As the snow fell softly on my shoulders on a quiet February morning, I trudged down to the Creekside canoe launch in Beckley Creek Park. My mission was to check the game camera the Education Department set up, with the hopes of capturing a glimpse of the beavers that had been active in the area. As I approached the camera that is set up at the entrance of what we think is a beaver den, I noticed that fresh blanket of snow around the hole. No tracks to be found, I sighed in exasperation as we still had not been able to capture this industrious rodent on camera.
As I pondered where the beaver could be, I stepped to the edge of the Beckley Creek bank and watched as a great blue heron flew overhead. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted movement on the far bank. Through a crack in the iced covered stream, a small brown mustelid head popped up and stared at me. A mink! I watched as this crafty carnivore patrolled the bank of Beckley Creek. Noticing my presence, the mink hissed like a cat and began retreating towards the roots of a sycamore tree. During this retreat, I was able to capture a quick video.
Notice the graceful and slender body, an important trait if you are a hunter. Mink are carnivores and primarily eat mice, rabbits, crawfish, fish, snakes, and frogs. They are fearless and will often go toe to toe with birds of prey and bobcats in competition for prey. Mink prefer wooded streamside habitat and will often den in burrows dug into the riverbank or in the root system of large trees like the sycamore. Found in almost every area of the United States and Canada, with the exception of the American Southwest, the mink is known for its luxurious fur. The dark brown fur is downy soft underneath with long, oily, guard hairs on top that make the fur water resistant.
Experiences like this are what make The Parklands special. Having an intimate interaction with this mink 20 minutes outside of the largest metro area in the state is something rare and something I treasure as the Director of Education at The Parklands. So, grab your boots and get out in the snowy weather when it comes- you never know what you might see!
As Director of Education, Curtis Carman oversees The Parklands Outdoor Classroom, promoting STEAM-based education through engaging, hands-on learning both outdoors and inside the classroom. Each year, his team of Education Specialists, Interpretive Rangers and Camp Counselors guide nearly 20,000 participants of all ages through school field trips, camps, Parklands Explorer, Junior Explorer and Wednesday Wonders. Prior to his promotion to Education Director in May of 2018, Curtis first joined The Parklands team as an Interpretive Ranger and led the department as Education Coordinator for three years. A native of Louisville and a graduate of Ballard High School, Curtis returned to his hometown after having worked as an environmental educator in Maine and Colorado at Acadia and Rocky Mountain National Parks. Curtis also served as Membership Manager at the Rocky Mountain Conservancy. Curtis enjoys hiking, biking, camping and kayaking.
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