Exploring Mammals

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Exploring and Observing Mammals

Mammals iconAlong with birds, when most people observe wildlife, they generally focus on mammals, those warm-blooded, milk-producing creatures that range from tiny voles to the mighty Roosevelt elk in Jefferson County.

In the Exploring Mammals virtual nature walk, wildlife biologist/ecologist team Lorna and Darrell Smith not only provide an inventory of some of this area’s mammal members, but also explore their roles in our ecosystem.

After watching the virtual nature walk, find a set of resources and activities on the page below.

Exploring Mammals Virtual Nature Walk with Lead Naturalists Lorna and Darrell Smith


Exploring Mammals Recommended Resources from Lorna and Darrell Smith:



Recommended Mammals Activities from Lorna and Darrell Smith:

  • Choose a mammal as a focal species and use the resources listed above to study it in depth. Here are a few that Lorna and Darrel recommend:
    • Townsend’s Mole Scapanus townsendii
    • Coyote Canis latrans
    • Mountain lion Puma concolor
    • Townsend’s vole Microtus townsendii
    • Black-tailed deer Odocoileus hemionus
    • Douglas squirrel Tamiasciurius douglasii
    • Vagrant shrew Sorex vagrans
    • California myotis Myotis californicus
    • Snowshoe hare Lepus americanus
    • Harbor seal Phoca vitulina
    • River otter Lontra canadensis
  • Look for wild mammals in your neighborhood and write down what you see. Can you find a squirrel? A deer? A mouse?
  • Check out this short video from the “Outdoor Every Day” program about how to measure a track.
  • Watch this video to learn more about gaits: YouTube – Animal Gaits a Study by Steve Leckman
    Are the tracks in sets of 4 or 2 for each gait? In which gait do the tracks fall on top of each other, if at all?
  • Use the information from the video above to study tracking with your pets (or your neighbor’s pets):
    • Gently study the foot of your cat or dog.
      • How many toes does it have?
      • Which toes would show up in a track?
      • Do its claws retract or are they always visible?
    • If you have a cat, look for its tracks outside in the mud or sand or dew.
      • How many toes do you see in the track?
      • How can you tell which way it is going?
      • Can you see the tracks of all four feet separately or do some fall on top of others?
      • Can you see its claws in the track?
    • Go to a beach or muddy area, with your dog, or where you can see your neighbors’ dogs, and look at the tracks they make in the sand or mud.
      • How many toes do you see in the track?
      • Do you see the imprint of the claws in the track?
      • How can you tell which way it is going?
      • Can you see the tracks of all four feet separately or do some fall on top of each other?
      • Watch a dog run (fast), walk (slow), or trot (medium) and notice how the tracks are different for each “gait.”
      • Can you find any other tracks made by animals other than dogs?
  • If you’re really interested, check out animal track and sign field programs: