Saturday, June 4, 2011

Wildlife Experience: Gopher Snake and Barred Owl

Today, Beverly  from Wildlife Experience was in our class.

They are a non-profit wildlife education organization that brings native and exotic animals to schools and teaches children about the importance of our natural world.

To book a program for your southern California school, click here.

 First, the class talked about animals that come out at night (nocturnal
as well as day dwellers (diurnal).

Diurnal  animals:  lizards, squirrels, crows and ravens, snakes, hawks, and vultures

Most California animals are nocturnal:  coyotes, owls, raccoons, bats, bobcats, mountain lions, and possums

Beverly said that wildlife is all around, even if we don't see it.  We can look at what they leave behind and know that they are around:  bones, fur, owl pellets (if you open the pellets, you'll find undigested bones!), feathers, tracks, dung or scat.

Meet a Gopher Snake

The class got to learn about a gopher snake. Beverly said that gopher snakes often retreat into gopher holes during hot days. That is why they are called gopher snakes! These reptiles are found all over California.
Snakes are cold-blooded, are hatched from eggs, have lungs, but do not have eyelids. They smell with their tongues!

Some people thought that the snake might feel slimy. When we touched the snake, we discovered they are not gooey, but feel like rubber or a basketball! 

Gopher snakes are not poisonous. These special snakes have a color adaptation. Their color pattern looks a lot like a rattlesnake, so predator get confuse. In addition,  gopher snakes employ a clever behavioral adaptation. They will shake the tip of their tails in the sand or in dry leaves to pretend like they are a rattlesnake! Great strategy for survival!
Snakes grow their entire lives, and here is a recent shed from this gopher snake.
Here you can see the that they shed their eye caps!

Beverly shared this  photo of a cobra snake.

On the reverse of the photo, she shared that a snake has a backbone, which makes it a vertebrate animal!
Snakes are near the top of the food chain.

Some animals eat snakes: raccoons, owls, some hawks, and coyotes.

Meet a Barred Owl named Hoot
(Only found in northern California)

Hoot is a boy, and Beverly said that the girls are bigger by about a a third. The  females stay in the nest, while the smaller males go out and hunt. Barred owls are nocturnal, and live in northern california. 

Our local area is home to three types of owls: 

Owls have a bone in their neck that allows them to turn  2/3 of the way around. They cannot spin their heads all around!

Like reptiles, birds lay eggs. However, some bird create nests for their eggs.

Beverly shared a hawk nest.

The hawk used: twigs, cotton, feathers, bark, paper bags, newspaper, a dryer sheet, and even horse hair!

Notice all the horse hair used in this smaller nest.

Red-tail hawk egg

Here's an ostrich egg. An ostrich is the largest bird in the world. 

What did you learn from Beverly?

Have you ever seen or heard either of these animals near your house?


  1. What a fantastic post!I found it interesting and informative. To be honest I learnt a lot! I did not know that I am diurnal! I also did not know anything about gopher snakes. We don't have any snakes in New Zealand but we do have a native owl called a "morepork" (or Ruru, in maori). It got its english name because when you hear it calling at night it sounds like it is asking for more pork!!!

    Thanks for the great post - we are learning about colour and adaptation so will be checking out your post with my class next week!

  2. Dear Mrs. Yollis,

    I like the snakes. The skeleton one is super scary to me. I like the yellow one because it is so nice, not a mean one. They are awesome and cool. I like them so much.


  3. Dear Mrs Yollis,

    how wonderful that you and your students we able to have this awesome experience!

    This is just a wonderful way for children to realise that where they live it is not just about roads and houses. For we are sharing our homes to many amazing animals.

    However I really do feel that Hoot really stole the show what an amazing looking bird he is. I must say he did look rather grand don't you think.

    As for the snake well am really not a great love of them.
    For when I lived in the Snowy mountains I used to come across a lot of brown snakes. These snakes are one of the 5th dangerous snake in the world.
    Most of time when I did see one it to was trying to sun itself and get the warmth from the sun.

    Great post Mrs Yollis just love learning about animals.

    From your pal,

  4. @ Scoopers,

    Thanks so much for a quality comment! We loved learning about your native owl called Ruru! Owls are so interesting! We have a great horned owl that lives in a tree in our neighborhood. At night, the low hoooot...hooooot...hooooooot... is music to my ears. We just wrapped up a unit on physical and behavior adaptations. Happy learning!

    @ Em,

    The snake was so interesting! Not only was it interesting to touch, but its color adaptation make it look like a rattlesnake! Do you see many snakes where you live?

    @ AA,

    It is thrilling to see the animals up close!

    Although I liked the snake, Hoot was my favorite. He had beautiful feathers and those big eyes! Beverly said that they got him as a rescue when he was hit by a car. :-(

    You mentioned that you used to see a lot of brown snakes in the Snowy Mountains and that they are a dangerous snake. Do they have a poisonous bite or are they constrictors?

    Thanks for all you support, Alma!


    Mrs. Y♥llis

  5. @ Mrs Yollis,

    great question about the brown snake.

    The brown snake grows upto 1.5 metres in length. This snake is not only a dangerous but extremely venoumous!

    The venoum from this snake does cause death if left untreated.
    I did mention that they are found all over Australia except in Tasmania as it is far to cold for them.

    Also many a time while driving along the country road I would see a brown snake slide across the road. I would make it a point not to run it over as I has been know that they would sometime get wrapped up in the car wheel and survive.

    No need to thank me Mrs Yollis as I truly enjoy your blog on so many levels. :)

    From your blogging pal down under,

  6. Dear Mrs. Yollis,

    Wonderful post. It was a lot of fun touching the snake and watching the owl turn its head.

    I like the barred owl. Here are some facts about an owl:

    An Owl is a bird that usually lives alone and hunts for prey at night. Owls are birds that kill and eat animals. Owls eat mostly small mammals but they may also catch birds, fish, crayfish, worms, and insects.


  7. Dear Mrs. Yollis and class,

    This was a great post. I really loved learning all these great facts about animals that are native to California. I found it even more interesting because we don't have gopher snakes here in Massachusetts. I'm sure you probably have quite a few snakes out there that we don't have! Where I live, on Cape Cod, there are actually no poisonous snakes. In western Massachusetts you may find rattlesnakes but that's about it for poisonous snakes here! Of course, we do have many non venomous snakes. We definitely also have owls around as well. You can hear them from time to time!

    Too bad Beverly can't travel to Massachusetts. This looks like a great program!

    Your friend,
    Mr. Avery

  8. Dear Mrs. Yollis,
    I enjoyed having Beverly in our class today. I learned that an ostrich egg is bigger than my hand.
    I really liked seeing the barred owl. We had one in our yard one evening at sunset. It said "hoo, hoo" and then flew off. I wanted to get a picture but it was too fast.


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