Camp Coyote -- A Howlin' Good Time

The Conservation Department conducts summer camps for children in Jefferson City and Kansas City. These week-long, fun-filled day camps target kids who might not otherwise have much exposure to nature.

Camp Coyote is held in July and includes transportation to and from a nature center location. The sponsor, McDonalds restaurants, provides lunches for every camper. The camp gives children a chance to experience new activities in the outdoors.

The camp has been held in Jefferson City, and this year includes a camp in the Kansas City area. The Conservation Department identifies eligible campers by working with local school districts.

Education is something that doesn't have to begin in a classroom. The land that surrounds the Runge Nature Center in Jefferson City is a classroom in itself. Each day campers learn outdoor skills that increase their self-esteem and teach them to work with others.

On the first day of camp, our eager coyotes (students) use their imaginations to tour Missouri. Naturalists talk about major habitats, places where plants and animals live, throughout Missouri and introduce students to a live animal that would live in each habitat. Naturalist Kathy Cavender explains to students that their backyards could also be a habitat for animals. To investigate backyard habitats and wildlife, campers take to the field with cameras to photograph habitats and wildlife.

The nature center trails lead to prairies, ponds, glades and forested areas. Students excitedly take pictures of these habitats and sometimes the animals living in them. Their pictures are great learning tools, and the students understand that habitats are important to the survival of wildlife.

The camping coyotes spend day two in the field. First the campers visit Scattering Fork Ropes Course in Mexico, where they take part in a team building exercise. When Ryan, a 1995 coyote, was asked what he thought about the course and why, he said, "It was pretty cool and fun just walking on ropes."

Later in the day the Jefferson City coyotes visit the shooting range at the United Sportsmen's Club. Ralph Duren, hunter skills specialist, teaches the young coyotes how to properly handle a firearm. The children are given the opportunity to shoot pellet rifles and practice archery.

Another coyote, Eric, commented on his experience at camp. "Target shooting was fun. Shooting at the range showed us how to safely handle a target gun." Knowing these youths are future hunters of Missouri, it is important to educate them about firearm safety.

The Jefferson City