Wild, wild life
By BECKY MALEWITZ
Six-year-old Taryn Renick of Cimarron stood behind her sisters and close to her great-grandmother, Shirley Wheeler, as Whitney Buchman, manager of Distance Learning and Technologies at Lee Richardson Zoo pulled out a bull snake to show the group.
"She kind of tends to be a little shyer than the others, but actually she's not shy at all," Wheeler said of Taryn, comparing her reaction to the snake with her two older sisters.
The three girls spent Saturday morning at the Outdoor Wildlife Learning Site, located at the Sandsage Bison Range, as part of the Family of OWLS Adventure. The two-hour exploration included a scavenger hunt, crafts and native animal presentations led by guides from Friends of the Sandsage Bison Range and Wildlife Area.
"This is really neat. We just have to have fun things to do every time (the girls) come out. This takes care of the morning activity," Wheeler said. "This is something new and different, and I thought this would be good. They'll go home, and they'll tell their mom, 'guess what we saw'?"
Ten-year-old Kylee, Taryn's older sister, enjoyed the animal presentations, which included a box turtle, western hognose snake, bull snake and a barn owl named Bowie.
"I think they were neat, and it was cool to learn about them," Kaylee said about the animals.
"I learned that snakes have two holes up in their mouth they use to smell, and they open their mouths and use their tongues to do it, and there are a bunch of different kinds, and they like open areas and won't hurt you unless you mess with them, and there aren't very many venomous ones," she said.
She later added that, of the animals presented, Bowie was her favorite. Her younger sister, Taryn, agreed that she also favored the barn owl.
Unlike the girls, 6-year old Devin Hauschild was all about the snakes, answering questions posed by Buchman and staring at the reptiles with excitement.
When asked if he knew a lot about snakes, he replied, "I know a lot about everything," and then went on to describe a big snake he once saw, stretching out his arms and saying it was "this big."
Devin's grandfather, Darrel Hauschild, who has been volunteering at the bison range for 15 years, helped the kids with their scavenger hunt, pointing out flowers, frogs and even a nest in a tree.
"We are just trying to get some interest in the Sandsage Bison Range," he said. "We thought if we had a specific date for every month in the summer, we might get some interest."
Kylee said that she would recommend the experience to other kids interested in learning more about wildlife.
"I think it's a chance for them to learn more about animals than just learning about them in school," she said. "They can see what they look like, and they can learn where they live and they can go to where they live."