Monday, March 26, 2012

Looking for signs of mammals

When looking for signs of mammals, researchers don't always see the mammals themselves. Instead, they look for signs of the mammals' presence in the area.

Today we took a walk along the ocean to begin to learn what to look for and how to decide what mammal the signs went with.

Can you guess what Dr.  Chris Newman and Dr. Christina Buesching are looking at on the rock? It's something animals leave behind. If you said droppings, scat, feces, or whatever else you may call poop, you are right! This particular poop was made by a mink. We used clues, including the biome in which we found the poop to figure out whose poop it was. We also saw old bear poop, bobcat and porcupine poop. All had unique characteristics. Drs. Newman and Buesching are teaching us how to identify animals based on their poop. Scientists can tell a lot about which animals are active in the area by looking at poop.

What do you think are some characteristics that make poop identifiable as coming from a specific animal?

Other signs of life we noticed, were a small hole full of food remains that was probably made by a chipmunk or squirrel. Dr. Buesching said we could tell that because these small mammals like to pick a spot where they can easily see their surrounding and be alert to danger. She could also tell because the food was tree bits, which is exactly what those animals would eat.

One other sign of animal activity was the picked-clean leg bone of a deer. It was probably eaten by a coyote. Finally, although we will not be studying birds, we saw many lobster and crab shells that birds had dropped once they got all the good parts out.

Let me know if you have any questions!

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