Archive for June, 2009

Local news about ferrets

June 29, 2009

Well, this is neat! According to a story in today’s Leader-Post, black-footed ferrets are being reintroduced into Grasslands National Park.

We have a couple of ferrets here at the Saskatchewan Science Centre. Neko and Dorrie are domestic European ferrets, and their kind have been domesticated so long that they have little hunting instinct left. You wouldn’t be able to let them loose to hunt and have them survive.

The ferrets being introduced back into the wild, the black-footed ferrets, generally eat prairie dogs. Their long, thin bodies allow them to get right into prairie dog burrows, and they even live in abandoned prairie dog homes.

Neko and Dorrie live in rather different surroundings:

Ferrets home

Ferrets in the wild tend to be solitary animals, but not our little guys:

Ferrets closeup

Stay curious,
Collette

All about ticks!

June 26, 2009

Oh boy, I am glad tick season is over soon. Thanks to some camping last weekend, I’ve been pulling ticks off my little dog all week!

Curious about these little guys, I read a bit about them this morning. Here’s is just some of what I learned:

There are a lot of different species of ticks! About 900 in fact. Of those 900, there are two main kinds: hard ticks and soft ticks. From what I understand, we have hard ticks in Saskatchewan.

Ticks are not insects but arthropods, which means they’re more related to spiders than dragonflies. Just like spiders, they have eight legs. They are parasites, meaning they live off of the blood of other creatures — like your dog, and you!

If you read too much about ticks, you start to feel itchy everywhere! It’s true, at least for me!

Ticks have four life stages: egg, larva, nymph, and adult. The egg hatches into a larva. A larva (“seed” tick) has six legs. It feeds on small animals like mice, then turns into a nymph. A nymph has eight legs. It then feeds on animals like deer and cows, then turns into an adult. Adult ticks also feed on larger animals, including people and dogs, and then lay eggs in the soil and die.

You can find ticks in tall grass and wooded areas. They climb up the grass and when they sense a meal coming, like my dog and I, they wave their front legs to grab on. A tick uses carbon dioxide, scent, and body heat among other things to find a host. If they miss out, they eventually become dehydrated so they’ll have climb back down to get some water. Then they climb back up and try again.

Ticks don’t attach themselves to their host right away. Once a tick finds you, it tends to climb upward until it reaches a more protected area, often the back of the knee, groin, navel, armpit, ears, or nape of the neck. Then it begins the slow process of grabbing on. It’s important to find them before they latch on and start feeding.

If they do latch on to you, or your dog, the only recommended way of removing them is to use tweezers to grab the head, and pull out slowly. You can’t convince a tick off of you using fire or vaseline — they are actually cemented on! They can’t detach until they’ve eaten, which takes several days. Cool fact: they concentrate the blood during feeding and will return a lot of the water back to the host.

Here’s some serious stuff: you shouldn’t touch a tick with your hands, and you should wash off the spot where they latched on. Ticks can make you really sick, so it’s important to read up on Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. It’s also why you should find those little guys quickly — the longer they’re attached to you, the more likely you are to have problems. Generally they’re just annoying to have around, but it’s good to be prepared.

And you know what eats ticks? Not much. A few kinds of birds, but that’s about it. My dog eats pretty much anything including flies, but I don’t think she’d eat a tick. Yuck!

Well, now that you’re feeling all creepy crawly — hey what’s that thing behind your ear? Oh, sorry, it’s nothing.

Stay curious,
Collette

Welcome fellow blogger!

June 23, 2009

Looks like the Saskatchewan Science Centre isn’t the only one blogging. The Saskatchewan Burrowing Owl Interpretive Centre has joined the blogosphere, and already I’m hooked!

Yesterday I discovered their blog, Travels with Georgie. George (or Georgia) is their newest ambassador owl. This pint-sized owl is being hand-raised so he can help teach people about prairie conservation.

We have a pretty friendly relationship with SBOIC. Not only do we see them pretty much wherever our GO! science team travels (like at Wings Over Wascana), they come out to our Summer Day Camps to teach the kids about their work and their owls. This year we should have them here for our Critter Crazy summer camp.

Speaking of summer camps, we offer four: Astronaut Adventure, Sports Science, Girls Rock, and Critter Crazy. Spots are filling up fast, but there is still room in all of our camps if your 6 to 11 year old has some time on their hands this summer. They’ll get to learn about science, meet other kids, have fun, and the price is very reasonable compared to other week long camps in the city.

If your son our daughter is crazy about animals, I definitely recommend Critter Crazy. And maybe they’ll get to meet George:

Travels with Georgie

He’s just so cute! I may have to take a trip out to Moose Jaw to meet him.

Stay curious,
Collette