When you head out on your camping adventure, you’ll be sure to find plenty of new creature friends. Remember that you’re in their neighborhood. Give them plenty of space, but take some time and watch their animal antics. What behaviors can you see? Are the animals eating? What do they do when they are scared? You can take notes and draw sketches of your observations. Now you’re a naturalist.
- While black-capped chickadees are common across Wyoming, mountain chickadees are found at higher elevations. Look for a white stripe on the head of the mountain chickadee.
- Another bird that you could find in the mountains is the gray jay. Well actually they might find you. A nickname for the gray jay is the camp robber. Never leave food out. Otherwise, these bold birds might steal scraps right off your picnic table.
- Pine nuts are a favorite treat for red squirrels. They don’t eat the pine cone scales though, so these pile up into huge mounds called middens. Look for them when you’re hiking through the conifer woods this summer.
- You can tell chipmunks from squirrels because chipmunks have stripes on their faces. Don’t be fooled by golden-mantled ground squirrels. They look very similar to chipmunks.
- It’s a myth that porcupines can throw their quills, but you still don’t want to get too close when you find one. These rodents look awkward waddling along on land, so it might surprise you that porcupines are excellent tree climbers.
- Beavers are known as a keystone species because they change the landscape. They will chew down trees and dam up flowing streams. These beaver ponds create some of the best fishing spots for the brook trout in mountain streams.
- If you can’t find any animals, look for animal sign. Can you find a beaver dam? Are there any critter tracks in the mud? Can you find any twigs that have been chewed on? Did any animals leave behind other clues?
- The scientific name for animal poop is scat! You can usually identify which animal species were there just by the shape and size of the scat they left behind.
- Rabbits don’t have very efficient guts, so sometimes they will eat their own scat to get extra nutrients from the partially digested pellets. Most people call this gross (and definitely not recommended!). The science term for it is coprophagia.