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On Thursday, June 16th, the Chrisman Public Library hosted the first of two programs for the summer. This program was put on by Forest Glen Preserve Conservationist Brenna. The program began by Brenna reading the story ‘In the Pond’.
After the story, those children in attendance were shown pelts from animals that are around the area. Brenna also brought skulls for the kids to look at. In order to describe to them what a skull was, they were asked to tap on the top of their heads. “Do you feel that? That’s bone. That’s your skull,” Brenna told them.
Given a choice between insects and furs, the children chose to learn about the furs first. Brenna went on to explain to children the difference between carnivores and omnivores and why their teeth were different. “They have sharp teeth so they (carnivores) can eat meat.”
The fox fur was the first to be passed around as she explained why the skin of the pelt felt like leather rather than soft like the fur.
A badger was shown next. Badgers live in grasslands and have been found by cornfields. Badgers are territorial and will attack anything that comes near its den that it has deemed as a predator.
When Brenna brought out a coyote pelt, a few of the children had mistaken it for a wolf. “A wolf is even bigger,” Brenna said. After demonstrating the sound a coyote makes, the children correctly guessed the animal.
Two animals that were known for getting into the trash were shown next. The children guessed raccoon on the first try, but the pelt of the opossum seemed to stump them. Brenna tried giving them clues, but still no one knew. “It’s a little white animal with a pink tail.” Eventually, they were told the name of the animal.
Opossum actually have more teeth than any other animal. Humans have thirty-two teeth and the opossums have fifty teeth. They also can eat up to five thousand ticks in a year. “We like having them around for that benefit. Even if you don’t like them, there’s a reason to appreciate that they exist.”
A popular animal that all of the children have seen, a squirrel was brought out. Recently, the white squirrels that are found in Olney were introduced in the area. Instead of staying separate from the other squirrels, they bred with the Fox Squirrels, creating the unique animals found in City Park.
Any animal, albino or part albino are rare. An animal that is albino does not have the ability to make color in its skin/fur. An albino animal is easier to see by predators due to its color. If a bird of prey is perched in a tree, spotting a white animal is easier than the usual colored.
The animals that have the normal color are able to use its camouflage to hide from predators. “It would be harder to see a red squirrel due to it’s color. The white ones don’t blend into anything in the world,” Brenna said.
A footprint from a deer was passed around to give a clue to the next animal. “This shape looks like someone took two knuckles and pushed them straight into the ground,” Brenna said, giving them a hint. “This animal has a split hoof, so he has a hoof like a horse. Instead of all one arch, it has two parts like a goat.”
The children immediately knew the deer. The White Tailed Deer is the Illinois State Animal. Their skin is thicker than most animals. The deer is well known for Native Americans using the pelts for blankets, floor coverings or covering the door to their tee-pee to keep the cold air from coming inside.
The skull of a white-tailed deer was also passed around. Their flat teeth help them to eat grass, berries and any other plants they may find. The top teeth of the deer are sharp to aid in tearing off the leaves. Brenna compared their top teeth to the teeth on a tape dispenser to make it easier for the children to understand.
Brenna then explained mammals to the children. “A mammal is an animal that has fur,” Brenna said. This lead to her bringing out a bat. The bat was placed in a viewing box for them to see. Bats have skin between all of his fingers that helps him fly. “When he’s flying, he’s flying with his hands.” Bats are known for eating three thousand mosquitoes in one night.
A turtle shell was passed around for the children to look at next, telling the children that it was all bone. Inside of the shell, the ribs and spine are visible. One of the children holding the turtle shell put her hand underneath, sticking it out where the head would be. “That’s really good!,” Brenna said.
The preserved insects were then passed around for the children to view. They were able to look at the pelts once more before leaving the library with a bottle of water and a snack cake.