What started off as a chilly morning, only got colder as the day went on. That didn’t stop our campers from diving deep into the world of Denver’s Urban Animals! We had a packed day of fun and learning at SPREE HQ last Monday during our holiday camp.
The day started with our mission from Chompers who told us we would learn about nocturnal nature visitors, water fauna, and pesky park dwellers. The first activity was on a nocturnal animal….
We began with an animal mystery. Teachers showed campers a model of the animals skull, tracks and scat. Campers discussed what each clue told us about the animal and they solved the mystery as a raccoon! Raccoons are adapted for urban nightlife- they are opportunistic eaters and can find a lot to eat in Denver parks. Raccoons have an excellent sense of touch and will dip their food in water to “see” it better, so the South Platte River provides excellent riverfront dining.
The second activity was critter crawl. It was a chilly day, so we started our critter crawl with a beaver-muskrat Venn diagram. These two native urban rodents are similar- continuously growing teeth, crepuscular, & both nest in water. But, they can be identified from each other through key characteristics. Beaver tails are horizontally flat, vs the “rat” shaped vertically flat tail of the muskrat. The ears will also set the two animals apart- muskrat ears lay flat against the head; beavers ears stick out of their head. After learning about beaver and muskrat characteristics, we headed outside for a chilly, but successful critter crawl. We caught crawdads, scuds, and clams!
Our third activity was a group activity on an animal some may consider Denver’s peskiest- geese. Denver provides a wonderful habitat for geese- open fields and parking lots for nesting, low population of predators, and lots of water! However, geese often get a bad rap because where there is geese there is often a lot of them, and a single goose can produce 1-2lb of scat a day! In a city of almost 5,000 geese… that is a lot of scat! Campers played a game where they transformed into geese and had to try to survive in Denver throughout history when our city looked much different, and had higher populations of predators. After coming inside, we measured campers “wingspan” to see if any stood up to the 4-6ft wingspan of an average goose!
We wrapped up our camp day with a group camp craft- a wild diorama of Denver. We began constructing cityscapes- parks, buildings, rivers/creeks, roads & plants. Denver was looking great! Campers began planning for Tuesday when we would make urban animals. What hoped the snow reports were being dramatic but Denver really did see a foot of snow fall on Tuesday! We will have to finish that diorama in a future camp, but are happy we all stayed warm and safe during the snowstorm.
We will see you soon down by the River!