Exotic Wildlife Species Highlighted at Penn State DuBois
DuBois – Some area children got a first hand look at some exotic animals during presentations made recently by students in the Wildlife Technology program at Penn State DuBois. The presentations were open to kids of any age who have an interest in learning about wildlife.
Three groups of students offered different presentations that focused on exotic species that are not native to Pennsylvania, or the United States. Specifically, Silver Carp, Burmese Pythons, and Ringneck Pheasants were covered.
"The children really enjoy this, and get really excited to come to these," said Wildlife Technology Instructor Keely Roen. "Our students really benefit too because they get the experience of making presentations for different age groups."
Student presenters explained how each of the non-native species came to exist in the U.S. The algae eating Silver Carp were brought from Asia in the 1970's to help control algae growth in American water treatment plants. Floods, however, allowed the fish to escape into open waterways, where they have become an invasive species. The large fish, which can reach 40-60 pounds, continue to put stress on native fish populations.
"Researchers are trying to figure out how to barricade water systems to keep them from spreading," said student presenter Derek Johnson, of Curwensville. "But, it's hard because you can't control the carp without also controlling the native species, and blocking them off from the waterways too."
Students presenting information on the pythons assured children that Pennsylvania's climate is too cold for the giant snakes to survive in the wild. However, many wild snakes are living and reproducing in southern states, especially Florida, where they have become highly invasive. They can reach 20 feet in length, and feed upon domestic animals, and even creatures as large as alligators. Pythons that made it to the wild in this country, presenters said, usually started off as pets purchased at a pet store. Often, owners will let the snakes go once they've lost interest, or the snake becomes too large for them to keep.
A highlight of the program came when student presenters Bill Brehun and Matt Allen brought two live pheasants into the room. They brought one male, and one female bird, that gave children a first-hand, up-close look. The children were even allowed to pet the pair of pheasants, which came from a private farm that raises the birds.
A popular game bird among hunters, the Ringneck Pheasant, presenters explained, is actually native to China. It was brought to the United States in the late 1800's for hunting.
As the students explained to the children, the difference between the pheasant and the other animals discussed is that the pheasant is not invasive.
"Even thought they're not native, they fit well into our ecosystem and don't cause problems for us or our native animals," explained wildlife student Marissa Galeotti of Coudersport. "They do survive here, but have a hard time surviving the Pennsylvania winters."
Children were quizzed after each presentation, and had the chance to answer questions to claim prizes of candy and cookies.
For more information on the Wildlife Technologies program at Penn State DuBois, call (814) 375-4720.