Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Boardman River Nature Center

Steph and I have been in Traverse City for the past few days, and we decided we'd take a look at the Boardman River Nature Center. It's a relatively new building, situated in the Grand Traverse Conservation District, and it's one of the nicest nature centers that I have had the pleasure of visiting. Neither Steph nor I had been there before, and we were pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of child-friendly hands-on activities and displays, some of which had an emphasis on art.

The nature center's taxidermy was all museum-quality, and was some of the nicest I've seen. What I found to be most interesting was that very few of the mounted animals were behind glass, and many were accessible -- pelts and skulls accompanied the mounts, and could be touched. Because the taxidermy was of such good quality, and because most mounts were supplemented with information about the animal, very few live animals were in captivity at the nature center -- another plus, in my book.

Fish of Michigan I

One of the central displays was a collection of freshwater fish mounts, showcasing the fish of the Great Lakes. Pictured here: a burbot and a crappie.

Turkey/Loon

A wild turkey and a common loon -- one is hunted, the other is conserved. I think both birds are pretty neat in their own ways!

River Otter Marten

Mustelidae -- the minks, martens, otters, and ermines. I thought the river otter mount looked quite noble and dignified. Accompanying it was also a (very long) pelt, as well as a skull.

Snowy Owl

A worried-looking snowy owl, one of the few mounts that was behind glass.

Taxidermy is a wonderful teaching tool, as are other animal remains: antlers, bones, turtle shells, and fur scraps were available for handling and close examination. The children who were at the center seemed to be extremely excited to see the animal mounts (especially the bear); one child pointed to a fawn behind glass and said, "Look at the pretend deer!"

Related, I recently checked out a book, Are Those Animals Real?, at the library. It explains how museum taxidermy mounts are made, and their value to education and science. The book is a good, short read for children and adults alike, and I learned a few things!

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