When most adults hear someone mention crayfish, what most likely comes to mind is a culinary dish rooted in the South. However, mention crayfish to a group of Summer Campers at the Lake County Forest Preserves, and you will see eyes light up and hands reach for pond-scooping nets and buckets while their minds contemplate questions of “how big?” and “how many?” During our hikes to the edge of a pond the campers exchange crayfish stories about the best techniques for catching these crustaceans, the size of earlier catches growing the closer we get to the water.
I’ve spent the past few weeks scooping nets into the pond at Captain Daniel Wright Woods with 4th – 7th grade students, studying what is lurking along the mucky bottom during a Pond Study program. Before the group spreads out along the shoreline, I show the students examples of animals that make their home in the pond. By far, the item that elicits the biggest reaction is a snapping turtle shell that is the size of a dinner plate. Hands shoot up in the air, and everyone has a story about an encounter with this hulking reptile—from witnessing a female digging a nest in a backyard garden to being stopped in a traffic jam caused by a turtle crossing the road. Continue reading →