Great Pieces of Ungulate Migration Content for Elementary students
Big game migration content and activities connect with various K-5 science standards.
- Wild Migrations: Atlas of Wyoming Ungulates, has 70+ topics to explore. While the target audience is adults, many of the images and maps can be adapted for K-5 audiences. Teachers in Wyoming can check their local middle school/high school library, or county library for a copy. Purchase the atlas from Oregon State University Press or online booksellers: https://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/wild-migrations
- Migration Song- Animal Migrations: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0HaKICM7SA
- World Record Deer Migration Visualized in 3D For The First Time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPVafMpBj2g
- Images of ungulates in groups, demonstrating how they gather to survive:
Moose: https://www.flickr.com/photos/169120689@N03/52032590199 Moose are the least social of the ungulates. They usually only form groups during mating season, or sometimes young bulls will gather together to graze. There are stories of more than a dozen moose congregated in the Bighorn Mountains, but in general they are not group-oriented. Partly it is because they don’t gain an advantage in snow by moving together. Also their food is concentrated in riparian habitats and they eat up to 12kg a day, so they need space to support individual animals, while elk can graze over large expanses of grassland.
Bears don’t form groups, but occasionally will congregate in areas with abundant food sources, like salmon runs in Alaska, or moth molting sites in the Absaroka Range of Wyoming: https://www.flickr.com/photos/169120689@N03/50727066088
- Image showing older deer teaching younger deer how to migrate: https://www.flickr.com/photos/169120689@N03/31738834357 Scientists are still researching how adult deer pass along their knowledge of migrations to subsequent generations, and the dynamics of how mother deer or other members of small groups influence this process.
- Video showing deer vocalizations that help groups stay together, and how these behavior patterns help offspring survive: https://youtu.be/VvvvdCNeJvA
- Why do mule deer migrate and what do they eat? Biologists in the field explain the process of “surfing the green wave” near Togwotee Pass, Wyoming: https://youtu.be/2GJi-llkbxg
- Drone video of deer migration trails: https://youtu.be/KW380KQHmLU
- What is migration? Page from Wild Migrations atlas (available in preview sample)
- Listen to this article about seed dispersal by different mechanisms, including ingestion by big game animals: https://wildaboututah.org/seed-dispersal/
- Watch this video that features Anna Ortega, a PhD student with WMI at the University of Wyoming. Ortega’s research investigates how three different migratory strategies within the Sublette Mule Deer Herd persist over the long term. https://vimeo.com/306266905
- Washington Post interactive map of one pronghorn 700031A’s migration from Green River Lakes, Wyoming to Interstate-80: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/climate-solutions/wyoming-wildlife-corridor/ (Note, this article may have a paywall if you surpass the free article limit. Try deleting cookies on your browser.)
- Check out the resources produced by the Monteith Shop including facts about six of Wyoming’s ungulate species: https://monteithshop.org/stats-facts/The Monteith Shop is a research group in the University of Wyoming Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources, and they often collaborate on University of Wyoming migration research efforts.
- Rhiannon Jakopak, a researcher for the Monteith Shop, produced an interactive story map of Deer 104’s migration: View on Google maps >
- The Monteith Shop offers coloring book pages and a mule deer survival board game. https://monteithshop.org/for-educators/
K-5 Migration Science Activities
- Demonstrate mechanisms of seed dispersal: Have a teacher gather droppings of an ungulate, then plant and water them to see if anything germinates. Use gloves, and wash hands after handling fecal matter. Or, make a mud ball model of a deer fecal pellet with a seed inside, and plant it to see if it germinates.
- Make a claim about which kinds of environmental solutions work best for wildlife when they have to migrate across roadways — think wildlife overpasses vs underpasses, fencing designs for pronghorn vs. elk —. After discussing hypotheses with students, you can consult findings in the Wild Migrations atlas (pages 19, 91, 115) to show that pronghorn generally prefer fences with room to duck underneath, and most pronghorn prefer to cross a road via an overpass, while mule deer use underpasses.
- Discuss different migration strategies of the Red Desert to Hoback Mule Deer Herd: short, medium or long distance, and how a portfolio of different strategies and habitats can benefit the larger herd. What the benefits and risks of each strategy might be. (Relates to Anna Ortega video from #11 in the content section above https://vimeo.com/306266905.)
- Discuss how ungulate hooves, teeth, fur, digestive systems, and antlers aid ungulate survival and reproduction. What role do these different structures play? (Or try it as an illustration exercise below.)
- Explain the seasonal cycle of ungulate migration in terms of location and elevation, and seasonal timing relating to snowfall and food resources, and what animals are relying on for nutrition in each location.
- Have students count how many big game animals they see in a week, and compare the different habitats where they find animals. Why are the animals there?
- Do a nature walk and can point out different seasonal big game habitats that are visible from your school/community.
K-5 Cross-curricular Activities
- Visual Arts
- Draw an image of a mule deer in its winter or summer habitat, with plants, scavengers and predators that ecologically relate to the deer.
- Make a model (art, sculpture) of a solution to an environmental problem that migrating ungulates face, such as a road underpass or overpass, a wildlife-friendly fence, directional drilling or renewable energy siting in relation to a corridor to minimize disturbance, or regenerating areas with invasive species using native seed.
- Make a model showing how tall different ungulate species are compared to a 2-foot deep snowfall. How hard would it be for animals to move in these conditions and what strategies could they use to make it easier?
- Make a diagram illustrating how ungulate hooves, teeth, fur, digestive systems, and antlers aid ungulate survival and reproduction. What role do these different structures play?
- Write a story about why different animals form groups to aid their survival, while others do not. What happens when pressures like snowfall, fire, human disturbance, predation etc. affect animals in groups, vs animals alone?
- Cartography/Data visualization
- Make a collage or a map representing migratory animals on winter and summer range, and the journeys in between. Show that some migrations are short, while others are long.
- Make a chart showing where migratory ungulates fit within the food chain and how they support other species above and below, from plants, microbes, to scavengers, predators, and humans. Have students make the different species using paper cutouts and combine them into a single food chain chart.
- Social Studies
- Introduce the American Indian Place Name Map that can be found in the Wild Migrations atlas or at the link below. Teach students a local American Indian place name that relates to migration, wildlife, food resources, etc. https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/wyoming-american-indian-geography-and-trails
FOR ALL GRADES:
Suggested migration-related field trips / expert visits for different areas of Wyoming
- Take a field trip to a winter range area or a Wildlife Habitat Management Area, and write a report explaining why animals are there and what they are doing to survive. Or have a range manager visit your classroom.
- Have a local biologist visit your classroom to show you ungulate furs, hooves, antlers etc. and describe their yearly activities. Your local Wyoming Game and Fish Department office may have travelling trunks available for these presentations.
- Visit a ranch that is working on wildlife habitat enhancements or wildlife-friendly fencing projects.
- Have a highway engineer come speak about wildlife-roadway projects in your area.
- Visit the studio of a wildlife artist/photographer/filmmaker to learn about their work.
- Visit a museum and look at different wildlife art or Indigenous artifacts to see where migratory ungulates and their migration patterns are part of the exhibits.
- Have a taxidermist visit your classroom.
- Have a historian, archaeologist, or anthropologist talk about how their field of study relates to migration.
- Invite a Tribal elder, Tribal leader, or Tribal game warden/biologist to talk about wildlife issues, treaties, and sovereignty relating to Indigenous people.
- Invite a nonprofit leader to your classroom to talk about their efforts to conserve ungulate migrations and habitat.
- Invite an outfitter/sporting goods retailer/business person to your classroom to talk about their business and how it relates to migration.
- Invite a wildlife manager/policy expert/state representative/Game and Fish commission member to talk about wildlife issues.
- Invite a game warden to come talk about their work.
- Invite a college/university or nonprofit wildlife researcher to visit your classroom to talk about their research.
- Invite a tow truck/EMT/first responder/insurance agent to talk about wildlife-vehicle collisions, driver safety, and prevention. (Recommended for high school.)