Wildlife diorama to be unveiled

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— A family of mink has been observed for more than a year, probing the rocks along the Yampa River near the Ninth Street footbridge for food.

People who haven't seen them, or don't know exactly what kind of critter to look for, will want to visit the new wildlife diorama at Yampatika, on the corner of Tenth and Lincoln.

Yampatika is a local nonprofit that bills itself as "The natural and cultural connection."

The new diorama will be unveiled during an open house from 4 to 7 p.m. today.

It was made possible by the friends, family and co-workers of Eileen Nelson, Gary Troester of All Season Taxidermy and The Over the Hill Gang.

Also contributing to the effort were Jan Girrard, Bob Mayfield, Dennis Scheiwe, Jim Vail and Rick Fuller.

The diorama features 13 species of mammals and birds that are indigenous to Northwest Colorado.

Yampatika's Karen Vail pointed out that the mink featured in the display is recognizable by its white chin whiskers.

Information about the natural history of the mink and other animals in the display is included in informational boxes cleverly disguised as riddles. The boxes contain clues about the identity of the bobcat and a kingfisher.

Vail said the information boxes are written to foster interaction among adults and children visiting the diorama together.

"The basic idea was to get down on kids' level, but still make it interesting to adults," Vail said.

The source of the animal mounts on display ranges from a road-killed hawk, to a river otter that was confiscated by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The otter may be the one animal in the diorama that cannot be found in Routt County presently people interested in seeing otters in the wild would probably have to visit the Green River in Moffat County, Vail said.

Another animal in the display that can be seen in abundance right now is the blue grouse. Fishermen working their way through the brush along the Yampa will kick up grouse right in town this week.

"This is the richest zone in the valley," Vail explained. "The grouse are busy eating nuts and berries this time of year."

Girrard, a local artist, painted the woodland backdrop of the diorama. It was designed to be portable so that it can be displayed in various locations around the valley, Vail said. The public is invited to tonight's open house refreshments will be served.

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