What's in your freezer? I don't know about you, but I have frozen food in my freezer. However, if you talk to some of our Virginia State Parks Naturalists you might be surprised at some of the answers.
It all started at a recent exhibit planning session at First Landing State Park. We are fortunate to have money for an amazing exhibit (thanks a lot to the fundraising efforts of the Princess Anne Garden Club). We are planning multiple display areas that depict the amazing biodiversity and cultural resources of this park.
This exhibit at Shenandoah River State Park depicts species native to the park
We learned rapidly that hand crafted realistic models of insects, fish, birds and mammals are ridiculously expensive. Park staff came to the rescue. False Cape State Park naturalist Vickie Shufer offered to "make" some exhibit quality insects from the real thing - she has a reliable preservation technique. But for larger birds and mammals, apparently the only thing necessary was a trip to the freezer.
Groundhog at the Hungry Mother State Park Discovery Center
Yes, you read that correctly. Some of our staff seems to store dead animals (found in pretty good shape) in their freezers until the time might come where they need a mounted sample of that species. Then it is off to the taxidermist. I have poked into this a little more since this revelation and have learned this is a widespread practice. One of our staff has a whole freezer devoted to this, umm, storage.
I spent three days last week driving to several parks with a hawk in the back seat. Every time I saw the wing span in my rear view mirror my thoughts went to where this guy had been chillin' prior to his rebirth as an exhibit.
So the next time you see a dead animal along the side of the road, don't assume that the turkey vultures and other carrion eaters will be taking care of the carcass. There could be a state park naturalist on the lookout for a great specimen.
Oh, and then there are the frozen mice they use to feed the snakes ....