WINONA, Minn. — You can lead a vulture to a corpse, but apparently you can’t make it eat.
The Whitewater State Park tried, with its Roadkill Café on Friday evening, but, despite the offer, 15 or so turkey vultures only hung in the distance circling the valley.
It was the first attempt at getting the vultures to gather where people could see them, and about 20 people came from the campground to look through binoculars at the odd birds.
Park naturalist Sara Holger said that while the area has several opportunities to look at owls and eagles, not a lot of time is spent displaying the vultures.
“They’re amazing birds, and we never get to see them up close,” Holger said.
They do have a large number of quirky, if not entirely endearing, characteristics.
For instance, one of their first lines of defense is vomiting rancid, highly acidic stomach contents at predators, which also allows them to lighten to flee.
And despite their size, they are more related to storks than raptors like eagles or hawks, and have weak, chicken-like feet and dull beaks.
The birds are also involved in one of the greatest mass migrations in the world, with millions crossing the narrow connection between North and South America to winter in the warmer temperatures.
Despite the vultures turning up their beaks at the several squirrels left out for them, the program was just one of the many that will continue through the summer.
There are also such activities at the park as intro to geocaching, making your own walking stick and intro to trout fishing.
Some events also serve as nature improvement, such as the volunteer rally to remove the poison parsnip, a rash causing invasive species, from the park.
Holger said they try to build outdoors skills, especially for people who haven’t done activities such as fishing, canoeing or camping, so that they can get the basic skills necessary, as well as utilize the specific resources of the area.
Whitewater is one of the busier state parks, and has two naturalists and an intern who run programs most every weekend all year round, not just in the summer.
“And 99 percent of them are free of charge,” Holger said. “We want it to be accessible to families.”
While campers attend, the events are also open to the public and the schedule can be found online at the Whitewater State Park website or posted in the park.