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Fairlawn Parks and Recreation puts a furry twist on Valentine's Day

By David Paulk correspondent

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, couples are expected to go the extra mile to impress their significant others.

However, humans aren’t the only ones being shot by Cupid’s arrow.  Animals need love, too.

Troy Dunn, a naturalist for the Fairlawn Parks and Recreation Department, will help Summit County residents ages 8 years old and up to explore the world of animal relations.

Those attending on Friday will have chance to learn about animal relationships from 2 to 6 p.m on Friday at Fort Island Griffith Park. At 7 p.m., there will be a candle lit hike under the full moon, where residents will have a chance to learn about nature.

The event is meant to show people that animals are similar to human beings when it comes to mating.  Dunn will educate attendees on what animals do to attract a mate.  Some of those things include, a peacock’s feathers, a lions main or a giraffe’s neck – all tools of the trade for getting the opposite sex to notice them. 

Most of his demonstration will involve rabbits, birds, and lizards. Those are the animals that make up a large segment of the animal community at the park.

Dunn said much of focus during his presentation will be on comparing animals to humans.

Physical displays in the animal kingdom can be pretty elaborate. For example, only the male peacock has the colorful feathers the species are known for. The more elaborate the display the better his chances of wooing a female.

But not all animals are smooth in their pursuit of a mate. Like humans, they sometime miss the mark. For example, often they attract the attention of predators instead of their potential mate.

Dunn said physical displays are only a fraction of the ways animals attract mates. Animals –like humans – also give gifts to show they care.

“In our culture we give chocolates and flowers,” Dunn said.  “But for some animals they actually give food items like nuts that they found outside or some other animal they killed.”

According to Dunn this is the equivalent to a wedding gift. All that left is wedding bells.

Of course, meeting a partner is one thing. It’s a totally different thing staying with them and starting a family.

Indeed, animals’ love life mirrors those of humans. 

He said birds such as Bald Eagles and Whooping Cranes that mate for life. Dunn said appears that birds are the only animals that stay dedicated to their mate. Mammals like Polar Bears are not so faithful.

“Mammals tend not to be monogamous,” Dunn said. “Maybe that’s where human beings get it.”

Dunn said insects are seemingly the worse when it comes to long-lasting relationships. They barely survive the mating ritual before ultimately succumbing to the power of love.

It’s a hard fact of life and death for love-struck insects.

“Their (insects) lifespan is so short they don’t have time for one mate,” Dunn said. “A pair of love birds might mate for life, but they can live 20 to 40 years.”

Despite their differences, Dunn said one fact is true for all animals — reproduction.

“That’s the drive that the animal kingdom has,” Dunn said.  “Reproduce, pass on your DNA, and have as many offspring as you can.”

“We’ll talk about how humans have one to two babies, while a bird might have a whole nest of eggs,” Dunn said.

Dunn said he’s going to tread lightly when it comes to more graphic details of animal courtship.

 “We’ll give the basic biology of it without getting into too much detail,” Dunn said.”