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There’s no better time than spring to appreciate the wonders of nature, as the backcountry comes to life again. But don’t just observe: Show your hiking partners the nature guru that you are when you whip out these fun facts on your next group hike.
- Sea otters use rocks as tools to break open hard-shelled food, and they often store favorite rocks in a pouch under their armpits.
- European Starlings, one of the most abundant birds in North America, are an invasive species—they were released in Central Park in 1890 by a man named Eugene Schieffelin, who thought that every bird mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays should be found in New York.
- Owls have tubular, bell-shaped eyes. Their eyeballs are immobile, which is why they can rotate their heads 270 degrees.
- Aspen groves are actually one interconnected organism. The largest organism is an aspen grove in Utah named Pando.
- There are 70,000 different types of soil in the United States.
- Licking a banana slug will cause your tongue to go numb.
- Skunks can spray up to 10 feet.
- Markings on a wolverine’s chest and underside are like fingerprints—no two animals have the same pattern.
- Geckos can’t blink. Instead, they clean their eyes with their tongues.
- Fir needles contain vitamin C, and were once used to prevent scurvy with tea made by sailors.
- Bighorn sheep horns can weigh up to 30 pounds.
- Squirrels are one of the leading causes for power outages in the United States.
- Some crevasses on Himalayan glaciers are large enough to swallow helicopters, especially in narrow valleys.
- Porcupines can’t actually throw their quills.
- Poison ivy isn’t actually poisonous. The rash you get after touching it is an allergic reaction; some people aren’t allergic and don’t get a rash.
- In the months prior to hibernation, black bears eat up to 20,000 calories a day.
- Polar bears have black skin. Their fur is actually hollow translucent tubes that only appears white because it reflects light.
- One tablespoon of dirt has more organisms than there are people on earth.
- Elk antlers can grow up to an inch a day.
- A foehn wind is a strong, dry wind that runs down the leeward side of a mountain range. It can sublimate off up to a foot of snow per day.
- The largest Saguaro cactus was 46 feet tall and 200 years old. It was damaged by wildfire in 2005.
- Mosquitos are attracted to stinky feet.
- Female mountain goats are called nannies.
- Moose are born knowing how to swim.
- Alligators regrow teeth as they wear down, and can grow 3,000 teeth over their lives.
- Gray wolves are big eaters—but they can go almost two weeks without food.
Have a fun nature fact? Send it to us at email@example.com.