By Hillary Borrud

The Bulletin

If you go

Junior Snow Ranger program

The event is free, but organizers appreciate donations to support Discover Your Forest programs throughout the Deschutes National Forest.

When: Exhibit and info 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today. Snowshoe tours at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Where: Mt. Bachelor West Village

MOUNT BACHELOR — Picking up bear poop isn’t a requirement for kids who want to become U.S. Forest Service Junior Snow Rangers. But for 7-year-old Ella Eby, checking out a rubber replica of ursine scat was part of the experience.

Ella, who lives in Bend, was eager to learn about everything from animal pelts to skulls at the interpretive table at Mt. Bachelor, where kids learned the information necessary to earn Junior Snow Ranger badges on Saturday. “I like the skulls,” Ella said.

The Deschutes National Forest launched its Junior Snow Ranger program this year, with help from a nonprofit called Discover Your Forest. The program has been in place at other national forests since 2002.

“Basically, it’s to get kids outside, enjoying the natural environment, playing outside,” said Karen Gentry, an education program coordinator for Discover Your Forest. The nonprofit provides educational and visitor information and teaches Central Oregon youth about conservation opportunities. “The activities are really geared toward 7- to 11-year-olds,” Gentry said, but projects are available for younger kids, too.

Activities included snowshoeing, learning about snowflakes, tracking wildlife and practicing map and compass skills. There was also the option for kids to go on a 1-mile interpretive hike on snowshoes with a Forest Service volunteer interpretive ranger.

Volunteers offer these snowshoe outings throughout the winter. “And we (do) talk about plant and animal adaptations over the winter,” Gentry said. After kids have learned about the winter environment and wildlife, they can fill out a booklet to earn the Junior Snow Ranger badge.

The first local opportunity for kids to earn Junior Snow Ranger badges was earlier this year at Skyliner Lodge west of Bend, and the last event is today at Mt. Bachelor. Gentry said Discover Your Forest and the Deschutes National Forest plan to offer the program again next winter.

Ella’s mom, Christen Eby, is a den leader for a local Boy Scout troop and brought the group to the Junior Snow Ranger event on Saturday. Eby said she hoped the kids would learn some survival skills. Marsha Orton, also a leader with the troop, said she hoped “they would learn to enjoy the outdoor environment where they live.”

Discover Your Forest intern Megan Mooney, 22, helped kids look at lichens, pine cones and twigs with magnifying glasses, while a couple of boys used binoculars to scan the treetops for birds. Mooney encouraged the kids to guess the types of animals whose skulls were displayed on the table. Wolves are similar to dogs, “and this one’s related to cats,” Mooney said, holding a cougar skull.

The Scouts said they learned a lot of interesting things. Eli Keldson, 10, of Bend, said the coolest thing he learned was that frogs have a unique ability to survive freezing temperatures. Evan Eby, 9, also took home some new animal knowledge. “The coolest thing I learned is the owl has feathers on his feet to keep warm,” Evan said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7829,