Friday, May 28, 2010

Dress Rehearsal (for a Skunk, Owl, Badger and More)

Starting in the spring and right through today, wildlife specialists have been preparing our animals to meet guests in a special daily show that begins Saturday. The wildlife staff has been helping our raptors exercise and strengthen the muscles they use to fly, and simulating the surroundings of the Desert Dwellers show.

Hundreds of hours are dedicated to helping animals to get used to being around people. None of the animals here could survive in the wild, and that is why they are here, but they still are wild animals. And, sometimes they don't feel like meeting people. We found that out during a dress rehearsal for the show yesterday. Daisy the skunk was feeling shy, and preferred to stay behind the scenes, but George the barn owl gave a stunning example of his flying abilities.

In the show, you get to meet lots of live animals close up and learn all about them. Among those who stop by are: Bonnie and Clyde, badgers that demonstrate their unrelenting digging abilities; Pinecone the porcupine, Gus the red-tailed hawk, Shasta the Swainson’s hawk, a gopher snake, king snake, and other reptiles.

The show is what the Museum is all about – having fun while learning about the area's animals. It happens 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. daily through August.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Retro Characters, Messages Endure

Who would have thought that retro icons Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl would have as much appeal today as ever? A new generation took to them (with lots of high-fives and hugs). And their conservation messages, (Smokey's "Only you can prevent forest fires," and Woodsy's "Give a hoot – don't pollute!") endure.

It was all part of the Fun in the Forests weekend, a kickoff to the recreation season with leave-no-trace camping activities. Kids as well as parents had a lot of fun meeting the U.S. Forest Service firefighters, touring their cool truck, and our new exhibit Year of the Forest: Respectful Recreation.

Miniature mock forests were set on fire in a fun, hands-on educational program that clearly illustrated factors such as wind in forest fires. And at our 1930s ranger station, the "OldSmokeys" (U.S.F.S. retirees) chatted with visitors about wildfire prevention and the evolving roles of the Forest Service.

As the weekend came to an end, firefighters got ready for the fire season awaiting them, and visitors were better prepared for it.

You can see KOHD's coverage of it at

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl may seem like charmingly retro characters, but in a rare double appearance at the Museum Saturday and Sunday, a new generation will take in their relevant conservation messages during the "Fun in the Forests" kickoff to the recreation season.

Outdoor leave-no-trace camping activities, U.S. Forest Service firefighters showing off their cool truck, and tips for forest recreation all dovetail with our new exhibit, Year of the Forest: Respectful Recreation.

Get fired up with our hands-on educational program about forest fires too. (Yes, matches are involved, and it's cool!) And explore our 1930s ranger station, where "OldSmokeys" (U.S.F.S. retirees) will talk about wildfire prevention and the evolving roles of the Forest Service.

It's all from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and below you'll find Smokey and Woodsy's schedule.
Remember: only YOU can prevent forest fires, and, give a hoot - don’t pollute! (To quote Smokey and Woodsy, respectively.)

11 am - Woodsy Goes Wild with Leave No Trace Camping Activities
11:30 am - Smokey
12:30 - Woodsy Does Leave No Trace Camping Activities
1 pm - Smokey
2 pm - Woodsy Does Leave No Trace Camping Activities
2:30 pm - Smokey and Woodsy Together!

Check out this 1970s Woodsy Owl public service announcement at

Friday, May 14, 2010

Free Senior Day on Tuesday

The Museum is opening the doors for seniors 62 and older next Tuesday May 18, with free admission, special talks and live music. Come join the fun!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

When (Really) Old Feces Makes You Famous

You know how some people think their old stuff is really worth something? Well, for world renowned archaeologist Dr. Dennis Jenkins, his discovery of 14,300-year-old human feces in Oregon gained global attention because it shed new light on how and when the first people came to North America.

He’ll be at the Museum on Saturday at 1 p.m., presenting “Oregon’s Earliest Inhabitants: Archaeology and Genetic Studies at the Paisley Caves,” the Earle A. Chiles Award Lecture.

In 2002, Dr. Jenkins found evidence that humans were living in the Paisley Caves in south central Oregon 14,000 years ago. That challenged the theory of how and when the first people came to North America.

His revolutionary findings attracted worldwide media attention. It involved interdisciplinary research, and an international team of scientific experts. It was a milestone in archaeology and in his long career, throughout which he succeeded in finding common ground with diverse groups of Native American tribes and other interest groups in Oregon through sometimes complex and sensitive negotiations.

He also has shared his knowledge, traveling throughout Oregon, enthusiastically educating the public about the meaning of archaeological findings in the High Desert. The High Desert Museum chose him for the annual Earle A. Chiles Award last year, recognizing his more than two decades of research into human ecology and cultural history dating back 14,000 years in the High Desert.

“It is a tremendous honor and it recognizes my persistence, and my love for Central Oregon,” Dr. Jenkins said. “I am just deeply moved by having the recognition for 20 years of hard work out there, and it certainly will help me in many ways to further my research and certainly to stimulate me to greater efforts.”

Dr. Jenkins has spent most of every summer for the past 20 years teaching at the University of Oregon field school at Fort Rock, Paisley and Catlow Valley. “And, I’ve been reaching out to townspeople and ranchers through the Chautauqua lectures (for the Oregon Council for the Humanities) at schools and libraries around Central Oregon,” he said. He also teaches archaeology at the University of Oregon campus branch in Bend.

In Paisley, he and his students discovered camel bones and signs they had been butchered by humans. Atop the bones they found what rigorous DNA analysis revealed to be more than 14,000-year-old human feces, called coprolites. Dr. Jenkins has called this “the perfect human signature… the perfect artifact.”

The discovery challenged the prevailing belief that humans first came to this continent 13,000 years ago across a land bridge from Asia. Dr. Jenkins’ findings establish that people were here 1,000 years earlier. That suggests that humans could have first arrived here by boat to the Pacific coast, or could have come down the coast on land in a way that researchers have not determined, or that an ice-free corridor to North America could have opened earlier than most people believe. Jenkins believes that his continuing research at the Paisley Caves will reveal more important clues to the secrets of North America's ancient heritage.

His work includes writing eight books, numerous book chapters, articles and professional reports, and work on three documentaries including the History Channel’s “All About Dung” in 2008.