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Nature Habitats

Habitats are where living things live. Plants, animals and humans choose habitats for many reasons, depending upon their particular needs. A cave habitat is different from a hilltop glade habitat. Forests provide different habitats than meadows, stream banks or farmer's fields. Humans have changed and provided habitats for many kinds of plants and animals. Building a small dam for a water mill or a large one like Norfork Dam creates new habitats for fish. Building a road changes the habitats of forest creatures. Building towns and cities changes the habitats of plants and animals and even people who lived there before.

The Meaning of Habitats
by Jeff Viets, Dora Fifth Grade

A habitat is an environment or a place where an animal, plant or person lives and how they survive in that area. For example, a fox will kill its prey, bury it and eat it later. That's how a fox manipulates its habitat and survives. Here are some more examples: 

Beaver DamBeavers live in lakes and streams close to wooded areas. They are best known for cutting down trees to build dams, creating a pool deep enough to protect the underwater entrance to their house, which is built of sticks in the middle of the pool.

Beavers can live up to 20 years. They eat mostly leaves, twigs and tender tree bark.They are well adapted to living in water, having webbed hind feet, a flat tail shaped like a paddle, and flaps on their nostrils that can close when they are swimming underwater. They can fell tall trees with their chisel-like teeth. 

There are 36 different species of weasel. The common, longtailed weasel is the one that lives in the Ozarks. It lives in a den made from a hollow place in rock piles, under tree stumps, and in abandoned rodent burrows. It eats earthworms, insects, frogs, lizards, rabbits, shrews, birds and snakes. 

A squirrel is a black-eyed, furry-tailed rodent with round ears.They have lots of energy and use their long, bushy tails to for balance. The most common squirrel in the Bryant Creek watershed is the gray tree squirrel. They make nests high in the trees in hollowed out nests in the tree or in a nest made of leaves on a sturdy branch. Their favorite foods are nuts and seeds, but they will also eat corn, fruit, and mushrooms. 

A skunk is a small furry animal that is mostly black with a white stripe down the center of its back. When scared or in danger it will spray a foul-smelling liquid. The odor will remain for days on whatever it touches. Before it sprays it gives a warning by stamping its front feet or hissing or growling. Skunks can live up to seven years, living in underground dens and foraging for food, which consists mostly of small rodents and certain insects. The skunk is found all over Missouri. 

River Otter 
A river otter has a long, slender body and lives in burrows hollowed out of riverbanks. It eats fish, insects, birds and small mammals. It can live up to 25 years. It has few enemies, but man is one. It is the largest member of the Mustelidae family, which includes the mink, skunk and weasel. 

Raccoons are night animals with a bushy tail ringed in black and a black mask around their eyes. They live in hollow logs, stumps and trees and can live up to five years. They eat frogs, crayfish and other freshwater creatures, including fish. They have long sharp claws and always wash their food before they eat it, so they tend to stay within reach of fresh water. Raccoons were hunted for their fur by Native Americans and European settlers. 

A rabbit called a wild cottontail has long ears and thick brown fur, except for its tail, which is white underneath. Its eyes are on the sides of its head and it has strong back legs, both of which it uses to elude capture. Rabbits are prey for many predators, including man. It is a vegetarian and eats grasses, barks and twigs. It can live up to five years or more, making its nest in grassy areas on the ground, in thickets or under brushpiles. 

The opossum is one of the few animals with a pouch for carrying its young, making it a marsupial. The opossum can also hang from a branch by its long, hairless tail. They live in nests under stumps or brushpiles. An opossum will faint or fall into shock when surprised by a predator, which is why when someone pretends to be asleep, we say they are "playing 'possum." Their lifespan is about three years. 

Its flattened vertical tail and thick, coarse hair makes the muskrat well adapted for aquatic life. They are found in fresh or salt water marshes, lakes and the edges of streams and ponds. They eat stems of cattails, mussels, grasses, clams, frogs and fish. They are found near water from Bryant Creek to the Missouri, and they are prey for the coyote, mink, raccoon, hawk, owl and alligator. 

Foxes have keen hearing and an excellent sense of smell, along with a bushy tail and large, pointed ears. They live in many kinds of surroundings and can make their home underground, in a cave, among rocks, in a hollow log, or sometimes in hollows in trees. They can live up to 14 years and are a very efficient predator, hunting small animals or preying on a farmer's chickens. 

There are 53 different deer species in the world. The whitetail deer is the one found in the Bryant watershed. It is swift, running at speeds up top 40 miles per hour, and is a good swimmer. It lives in a wide range of habitats and travels far in search of forage, mostly at dawn and dusk, and holes up during the day, napping in secluded meadows. If you're out hiking and come upon a trampled grassy area in brushy thickets, you have likely found a "deer bed." 

The mink is a small member of the weasel family, and has a bushy tail and very fine, soft fur. They can be found by lakes, woodland streams and marshes. A swift predator, it eats crayfish, frogs and fish, and small rodents. 

Personal History 
The main reason I like habitats is because I like science and studying the outdoors. In fourth grade, my science teacher, Mrs. Blackwell, let us see a video about the rainforest. I thought it was sad how the environment there was being torn apart. Then Susan, one of the creators of this website, came to our class to talk to us about the watershed. Then I looked at the website, saw the word "habitats" and now I am writing about it. - Jeff Viets