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Spring Fever In Iowa's Animal Kingdom

While schools are closed, we're creating a series of "Talk of Iowa" episodes that will be fun and educational for learners of all ages.Every Tuesday, we'll learn about Iowa wildlife, and every Thursday, we'll learn about Iowa history.  

Skunks, raccoons, opossums oh my! On this "wildlife day" edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe and wildlife biologist Jim Pease explore how some of Iowa’s most interesting mammals including raccoons, rabbits and meadow voles greet the spring season.

Vocabulary for this podcast:

  • Semi-fossorial, adj. - describes an animal that is adapt at burrowing or digging and living underground part-time, including meadow voles.
  • Predator, noun - an animal that primarily obtains food by the killing and consuming of other animals.
  • Prey, noun - an animal that is hunted and killed by another for food.
  • Gestation period, noun - the length of time in which young are carried in an animal's uterus.
  • Emigration, noun - the act of leaving where one lives to move to another location.
  • Omnivorous, adj. - feeding on both animal and vegetable substances.
  • Microtine, noun - critters within the "microtus" genus, including voles.
  • Altricial, adj. - being born in a state that requires feeding and care from a parent. 
  • Marsupial, noun - an order of mammels who carry their young in a pouch, including opossums.
  • Crepuscular, adj. - animals that are active primiarly during twilight. 

Conversation questions for this podcast: 

  • What are some advantages to being omnivorous instead of strictly herbivorous or carnivorous?
  • Meadow voles can have 10 or 12 or more litters of young each year.  Why aren’t we over-run with voles?
  • Cottontail rabbits have three to five litters of altricial young in a summer.  Why not have just one litter and take really good care of them?
  • Bats are emigrating back to Iowa.  Where have they been all winter?
  • Young bats are altricial.  How do they keep warm when their mother goes out on her nightly flight?
  • Bats have one or two young per year.  Raccoons, skunks and opossums have one litter of three to eight young per year.  Rabbits have three to five litters of five to eight young each year. Voles have lots of litters and lots of young each year.  Why the difference?
Katelyn Harrop is a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa