Birds and Bees event at Bell Museum examines animal-mating habits

by Travis Reed

Interested couples had an opportunity to examine the wild side of sex Saturday at the University’s Bell Museum.
The event marked the museum’s third annual “Birds and Bees” event, a two-hour program highlighting the basics of animal mating.
Jennifer Menken, the museum’s community program specialist, got the idea 12 years ago from a similar event that enjoyed tremendous popularity at the San Francisco Zoo.
The program examined the mating habits of deer, moose, elk, reptiles, birds and plants. It also explained the fundamental defining characteristics of the sex lives of each.
“When you talk about sexuality, people like to know how similar they are to other things,” Menken said.
In many cases, the similarities might be more common and extensive than most people would like to admit.
“As much as we try to rationalize (our behavior), many of our tastes are innate,” Menken said.
Both animals and humans flaunt certain characteristics to make themselves more attractive.
Menken described the antlers of deer, moose and elk as “the red sports cars of the animal world.” The larger and more ornate a male’s horns, the stronger the animal will be and the more attractive they become to their prospective mates.
Participants were able to sample the equivalent of male cologne for moose but were encouraged not to take too big a whiff. For humans, the smell is unpleasant and hardly distinguishable from feces.
Humans are not the only ones who adhere to generally accepted principles of monogamy. In lion prides, male-female pairs remain together for life.
But the lions also accept a rule with which most humans would probably never agree: Only one couple, the strongest male and female in the pride, is allowed to breed.
Though most people would not think much about the sex lives of plants, they are actually very selective about the creatures that pollinate them. Menken said each plant is designed — through color, shape or a combination of both — to attract specific insects that can most effectively pollinate them.
Most of the 20 people who saw the presentation viewed the event as a unique way to spend their pre-Valentine’s Day weekend. However, few would agree — at least openly –that it’s the candlelight dinner of the new millennium.
“It seems more fun than going out to eat,” said Vivian Niger, a University alumna. “It’s maybe not really romantic, but it puts sex into perspective. We’re not so different from the animals after all.”

Travis Reed welcomes comments at [email protected].