Ranger naturalist to tell of Scales and Tales at libraries

June 29, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

"Move back further," said a smiling park ranger to a roomful of wide-eyed children seated on the floor. "You don't want to get eaten by my friends."

The young audience slid back a few feet.

"That's good," said the ranger, pointing to a table of animal carriers. "You never know. I might have a dragon or a dinosaur here."

The attentive crowd of about 50 children knew then that the ranger was teasing.

"You are 5,000 years too late for a dinosaur," shouted one child.

Jeannette Rose, a ranger naturalist with the state Department of Natural Resources, is visiting Carroll County public libraries with her scaly, scary friends this week.

"We call them the good, the bad and the ugly," said Ms. Rose, who works at Cunningham Falls State Park near Thurmont and was visiting the Mount Airy library yesterday.

Whatever their appearance, the animals all serve a purpose in nature, she said, and urged the children to become their protectors. Several animals she shows were injured and can no longer survive in the wild.

"If an animal is wild, you can't pick it up," she said. "It won't be your friend. Call a ranger, the park or a rescue service."

Many children easily answered her questions about animals. Kaitlin MacCallum, 9, identified the first bird as a male mallard.

"His green head means he's a male," said Kaitlin. "A female doesn't have much color, mostly brownish."

The duck flapped its wings and tried to escape Ms. Rose's firm hold.

"He is ready to go flying," said the ranger as she allowed the bird to spread its wings. "I take him along when there's no air conditioning."

Feathers flew about the room.

"Don't worry," she said. "He has about 14,000 more."

The duck can still fly and swim but it cannot feed itself. It became tangled in fishing wire and lost part of its beak.

Once the "good" duck was tucked away, Ms. Rose donned thick black gloves to show off the "bad guys."

"This owl can hear my heart beating and a mouse squeak a mile and a half away," Ms. Rose said of the brown and white screech owl perched on her arm. "That is good since she has to eat a mouse a day."

"Telescopic" vision aids owls in their nocturnal hunts for prey.

"This owl lost his right eye when some children threw rocks at him to attract his attention," said Ms. Rose. "We must all be careful not to injure wildlife."

She asked for complete silence before taking an 8-pound red-tail hawk from its cage.

"This friend is just mean," she said. "She's a moody teen-ager, too."

The hawk can fly at 175 mph -- "more than three times faster than the speed limit on the highway."

The hawk had another reason to be moody. She had lost part of her tail, possibly in a brush with a car.

"Without a tail, the hawk can't steer or balance herself," said Ms. Rose. "She would crash."

As soon as the circulation was restored to her arm, Ms. Rose held a bag from which she promised to produce "a coldblooded killer." A box turtle with its legs thrashing in the air hardly looked menacing.

"He probably thinks some eagle has him and is about to drop him on a rock," she said.

The last to appear was a 5-foot black rat snake, which coiled around the ranger's leg and arm as she detailed its favorite foods. She clutched the snake's head in her fingers and allowed the children a close-up look and a touch.

"He felt cold and wet, but not scary," said Justin Tolson, 5.

"Scales and Tales" will be at the Westminster library at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. today; at Eldersburg at 7 p.m. today and 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. tomorrow; and at Taneytown at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday. The program is open to children age 3 and older. Registration is required. Call the nearest branch for information.

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