Animal Abodes12/01/2020 ● By Andrea Willingham
Just like us, animals make special homes for themselves. Let’s take a look at some of Oregon’s most unique animal abodes.
Oregon’s state animal, the beaver, makes its home along rivers and waterways. Beavers build dams across ponds and streams to control the flow of the water, and then they construct a large dome out of sticks (called a “lodge”) in the middle of the water, where they live. To keep predators and unwanted visitors out, they cleverly put the entrance to their lodge underwater, so only they can find their way in. Beavers’ dams actually create important habitat for many other species, like juvenile salmon, migratory birds, and small rodents. Their homes help create more homes for other animals.
Oregon’s state bird is the Western Meadowlark. Can you guess where Meadowlarks make their homes? If you said meadows, you’re right! The Western Meadowlark likes to live in open fields and meadowlands, avoiding thick forests and wooded areas. Although you often hear about birds nesting in trees, the meadowlark builds nests on the ground, weaving grassy bowls for laying eggs. Some even weave together grasses and shrubs to create a little hood or umbrella over the nest to protect their eggs from the rain.
Mountain lions, also known as cougars or pumas, make their homes all across Oregon in many different habitats (not just mountains!)—deserts, valleys, and dense forests alike. Unlike beavers or birds, they don’t create lodges or nests. Instead, they find shelter under low tree boughs or in small caves, dens, or rocky areas within their territory, which is usually about 100 square miles.
We’ve looked at where some birds and mammals live—but what about amphibians? Pacific treefrogs are the most common frog species in Oregon, and they make their homes in ponds, forests, and wetlands. They breed in shallow water so their tadpoles will have somewhere to swim once they hatch. During the dry season they shelter in damp, shady areas or in the burrows of other animals where it’s cool and moist.
Home is where you make it
As you can see, animals create a wide variety of homes for themselves. Some build elaborate shelters and stay in one place for a long time, while others roam across miles and miles, making taking shelter in various places along the way. Some change where they live seasonally, and others tough it out through the whole year.
Next time you see a wild animal, consider where it makes its home. Do you think it lives nearby, or is it out looking for food? Perhaps you’re in its neighborhood! Try to be a good neighbor and give it space. Observe its behavior, and see what you can learn.
Explore from Home
Families with preschoolers can join us starting on December 18 to learn more about animal homes through Little Wonders Online (https://mnch.uoregon.edu/virtual-little-wonders). You’ll get to look at different kinds of animal dwellings and create your own animal house! Be sure to check out our other Explore from Home web pages as well. They’re filled with activities for kids of all ages, in both Spanish and English, at https://mnch.uoregon.edu/explorefromhome.
The Museum of Natural and Cultural History is open to the public Wednesday through Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon for seniors and COVID-vulnerable visitors, and 12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m. for everyone. Stay tuned to our website (mnch.uoregon.edu) and follow us on social media for the latest on our winter lineup of virtual events.