Monday, November 8, 2021

Trail Blazers discover there is more to scat than just a plop of poop

When Hamilton County Community Services’ Prevention Educator Evangeline Wells invited me to give an outdoor presentation to Trail Blazers kids, I knew I wanted to mix fun and nature facts to keep things light and interesting for this summer event.  Students traveled to the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District office on July 21 and discovered that there is more to scat than just a plop of poop in the woods.  I packed the morning with activities and information about animal tracks and scat.

Photo at left: I ask the Trail Blazers to describe the story of track photos.

TRACKS

Kids unmold their animal track cast.

I explained that even though people may not always see animals in the wild, we know they are in our neck of the woods by the evidence animals leave behind.  By identifying animal signs like tracks, scat, beds, and scent markings, people can infer what the animal was doing, where it was going, what it was eating, or what ate it.

Kids made their very own animal track by pouring casting material into molds.  They closely examined the track cast and noted its shape, size, and if it was a front or hind foot.

Showing off an animal track cast.

SCAT

Rain showers moved the presentation indoors where Trail Blazers were shocked to learn that animal scat comes in every imaginable shape and size depending on diet and digestive organ size.  I handed out animal photos and plastic scat to each student and chaperone, then explained that those with scat needed to match up with the correct animal.

Bird and reptile scat is white.  Deer scat is pellet shaped, while bat, fox, and bobcat scat is tubular.  Bear scat is a plop, while earthworm castings are cylinders.  Herbivore scat may contain grass, and carnivore scat may have tufts of fur.

Students made their own animal scat.  They chose either white or brown play dough, then added mix ins like hay, grass, bird seed, aluminum foil insect wings, red hot candy berries, feathers, and cotton ball fur.

Students shape their scat sculptures.

It was a blast watching the Trail Blazers get creative and spend time shaping their scat and adding their mix-ins.  This hands-on activity incorporated science concepts like niche, habitat, and ecosystem.  Students explained their scat art, describing the animal that produced the plop.

Trail Blazers display their scat sculptures.

HIKE

The rain let up, and we wrapped up the morning with a hike on the Adirondack Ecotrail.  Kids searched for animal signs in the woods, and noted woodpecker holes in trees and deer scat on the ground.

Trailblazers is run through the Prevention Department of Hamilton County Community Services, explained Prevention Educator Evangeline Wells. The mission of Trailblazers is to prevent the onset of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use by building an individual’s character through participation in adventure activities.  We hope to strengthen community attachment, pride, and confidence among our county’s youth by highlighting some of the many wonderful opportunities we have right in our own backyards to live, work, play, and learn! Roughly 70 third through ninth graders are enrolled in the program county-wide.

Other summer Trail Blazers trips included rafting, a ride on the Hamilton County Sheriff Patrol Boat, and visiting the Adirondack Experience Museum. The end-of-summer barbeque was sponsored by The Salvation Army.

Trail Blazers pause for a group photo while looking for signs of animals in the woods.

The Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District offers conservation education presentations for all ages.

The District has been working to manage and promote the wise use of natural resources in Hamilton County since 1965.  For more information go to www.hcswcd.com or call 518-548-3991.

Related Stories


Caitlin Stewart is Conservation Educator at the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District (HCSWCD). One of HCSWCD’s largest programs is their Invasive Species program and Caitlin will be sharing her field experiences, as well as the efforts and results of forest surveys, and monitoring and management.

Caitlin has deep roots in Hamilton County as both her grandparents purchased property on Sacandaga Lake and Lake Pleasant in the 1960s. Her parents met and were married in Lake Pleasant, and she spent summers and vacations there. She’s been a full time resident since 2008 and is an avid hiker, skier, paddler, runner and biker.




Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *