New exhibit at Flint Hills Discovery Center explores period when ‘everything was bigger and colder’

By Bryan Richardson

If you’re tall enough, you might be able to look at the life-size picture of a giant beaver face-to-face.

Visitors at the Flint Hills Discovery Center will soon see why giant is in the animal’s name when the Ice Age Imperials exhibition opens Saturday.

The giant beaver, which existed during the last ice age, was as tall as 6 feet and weighed as much as 450 pounds, making it the largest rodent ever in North America.

Travis Young, educational specialist at the center, uttered what could only be described as an understatement:

“Everything was bigger,” he said. “Everything was colder.”

The exhibit will be on display through Sept. 14.

It will provide a chance to learn about other animals from this era such as the woolly mammoth, American mastodon, giant sloth and dire wolf.

The last ice age started 1.8 million years ago and ended around 10,000 years ago.

“This exhibit gives you a chance to experience that,” said Jerri Hager, development officer.

It features models of a woodland musk ox and saber-toothed cat as well as various fossil models of other animals.

Young said people will have the ability to actually feel the past with real fossils available as well.

“A kid might say, ‘That thing lived 15,000 years ago, and I got to touch it,’” he said.

There’s an opportunity to assemble a 3-D puzzle of a mastodon or saber-tooth, or search for fossils in the dig box.

Fred Goss, director, said the exhibit provides a nice change, but it also meets the center’s mission of educating people about the Flint Hills.

“There’s evidence for mammoths, mastodons and large animals in this area,” he said.

Goss said the exhibit will feature information about life in the Flint Hills during the last ice age.

He said it fits in with aspects of the permanent exhibit.

“Like any experience you have, it gives you a chance to look at the area from a different perspective,” Goss said.

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