Children who visited Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge Saturday morning got the chance to study up on some familiar and furry neighbors — squirrels.
As part of the Refuge Rocks, Hagerman’s monthly nature education program for children, volunteers and park staff taught the young ones about the survival habits, body language and social lives of squirrels. And with more than 265 species of squirrels worldwide — 44 of which can glide through the air — there was plenty to discuss.
Courtney Anderson, who serves as the general biologist for Hagerman’s youth program, said Saturday’s lesson on squirrels was particularly relevant to the refuge.
“One of the coolest things about squirrels is that they can remember where so many of their acorns and nuts are stored,” Anderson said. “But there are some that get left behind and those end up turning into a lot of the trees we have here at Hagerman.”
Students also learned that Texoma’s squirrels tend to build their dreys, or nests, in the upper most reaches of trees, and that they run quick irregular routes to avoid predators.
Anderson said that squirrels were just one topic covered in the monthly class and previous subjects have ranged all the way from armadillos to algae. The goal is to get kids interested in the natural world and motivate them to take care of resources.
“Conservation is really the main message of what we do here,” Anderson said. “If these kids are taught to care about animals, plants, bugs and everything in between, they’ll be more likely to put their money, their energy and their jobs toward conservation and help our planet.”
Jennifer Dousay traveled from Fort Worth with her daughters Sophie and Claire and said her girls had already set their minds toward a career in conservation.
“They both want to be park rangers some day,” Dousay said. “So in our house, it’s important that we know about all the different species — how to take care of them and how to live alongside them.”
Sophie Dousay said she was excited to learn about squirrels at the Saturday class and that they already frequent her family’s home.
“Sometimes, in our backyard, we put peanuts down in front of the trees,” Sophie said. “The squirrels come down to eat and we watch them from inside.”
Hagerman’s the Refuge Rocks class meets the third Saturday of every month and offers two separate classes for children ages 4-7 and 8-12. The next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 18 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and will focus on birds. Families are encouraged to register their children for the classes by calling 903-786-2826.