Whether you're at home or out in nature, here are some ways to keep your kids and family thinking about science and the natural world!
Looking for fun activities that connect your child to nature? Print out our Junior Ranger book or Junior Snow Ranger book and bring it along next time you hike the trails. When you're done, bring your book to the Visitor Center to become an official Junior Ranger of Galena Creek and the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.
We also have a Scavenger Hunt you can complete along the trails. This is perfect for younger kids or if you're only here for a short hike.
Print out some of these Nature Bingo sheets and hit the trails to see who can find four in a row first! For tile markers, get creative and use small rocks or pine cone scales.
Snowy trails are the perfect place to look for animal tracks. On our trails, we are likely to see mule deer, coyote, bobcat, and raccoon tracks in the winter. If you look closely you may also see tracks from squirrels, gophers, and rabbits. What should you take note of when looking at tracks in snow or mud? First, how many toes.
One toe, it’s a horse.
If it has two toes, you’re looking at a deer or elk track. Size and shape will help you determine which one.
Three toes means it’s probably a bird. If the toes are webbed together, it’s probably a duck. If they’re not, it could be a raven, heron, or another larger bird that walks regularly.
Four toes makes it a mountain lion, fox, bobcat, coyote, rabbit, or a pet dog.
Bobcat (width ~2 inch) & Mountain Lion: (width 3.5 inch) generally round in outline, claws do not show, planter pad with two lobes on top.
Coyote: (width ~2.25 inch, front toes overlap rear toes) & Red Fox: (width ~2 inch, front toes do not overlap rear toes) generally longer than wide, claws show, planter pad with one lobe at top.
Rabbit: width ~1.5 inch or less, narrow track
If it has four toes on its front foot but five toes on its hind foot it could be a squirrel or porcupine.
Porcupine: width ~1.5inch, long claws, rounded pad may show bumpy texture
Squirrel: Tree Squirrel: width ~2.5 inch, forefeet offset
Ground Squirrel: width 1.5 inch, forefeet parallel
Five toes could belong to a black bear, river otter, beaver, or raccoon.
Black Bear: width ~4 inch, large sized, heel does not appear on forefoot
Racoon: width ~2.5 inch, forefoot and hindfoot resemble small human hands and feet with fat/round toes
River Otter: width ~4 inch, forefoot spread round fingers not attached to print, webbed hindfoot with fat/round toes
Beaver: width ~3 inch, long fingers on forefoot, webbed hindfoot with long toes
One thing to keep in mind, though, is sometimes not all the toes show up in the track, so you have to use your imagination if you think some toes are missing. That’s a good start to figuring out who made this track.
Now that you’re a tracking expert, think about why different animals have different numbers of toes and different sizes and shapes and even textures on their feet.
Consider some of these questions:
Which of these animals climbs trees?
Which of these animals runs really fast?
Which of these animals eats meat?
Which of these animals eats seeds or plants?
Which of these animals swims a lot?
Black Bear tracks along Ophir Creek Trail in Washoe Valley. (March 29th, 2020)