On Thursday, we were paid a visit by Derek from Wildlife Encounters along with a few of his animals friends! Before meeting the animals, Derek had us recite the Citizens of Earth's Pledge to the Planet" to protect and respect the living things around us:
"I Pledge Allegiance
to the Web of Life
of which we are each a strand
and to the planet Earth
on which we stand,
under the sun,
with diversity and respect for all"
The first animal we met was a brown Skunk named Fauna. We learned the scientific name for skunks (mephitis mephitis) as well as the scientific name for humans (homo sapiens). The first part of the name refers to the genus of the animal and the second part of the name comes from the species. We also learned that skunks are nocturnal (which means they typically come out at night), but occasionally will come out during the day if it is dark and cloudy.
We learned that skunks are mammals because they have fur. We also learned that the only difference between hair and fur is that fur grows to a certain length and then stops while hair will continue to grow. Fauna was a little nervous around the big crowd and showed us "Nature's Stop Sign", but luckily she had been de-skunkified before becoming one of Derek's Teaching Assistants!
Next, we met the largest reptile in New Hampshire, the Snapping Turtle! We learned that turtles don't actually have shells like hermit crabs or shellfish because their shells are part of their body and it cannot be removed! Derek showed us that the center of the shell is actually the turtle's spine and the sides make up its rip cage! Snapping turtles have very long necks, not only to protect themselves from predators, but to also help them catch their food and flip themselves back into upright position should they get knocked over.
Next we met Houdini the Groundhog/Woodchuck. Houdini was a bit plump when we saw him, because he is getting his body ready to hibernate for the winter. We learned why groundhogs/woodchucks gained the nickname "whistle pigs" when Derek lifted him out of his cage!
Derek also told us about where the holiday "Groundhog Day" originated from. In Germany, when hedgehogs would poke out of their winter homes, it was a sign that spring was on its way!
Next we met Aurora, the Great Horned Owl. Aurora was rescued from the wild when she was accidentally hit by a car when swooping down to pick up another animal off the side of the road. Aurora was demonstrating the "panting" movement that owls do with their beaks and throats. Owls do this to communicate with one another and they also do it when they are feeling hot or stressed.
Lorena the Virginia Opossum was also rescued from the wild when her mother was hit by a car while carrying herself and her brothers in her pouch (they are the only marsupials living in North America). We learned that Opossums can hang from their tails and have more teeth than any other North American mammal. She even gave us a glimpse of those 50 pearly whites before Derek placed her back in her cage!
Lastly, we met a Hognose Snake.This type of snake is only slightly venomous, and they only use it to help capture their prey. While many people are not fond of snakes (including Ms. Riley), we learned that they are vital to keeping our environment in balance!
Thank you very much for sharing your animals and wealth of knowledge with us, Derek! We can't wait to see you and meet some new animals again later on in the year!