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Out of the Box Summer Fun: Owl Pellet Dissection
Written by Karen Logan   
I would have never guessed that dissecting owl pellets would be the highlight of our month! For only $4/each, I was able to purchase 2 owl pellets online from Home Science Tools, and they arrived to The Woodlands within a week's time. Even still, they sat in their packets for another 2 weeks because I simply had no interest in doing anything with them.
 
 

What exactly were owl pellets anyway? I wasn't sure. But finally, we were bored enough, and I decided to give it a try. Here's how it went!
 
To be clear, owl pellets are the regurgitated remains of an owl's meal, including all the bones of the animal that it ate. Owls usually swallow their food whole, digest the edible parts, and then expel the indigestible parts through their mouths as a pellet. (Pretty doggone gross, huh?) The pellets I purchased had been sterilized of bacteria. We covered the table with paper, and we used our lab coats, disposable gloves, bamboo skewers and toothpicks to pick apart our pellets.



It wasn't long before we realized both pellets were full of fur, and after assembling some of the skull bones, we realized that both pellets were from owls who had eaten mice. My 7-year-old was able to find 3 mouse skulls in her pellet and a host of other bones including rib bones and leg bones that we were able to match up to the diagram that was included in our kit. My 9-year-old found 2 mouse skulls in hers, and a host of other bones that were mostly all intact. These photos don't do justice, but those two small pellets were full of bones galore. (The last photo below is from the website we purchased from, because their camera is better than mine!) What I thought would be a 30-minute project lasted for over two hours. Even then, all the bones had not been laid out, but it was time to get cleaned up and move on to something else.

 
 
 
If you need a really fun (and kinda gross) science activity to do this summer, try dissecting owl pellets! I actually plan to order these again soon, and hopefully we'll find feathers and beaks instead of fur (owls also eat other birds).  Please note, although my 7-year-old was very much into this activity, she did request to sleep in the bed with us for 3 nights in a row afterwards with claims that she was too grossed out about "the dissection thingie". 



Have fun learning with your kids this summer!
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