By Dottie Dewberry
For the WPT
Beverly Smith from the Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee Wildlife Refuge presented the first of a three-part series titled “Dig into Reading” at the summer reading program at the Maben Public Library on June 11.
Smith had on display two turtle shells, which she explained were protection for turtles. She told the group that turtles live near water and wet areas; if the areas become too dry they will dig down into the mud as much as three feet. This will not keep them safe from wild hogs that will dig down that far to eat them.
She briefly touched on the fact that terrapins can close their shells completely, plus some turtles, but not all of them, can close their shells too. This is for their protection.
One question from the audience was what characteristics make an animal a reptile: have scales, are cold-blooded, most have four legs and lay amniotic eggs on land.
Joke: Why do turtles cross the road? To get to the Shell station.
Females may cross highways to find a place to lay their eggs.
A slider is the most common turtle we have around here; these are the ones that you see sunning up on logs. They have extremely long claws and strong legs, which help them get up on the logs.
Her next “digger” was the armadillo, which wandered here from Mexico, another illegal alien. The armadillos that we have do not roll into the ball for protection. An amazing fact about them is that they have four identical babies at a time — a complete DNA match. They scare easily. If you sneak up behind them and yell, they will jump straight up. BOO!
Smith strongly cautioned the children and the adults as well; do not handle armadillos: they are carriers of leprosy.
She also cautioned everyone that just because a baby animal is alone does not necessarily mean that it is abandoned. The mother is probably near and you do not want to mess with a momma and her babies.
Armadillos are bad to dig under foundations looking for grubs, beetles and termites.
Next for everyone’s amazement, Smith had a stuffed woodchuck, just like Punxsutawney Phil. No one knew what it was. They are not from this area. They have extremely long claws for digging burrows; they can destroy a lawn. They are vegetable and fruit eaters, surprisingly enough, they drink little water.
Smith had a skull that the children guessed and guessed trying to come up with its identity. Finally, it was revealed: it was a domesticated pig. She also had its bigger cousin the feral (wild) pig. She told the group that pigs have tusks and 44 teeth. The tusks continue to grow as the pig ages; they can grow up to 8 or 9 inches. Both sets grow upward.
Feral hogs can weigh as much as 750 pounds. She explained that our domesticated hogs were crossed with the Russian boars, which obviously is a much larger hog. Pigs do not sweat so they wallow in wet places to cool off.
The big surprise was the black stuffed head of a pig. WOW. It was big. The children got to touch it and feel the long hair along its backbone, which can rise like hackles. They can hear pretty well, but don’t see very well. These hogs will fight for their territory or for their mate. The gestation period of hogs is from 170 to 175 days; in warm climates, they will have babies all year long.
Smith says since the hog did not have a name, they children could suggest a name: Bad Boy, Blackie and Tuff-Stuff, etc.
She then had everyone go wash their hands after handling any of the display items.
The last part of the program was the drawing for prizes: The registration prizes went to Taylor Pruitt and Jactavias Guyton. This prize was a drink from Sonic.
The children that brought their book log for reading the most books went to Hayden Thompson and Mallory Burton, who both read 20 books. This prize was free meal at Appleby’s in Starkville.
All children present were allowed to select a prize from the “goody” box.
Next week the program is titled “Tops and Bottoms,” mostly about vegetables that grow in the ground and have to be dug up. Pam Awad, who is from the MSU Extension Office, will present the program.
The Summer Reading Program starts promptly at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays at the Maben Public Library.