Crayfish tales

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.

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Turtle tales

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