins of common Arkansas mammals as well as a live skunk to learn mammals’ habitats and survival strategies including camouflage and hunting. Participants will also learn about the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s reintroduction and management of several mammal game species.

Grade Level:

K - 12 (Program can be modified to suit the audience)

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:

25 minutes

Suggested Number of Participants:

25 - 120

Special Conditions:

Must have a minimum of 25 students

Objectives:

  • Identify physical characteristics of mammals.
  • Identify different species of mammals in Arkansas.
  • Discuss how those animals live, their basic biology and place in the food chain.

Key Terms*:

Camouflage

Carnivore

Furbearer

Generalist

Herbivore

Omnivore

Reintroduction

Ruminant

Specialist

Stalking

Wildlife management

*See glossary for definations

Materials:

Assorted mammal skins

Stinky the Skunk (when available)

PowerPoint presentation

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. Prior to class, select several mammal skins to discuss. Also get Stinky the Skunk ready to show.
  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. Next, tell participants you have someone special for them to meet, but they must be quiet so as not to frighten it. Let Stinky out of the pet carrier and either hold it on your hip or let it walk at the front of the room near the educator. Discuss the striped skunk’s biology, similar species and how its color is different from other Arkansas mammals. Discuss why the coloring is beneficial not only to it but to its predators and how it protects itself.
  6. Answer any questions.

Modifications:

  • The educator may want to bring scat replicas to talk about animal signs and their diets.
  • This program is suitable for all grades. Use age-appropriate vocabulary.

Review:

  • List the characteristics of mammals.
  • Name the largest and smallest mammal on Earth.
  • List 10 common Arkansas mammals.

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

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