Junior Rangers and June Bugs: The Excitement of Badges and Owl Pellets

Now that I feel comfortable working the desk and answering questions, I can also help with our Junior Ranger program. The program involves a booklet that visitors can complete to get their little Shenandoah Junior Ranger badge. Although anyone can participate in the program, it’s mainly aimed at kids with more kid-friendly activity pages. After the booklet is completed, the participant will come to the visitor center and be quizzed over some of the material in the booklet. After that they can be sworn in as a Junior Ranger, and get their badge. This is normally a big deal for kids; we even announce their names after they get their badge. It’s a fun program and I hope the participants learn something valuable.

The last question I normally ask is, “Do you want to be a park ranger?” and most kids will answer yes. Many tell me they love plants and animals and want to preserve and protect them. This makes me happy and gives me faith in the next generation. I hope they do a better job of protecting the world than the past generations have done.

Besides working on programs and helping at the desk, I’ve been enjoying my off-time and going on a lot of different hikes. I get along with my roommates well, and we often go into town together for restaurants and grocery shopping. Recently at our house we’ve had a very noisy juvenile Barred Owl. It likes to sit in our trees overlooking our open yard, a good spot to hear rodents in the grass. Unlike other animals, birds of prey like owls can’t process the bones, fur, or exoskeletons of animals. This means that they regurgitate that material in the form of a neat little pellet. It would be like us eating a candy bar with the wrapper on, but then spitting out the wrapper part because we can’t process it. The pellet on our porch contained some animal fur and bones, but also lots of insect exoskeletons. The insects looked like they were June Beetles, a cool find since I didn’t know owls purposefully consumed insects. Maybe just the juvenile owls do because they are still fairly small…


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