Skins, Skulls, Tracks and Scat (FBCEC)

Summary:

Participants will explore skins, skulls, tracks and scat of Arkansas mammals. They will study models and examples and learn how these help mammals hunt, hide, eat, etc. “Mammal match-up” will challenge participants to match the skins, skulls, tracks and scat to various mammals.

Grade Level:

K - 12

Recommended Setting:

Indoor or outdoor classroom

Outdoor Activity:

No

Location:

Fred Berry Conservation Education Center, Yellville, AR

Contact:

Education Program Coordinator, 870-449-3484

Duration:

45 minutes - 1 hour

Suggested Number of Participants:

10 - 30

Objectives:

  • Identify mammals using skins, skulls, tracks and scat.
  • Describe how mammals’ physical attributes help them survive in their natural habitats.
  • Discuss how the animal characteristics featured in this lesson can provide information about the animals.

Key Terms*:

Animal sign

Carnivore

Herbivore

Omnivore

Scat

*See glossary for definations

Materials:

Dry erase board

Field guides, identification cards

Assorted mammal skins and skulls

Assorted mammal track and scat replicas

Paper and pencils for each participant

Background:

Mammals are fur-bearing, warm-blooded animals that typically give live birth to their young. Another distinguishing factor is that the young drink milk produced by the mother’s mammary glands. The Arkansas Ozarks are home to many interesting animals.

Procedure:

  1. Prior to the activity, select examples of skins, skulls, tracks and scat. Select three to five mammals to discuss, although other examples can be displayed. It is good to have mammals that represent omnivores, carnivores and herbivores. Label each item with a number or letter prior to the lesson.
  2. Discuss some of the mammal skins, skulls, tracks and scat that are displayed (not the numbered ones). Identify how each helps the mammal survive in its environment. For example, the teeth of a bobcat tear flesh, while the teeth of a white-tail deer grind plants. Show examples of tracks and scat and discuss what scientists and outdoorsmen can learn from these animal signs (population, age, diet, etc.).
  3. Distribute pencils and the participant worksheet at the end of this lesson or have participants create an identification chart that includes columns for animal, skin, skull, scat and track.
  4. After this, tell them to study the skins, skulls and tracks and guess which animal belongs to each. Have them work in groups of two or three and record their guesses on the paper. Have them explain their answers. After everyone has finished, go over each of the bio-facts, explaining how each helps the animals survive in the wild. Include the participants by asking why they chose their answers.

Modifications:

  • Take the participants on a scavenger hunt to find signs of the mammals they have studied. Have them use a journal to record observations during the hunt.
  • For younger participants, select one or two sets of mammal skins, skulls, tracks and scat and show them to the class. Select examples the participants are familiar with. Explain a little about each, letting them touch and look closely. Next, show mammal pictures and have them guess what skin, skull, track and scat match the pictures. They can draw a picture of the two mammals they guessed or write them down if they are able.

Review:

  • Describe the distinguishing characteristics of mammals.
  • Suppose a mammal skull is found in the field. Describe the characteristics used to identify the animal species.
  • Discuss several adaptations of three Arkansas mammals.

Resources:

  • Sealander, John A. and Gary A. Heidt (1990). Arkansas Mammals, The University of Arkansas Press.
  • McDougall, Len (2004). The Encyclopedia of Tracks & Scats, The Lyons Press.
  • lden, Peter (1987). Peterson First Guide to Mammals, Houghton Mifflin Company.

Glossary:

Animal sign – a trace of animal activity left behind

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

Herbivore – a plant-eating animal

Omnivore – an animal that eats both animal and vegetable matter

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