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The Ultimate Mammals Homeschool Nature Study Using Outdoor Hour Challenges

You can enjoy a simple mammals homeschool nature study with these resources we have gathered for you to use in your own backyard. It is such a delight to study and learn about these beautiful creatures!

NOTE: All of the mammals homeschool nature study resources listed are available as an Outdoor Hour Challenge in our Homeschool Nature Study membership. If you have a membership, you will be able to pull up the Outdoor Hour Challenge curriculum and print any notebook pages, coloring pages, or other printables for your mammals nature study.

Wondering how to start? Grab our FREE Getting Started with Homeschool Nature Study Guide!

Mammals Homeschool Nature Study Using Outdoor Hour Challenges (in Nature Study Membership)

  • Animal Tracks Hunt – Mammals Outdoor Hour Challenge
  • Bats – Summer course
  • Bear – Forest Fun course
  • Beavers
  • Cats – Spring course
  • Cattle and Deer – Winter Continues course
  • Chipmunks – Autumn course (An example of a chipmunks and squirrel study with Homeschool Nature Study here)
  • Coyote – High Desert course
  • Elk – High Desert ebook
  • Goats – More Spring Nature Course
  • Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel – High Desert course
  • Horses – Autumn course
  • Moose – Forest Fun course
  • Mountain Lion – High Desert course
  • Mouse – More Summer course
  • Muskrat – Creepy Things course
You can enjoy a simple mammals homeschool nature study with these resources we have gathered for you to use in your own backyard.
  • Pig – Autumn Continues course
  • Pocket Gopher – High Desert course
  • Porcupine – Forest Fun course
  • Rabbits
  • Raccoons – Summer course
  • Rats
  • River Otter – High Desert course
  • Sheep – More Winter course
  • Skunks – Summer course
  • Skunks and Badgers
  • Squirrels and Squirrels with Rodent Notebooking Page
  • Winter Mammals from Winter Wednesday course
  • Winter Mammals Hiberation – Winter Wednesday course
  • Winter Mammal Tracks – Winter course
  • Wolf, Fox, and Dog
  • Woodchuck, Groundhog, Prairie Dog, and Marmot
We’re starting with a favorite topic, black bears! Enjoy a bear nature study in your homeschool with this Outdoor Hour Challenge and bring the Handbook of Nature Study to Life in your homeschool.

Additional Mammal Homeschool Activities Included with Membership

  • Mammal Outdoor Hour Challenge Notebook Page
  • Mammal notebook page
  • Running List of Mammals printable notebook page
  • Looking for Signs and Tracks
  • Mammal nature study journal idea printable. Mammals at the zoo.
homeschool nature study membership for families

Join The Homeschool Nature Study Membership for Year Round Support

Can you believe all of these mammals resources you will find in membership? You will also find a continuing series on mammals plus all the Outdoor Hour Challenges for nature study in our Homeschool Nature Study membership. There are 25+ continuing courses with matching Outdoor Hour curriculum that will bring the Handbook of Nature Study to life in your homeschool! In addition, there is an interactive monthly calendar with daily nature study prompt – all at your fingertips!

first published 2011 by Barb and updated by Tricia 2022

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Squirrel Nature Study and Printable


Squirrel Nature Study

Squirrel Nature Study @handbookofnaturestudy

Tree squirrels are some of the most entertaining critters to inhabit our neighborhoods. This week’s Outdoor Hour Challenge will help you and your little squirrel hunters observe local squirrels more closely as you note their behavior and features. Squirrels are not shy so you should be able to spot them and make some observations with ease. You may want to take along a pair of binoculars to get a closer look!

Squirrel Nature Study – Handbook of Nature Study Lesson #57

Archive Outdoor Hour Challenge – Click the link above to take you to the original challenge.

squirrel in the feeder

“The squirrel’s legs are short because he is essentially a climber rather than a runner; the hips are very strong, which insures his power as a jumper, and his leaps are truly remarkable.”

“The squirrel has two pairs of gnawing teeth which are very long and strong, as in all rodents, and he needs to keep busy gnawing hard things with them, or they will grow so long that he cannot use them at all and will starve to death.”

“During the winter, the red squirrel does not remain at home except in the coldest weather, when he lies cozily with his tail wrapped around him like a fur neck-piece to keep him warm.”
Handbook of Nature Study, pages 234 and 235

Make sure to click the link below to read the entire Outdoor Hour Challenge with helpful links, nature study ideas, printable notebooking pages, and suggested follow-up activities.

Squirrel Nature Study – Handbook of Nature Study Lesson #57

Squirrel Watch Notebook Page

Members here on the Handbook of Nature Study have access to this printable squirrel watch activity page. These ideas may help you get started with your squirrel observations and then provide a place to record your follow-up thoughts for your nature journal.

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A complete list of printables currently available to members can be viewed here:

Handbook of Nature Study Printables for Members List

OHC Plan 18 to 19 Join Us

This Outdoor Hour Challenge is part of the 2018-2019 Plan here on the Handbook of Nature Study. We’ll be using the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock to discover new things about the world around us. Join us each Friday for a different nature study topic. Make sure to subscribe to this blog to receive the weekly challenge right in your email box.


Please note this is an affiliate link to to a book I own and love!

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December Planning Page and Member’s Printables

December 2017 Nature Planning Page-Print out your own copy here!

Now that there is no longer a newsletter with a planning page, I decided that I am creating a printable page for you to use instead. Keep track of the month’s Outdoor Hour Challenge topics, be inspired to create a nature journal page, jot down notes for future study, and use the list of archived suggestions to go deeper into a particular topic.

December 2017 Nature Planning   Page

Download your copy here: December 2017 Nature study Planner Page


Printables for Members Button
New printables are now posted in the Member’s library!

Members have access to two brand new printable notebook pages.

  1. Squirrel Watch Activity: Use the ideas on the page to take a fun look at squirrels. There is also a place for you to draw a squirrel.
  2. Know Your Own Backyard – Window Observations: This time of year it can be a challenge to get outdoors. Use this page to record your window nature observations.

Print a complete list of printables available to Members for easy reference: Printables for Members

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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Chipmunks Revisited

Outdoor Hour Challenge Chipmunk Study @handbookofnaturestudy

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Chipmunk Study and the More Nature Study ebook.

This is an active time of year for chipmunks (and squirrels) as they busy themselves getting ready for the up-coming winter season. On our most recent hikes we have seen them scurrying around on the forest floor and crossing our trail as they gather a storehouse of food. Sometimes, they try to gather OUR food!

Use the ideas in this week’s archive post by clicking the link above for more details.

You also may wish to read our entry: Chipmunks or Squirrels? – Our Study Using the Outdoor Hour Challenge.


There is also a free printable Rodent Study notebooking page in this entry: Squirrel or Other Rodent.

Note: You do not need to purchase the ebooks to participate but they are handy to have for planning and for the regular and advanced notebook pages included in each one. Click the graphic at the bottom of this post to go over to check out the Ultimate Naturalist Library membership. If you would like to see a sample of this ebook, you can download a sample here: More Nature Study Autumn Sample.

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudyUse the discount code NATURE5 for $5 off an Ultimate Naturalist Membership!








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Ponderosa Pine Cone Study

We have been on the lookout for tree cones for the past few weeks (as part of the Winter Tree Cone Study) and picked the Ponderosa Pine as our subject for a tree cone study. There are many Ponderosa Pines in our neighborhood and they are easy to spot because of their size and trunk pattern. Our family has done a thorough tree study of the Ponderosa Pine in the past but this time we focused just on the cone.

Here is a close up of the cone showing it’s scale pattern and the sap too.

Here is a cone that the squirrels have taken apart to find the seeds hidden inside. This is a common sight along our local walking trail. It seems where there are Ponderosa Pines, there are squirrels.

I completed the tree cone observation page for my nature notebook. I included an image and some facts about the Ponderosa Pine cone. You can find the printable notebook page here: Winter Tree Cone Study.

  • Flexible scales
  • Egg shaped cone
  • Tipped with slender 1/8 inch prickles that can curve out
  • Seed is 3/8″ and the wing is 1″
  • Red and gray squirrels eat the seeds. California quail also eat the seeds.
  • Overall cone length is 3-6″

All information is from my Peterson Western Trees field guide.

You can read more about our Ponderosa Pine tree study here: Our Pine Tree Study.
We share more about our cone study here: Pines, Evergreens, Cones, and Needles. 

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Yosemite Autumn Trip!

Our much anticipated trip to Yosemite for our autumn visit was a huge success. We didn’t plan it but we were leaving the day the park was closed because of the government shutdown. I was very grateful that we were able to get in our visit and hikes before the trails and campground were closed indefinitely.

The image above shows a glimpse of the devastation from the Rim Fire. This is along Hwy 120 above Groveland, CA. It was an awesome sight to see and you could see signs of the fire as we continued into the national park itself and up along the Tioga Road. Much of the area along the road had been cleared before the fire so my husband thinks that many of the trees, although scortched, will revive. We shall be anxious to see if he is right.

We had reserved a campsite along the Merced River in the Lower Pines Campground…perfect! We enjoyed our two nights in our tent with a show of stars at night that was unbelievable. The camping was a little quiet for us with no children along for this trip but it was fun to just be a couple again.We sat in chairs and watched squirrels and birds. We huddled around the campfire and enjoyed the peaceful cracking and snapping of the flames on the oak wood. The air was crisp in the mornings but not so cold we couldn’t break from the cocoon of the sleeping bag.

One afternoon we took a long walk along the valley floor. This time of year there are no big crowds around so you see lots of wildlife. In the image above, you can spy a bobcat! He was wandering along the trail and then he went down to the river. We also so numerous deer…adults and babies too. One time we saw a herd of 20+ deer grazing in the meadow.

Yosemite Falls is bone dry right now. I felt sorry for all the travelers who came from all over the world to visit Yosemite when the falls are dry…just not the same. Autumn is not a time for huge waterfalls in Yosemite but their are other reasons to come at this time of year. The story of Yosemite in the autumn is the change of season with colors and the quiet awesomeness of viewing the granite that also change in color with the light.

Our campsite was visited by many, many squirrels. They were busy collecting seeds of some sort and having a feast. The Stellar’s jays and Common ravens also came to visit and first thing in the morning they were very noisy. The seemed to say, “Wake up! Wake up! You are missing the sunrise!”

Our second day we hiked the complete Panorama Trail. This is an eight mile hike that includes three waterfalls…that actually have water. The image above is the very top of Nevada Falls and although it is not running with much water, it is still a fabulous waterfall. (see below)

Here I am after hiking down from the top with Nevada Falls in the background. Isn’t it an awesome sight? It is hard to describe the sound of a big waterfall, especially this one back in the corner of the valley. The sound cracks and echoes all around you. About this time in the hike, I am getting tired and the downhill climb is harder than climbing up.

Here is a portion of the trail that is a little easier and the views are phenomenal. I love the sky in this image. When I’m hiking, I always watch the sky for signs of storms but this day it was perfect with partial cloud cover a lot of the time. Breezes would cool us off as we hiked. Autumn really is a terrific time to hike at Yosemite.

This is also about the point where we observed a mama Black Bear and her cub…off in the distance but we still became hyper-aware of our surroundings. There were several other hikers, some in front and some in back of us, so we alerted them to our sighting and shared bear stories before we all spread out again.

I was in the mood for looking for fall colors. The maples and oaks were starting to turn color and I found this large leaf along the trail. My husband thinks I’m nuts sometime but he cooperated and took my picture so I could share it with you. This is a good place to point out that hiking in Yosemite is a bit of a rock scramble at times (that is the trail behind me). These are not smooth, easy trails that you can hike along without paying attention. You are always looking down for your next step…not many flat trails here. This is why I started using a walking stick…it makes my hiking so much more pleasurable.

I was so inspired by the Bigleaf maples that back at the campsite I created a nature journal page with some of the information I found interesting. My leaf sketch was a bit of a fail..I think I was hung up on trying to get it to fit in the box I had created on the page and so it looks sort of squished. Oh well, you get the idea of a maple leaf.

The last day of our trip we took the long way home and drove out Tioga Pass, along Hwy 395, and then across on Hwy 89 and 88 to get home. This took us through the high country where the aspens were ablaze with color. We stopped several times to enjoy the views. Now this is what autumn should look like!

It was a fun trip and I am looking forward to the winter season and visiting Yosemite National Park to really see the full circle in this amazing place. We are aiming to hike in the Mariposa Grove of sequoia trees whether there is snow or not. Not sure where we will stay yet…hoping that the government closure is over by then.

You can read about our seasonal visits to Yosemite in these entries:
Yosemite in Spring – Waterfalls and Biking
Summer Trip to Yosemite – Hikes, Wildflowers, Rocks, and More

This post is part of my Nature Study Goals for 2013 – to visit Yosemite National Park in each season.

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Looking For Signs of a Squirrel – Our Rodent Nature Study

Squirrel nature study happens quite frequently at our house. We tend to have squirrels that are not shy about making themselves at home in our birdfeeders and in our trees, especially the walnut tree. I knew we had a squirrel challenge to complete this month so I have been waiting for one to come along to observe. Wouldn’t you know it? We could hear them chattering up in the tree a few times over the past few weeks but we have not actually seen our resident squirrels.

Our Outdoor Time
Kona and I completed this squirrel challenge on our own today…it was a drizzly, gray day. Kona is the squirrel hunter in our family and she will chase them along the fence line and watch them from the base of the tree. She loves a good squirrel chase. Today though there was no squirrel around.

We made use of our time by trying to find some signs of squirrels. We found quite a few walnut shells which are dead giveaway. We looked up in the tree but we couldn’t see any squirrels up there. We made our way around to the side of the house and the birdfeeder where the squirrels sometimes sit and munch on seeds. No squirrels today.

We then went around the side of the house and we saw some tracks in the mud. I think they are cat tracks.

One last tree to check out…nope, no squirrels today.

Well, we didn’t see a squirrel to observe but we ended up really enjoying our time outside. I gathered a colorful leaf bouquet, watched a flock of finches in the feeder (post to come), and we got some fresh air before it really started to rain. Successful….yes!

I did pull out the field guide and look up squirrels and read through the pages. Mr. B and I will be keeping our eyes out for squirrels as the month goes by and once the leaves are all down for the season I know we will be able to see more clearly when we hear the squirrels chattering.

Don’t forget you can study any rodent this month and there is a free printable notebook page for you to use with your Handbook
of Nature Study.Rodents included in the Handbook of Nature Study are the muskrat, house mouse, woodchuck, red squirrel, and the chipmunk.

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Chipmunks or Squirrels? Our Study Using the Outdoor Hour Challenge

When you spend as much time outdoors as our family does, you eventually come across squirrels and chipmunks. Squirrels are an everyday occurrence in our yard but we do not see chipmunks at all. Chipmunks sometimes find us when we are out hiking, always when you stop to eat a picnic at Yosemite. I think the Chipmunk study as part of the More Nature Study series of Outdoor Hour Challenges will be one that is on-going since we were unable this week to observe any up close.

This past summer we had an experience where we thought we had seen chipmunks but turns out they too were squirrels.

Golden-manteled Ground Squirrel 2

This little rodent was very curious about us as we sat on the granite rock taking a rest after a long hot hike. He was not afraid of us in the least bit, begging a bite of our granola bars. We know better than to feed wild animals but he didn’t understand that people food is not good for him and insisted that he investigate our pack from the inside out.

Golden-manteled Ground Squirrel 4

We thought he was a chipmunk because of the stripes but when we got home and pulled up the field guide we realized he was a Golden-mantled ground squirrel. Our book says he is “medium sized” but we thought he was rather small compared to our other squirrels that we observe in our backyard, the Western gray squirrel and the Fox squirrel.

Golden-manteled Ground Squirrel

So how can we tell in the future that what we see IS a chipmunk? They have stripes on their head and our little ground squirrel does not.

Interesting facts:

  • Traditional hibernator- subject of much research on hibernation.
  • Eats leaves and seeds of grasses, occasionally eats nuts, roots, bulbs, and other underground plant parts.
  • Lives in the coniferous forest at elevations of 5,200 to 12,500 feet.
  • It is prey for hawks, jays, foxes, bobcats, and coyote.
  • Has cheek pouches for carrying food.
  • Digs shallow burrows (up to 100 feet) with hidden openings.
  • Cleans itself by rolling in the dirt.

Since we don’t have chipmunks in our neighborhood but we know we see them all the time when we are at Yosemite. Sounds like a good reason to take the drive soon!

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Family Mammal Study – Unexpected Deer and Our Usual Squirrels

As part of preparing for our mammal study this week, I pulled our mammal field guide from our shelf to have for easy reference. I opened to the introductory pages and I would love to share a few thoughts from those pages with you in this post.

  • Most mammals are creatures of the darkness, only becoming active at night after dark and returning home again before dawn.
  • Most nocturnal mammals communicate by odor which humans cannot detect and with sounds which are frequently high pitched and low in volume.
  • Direct observation of most mammals is difficult except for a few species like chipmunks and squirrels.
  • The vocalizations of mammals have not been extensively explored and most make brief sounds called “call notes”.

3 11 11 walking trail deer

We were walking along our usual trail having a great conversation when my son twirled me around to get me to look up on the hill. He had spotted a few young deer not too far from where we were. They were slowly moving along, not really paying too much attention to us.

California mule deer are very common in our area and we often see groups of 8-10 deer alongside the road or in grassy meadows. My husband actually hit a deer with his truck last month when he was coming home from work…minimal damage and the deer bounced back up and ran off into the woods. He was lucky. He once hit a deer and it totaled the vehicle.

3 11 11 walking trail deer

We were planning on studying our backyard squirrels this week as part of our mammal study but we spent a little time reading up on the mule deer too. California mule deer are very graceful and agile mammals. They have lovely eyes but don’t let those innocent looking eyes fool you. They have been known to eat my garden down to the ground in one night.

Fox Squirrel in the Tree
There are three fox squirrels and one gray squirrel in our yard just about every day. They are in the bird feeders and up in the trees chattering at us and the dog pretty much all day long. I started off trying to keep them out of the feeders but it is an impossible task.

Fox Squirrel eating my seed bell
They are very acrobatic and can get to just about any of our feeders.

We spend time each day watching these very acrobatic mammals hop from limb to limb and then hang upside down to eat from the feeders.

Here is a coloring page for a Fox Squirrel.  We found this website that has a recording of the sound the fox squirrel makes.

Squirrel watercolor with photos (3)
Again, I ended up including photos as part of my nature journal entry to show the differences between the Western gray squirrel and the Fox squirrel.

One of my sons told me that it used to be an “event” when the gray squirrel showed up in the yard but now we have so many squirrels that they are commonplace. We have started to think of them as rodent pests rather than welcome visitors.

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2011 Winter Series OHC #9 and Winter Wednesday #9 – Mammals in Winter Nature Study

Pair of Squirrels in March
Our Resident Pair of Fox Squirrels in Our Backyard

This week you are going to spend some time focusing on mammals.

OHC Winter Series #9 Mammals

Link for you to check out: Hibernation
This pdf can be printed out and shared with your children.

Ideas for you to try:
1. Keep a record of animal tracks you have observed in the snow or mud. Record your findings in your nature journal along with a drawing, the date, the weather, the time of day, and the type of animal if you have identified it at this time.
2. Compare a dog’s and a cat’s footprints in the snow or mud.
3. Research an animal that hibernates and record what you learn in your nature notebook. You can also sketch your animal and what its tracks look like.

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