EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio – A barn owl watches a coyote stalk a bobcat resting on a branch. A beaver gnaws on a stick on the shore of a small stream. A 140-pound black bear stands next to a small waterfall, watching a whitetail deer. An opossum, mink and porcupine waddle down a dirt trail.
Campers, travelers and area residents can see the above scene in the carnivore room at Beaver Creek State Park Nature Center, which opened April 2001.
The nature center, located in what used to be the park manager’s home on Echo Dell Road in eastern Columbiana County, features a computer lab, small library of plant and animal identification books and more than 200 mounted specimens. While touring the center, visitors can see a stuffed black bear, coyote, beaver, red fox, gray fox, raccoon, mink, whitetail deer and several others. In the reptile room, black rat snakes, which are used for the center’s programs, slither in and out of their water bowls.
Learn about nature. The center is designed for anyone, especially schools who would like to teach about nature outside of the classroom.
Last May, the park conducted its School Days Program, drawing more than 400 fourth-graders from area elementary schools to the center for one day. The students were taught about animals, streams, plants and meteorology from park experts.
“The nature center will expose people to the natural abundance of the area,” said Park manager Jim Tillman.
Jim Kerr, former biology teacher at Beaver Local High School, is the nature center’s volunteer coordinator. He has spent time and labor in getting the center up and running. About 100 of the specimens in the center came from the collection he acquired during his 30 years at Beaver Local.
Animal tales. Along with the scientific facts behind the animals, Kerr knows some stories about the animal’s past.
The center features two stuffed fawns that were in utero when their mother was hit and killed by a car. One of Kerr’s friends butchered the deer and found the fawns. Kerr’s biology class just happened to be studying reproductive systems so the class dissected the uterus and Kerr took the fawns to a taxidermist. Now they rest on a small branch at the center.
The center is also home to a stuffed mink. Not far from the state park, a mink was looking to ravage a women’s chickens. She called Kerr and asked him to come trap the animal, but Kerr said he didn’t want to trap and kill the animal. The next day the woman called back and said the mink was dead in front of her chicken coop. Kerr said he believes the mink was killed by eating a rat that ingested rat poison.
Another addition to Kerr’s collection is a Coopers hawk. A couple called and told Kerr that a Coopers hawk, which eats small birds, was chasing a blue jay in their backyard. The blue jay made a beeline for a large window and turned away in the nick of the time. The hawk wasn’t so lucky. It flew into the window, killing itself.
The center is open to the public Saturday and Sunday from noon until 4 p.m.; other times are by arrangement only. For more information call 330-385-3091.
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