Paulding County Girl Scouts enjoy Nature Center Field Day

By: Patrick Troyer, Education Specialist

Girl Scouts from across Paulding County gathered at the Black Swamp Nature Center on Sunday, September 24th for an afternoon filled with great activities courtesy of the Paulding Soil & Water Conservation District. This event brings all girl scout troops in Paulding County together to kick off their calendar full of many other fun events. The program of the day was an activity called Wildlife CSI which challenged the Girl Scouts to solve the mystery of who killed the Eastern White Cottontail Rabbit.

To start the activity off, everyone was first introduced to the crime at hand as described by a passing skunk. “Last night around 9pm, I was waddling through the park when I came across, brace yourselves, a freshly killed Eastern Cottontail Rabbit! There was no sign of any animal predators eating their fresh kill, but there was a human walking quickly in the opposite direction of the crime scene. Kind of suspicious if you ask me!”

The skunk goes on to say “Good thing I waited to come out for food last night or it could have been me in the rabbit’s place! However, I do have my handy-dandy spray for defense, though I’m not as quick as I used to be. Anyhow, I looked out of my log this morning and the rabbit was gone!! I didn’t hear anyone come to eat the rabbit; is my hearing failing too? We need to get to the bottom of this! Who could have enjoyed the rabbit for dinner or I guess it could have been for breakfast, I slept in late and didn’t look out until 10:30am. Help me solve this mystery!”

In this activity, participants formed groups and took on the role of various animals that are found in the environment such as a coyote, great horned owl, opossum, mink, human, and a fox. Before they could assume those roles, everyone had to learn a few facts about each of their animals to know the animal’s diet, habitat, behavior, and activity characteristics.

Once learning about their animals, participants visited the scene of the crime which included rabbit fur, coyote scat, owl pellet with rabbit fur, and coyote tracks to gather any clues that could aid in their investigation. After visiting the scene of the crime, the groups were then tasked to interview other groups to gather more clues to see who is guilty of killing the rabbit. They were given cards for their respective animals which gave quick facts on their animal’s diet, habitat, behavior, and activity. Through the interviews with other groups representing the various animals, things such as where each animal was during the time of the murder, their favorite foods, and activity habits.

After the interviews were completed, it was time for each animal group to plead their case on why they are not responsible for killing the rabbit. As they made their case, the groups were asked questions on why they feel the way that they do citing the facts they gathered through their interviews that helped them reach a conclusion.

Everyone was asked, so who killed the rabbit? It was the coyote, but is that the whole story? Did the coyote kill the rabbit out of hatred? Nope, he killed it so he or she could survive the cold winter months, but why didn’t the coyote get to eat the rabbit? The human who was walking in the park on that evening scared the coyote away before he could eat the rabbit. It is a well-known fact that owls are nocturnal animals, which means they go out and hunt at night preying upon animals instead of scavenging for them.

Should there be a freshly killed prey for the owl, we know that they will take it back to their nest and eat it. Owls use their feet to catch prey and kill prey with their sharp talons making them raptors. It is also possible that the Great Horned Owl is nesting and could have babies to feed which could explain why the owl took the killed rabbit instead of hunting. The next question becomes, why didn’t the skunk hear the owl come and take the rabbit away? Owls have feathers that are fringed which allows air to flow through them and keeps them silent during flight. Initially, we may have suspected the human as killing the rabbit when they were seen running away in the other direction. Why did he leave in such a hurry? He didn’t want to get sprayed by the skunk of course and had nothing to do with the kill!

This activity is an excellent teambuilding activity for participants and really challenges them to use their critical thinking skills. If you would like this program or another topic or want to have an event just like this at the Black Swamp Nature Center, contact Patrick Troyer at Paulding SWCD via email at patrick.troyer@pauldingswcd.org or 419-399-4771 and see what we can do for you!

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