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Library Features Skull Display

Clifton Forge, VA (Nov. 7, 2018) - The recent celebration of Halloween and the lengthening of darkness may bring on morbid moods, but this Skullduggery display offers no “trickery or monkey business,” as the 19th century word might imply.

“Skullduggery” apparently had nothing to do with skulls! So, where’s the trick? Only in the trickiness of identifying the skulls on display at the Clifton Forge Public Library.

Local biologist and educator, Mr. Michael S. Hayslett, invites you to try your hand at skull identification. Each of the preserved wild animal skulls, from Mr. Haylett’s private collection, are numbered. The flip side of the “quiz” sheet has the answers so you can check your skull identification skills.

“Each of the skulls has a story behind it,” Mr. Hayslett says. “These skulls remind me of past outdoor outings and adventures afield!”

"Among the 30 specimens showcased is the skullcap of a Dall Sheep which my late father, Gary ‘Scottie’ Hayslett, harvested while hunting during our trip to Alaska back in 1991.” This piece is used to illustrate the difference between "horns vs. antlers" in the display. 

“Well,” he continues, “the day after I cased out the head of his ewe, I chanced upon a couple - the only other humans outside our party seen during this backcountry stay - who told me the location of a big, ‘double curl’ Dall Ram skull, at the base of a rock field some five miles up the valley.  I really wanted to hike and collect that skull (to go along with the shed moose and caribou antlers that I'd salvaged off the tundra), but it was too close to our departure time.  That was the ‘one that got away’!”

Mr. Hayslett’s collection represents decades of his studies and travels. All of the specimens are real skulls that were either salvaged from the wild or extracted from legally-harvested animals.

Michael Hayslett returned to his hometown of Clifton Forge after pursuing advanced education and a career away from the Alleghany Highlands.  During that 30-plus year career as an educator and scientist, he worked as a wildlife biologist, park ranger, wetlands consultant, and college instructor.  Upon his return to the area in 2014, Mr. Hayslett served as Assistant Professor of Biology at Dabney S. Lancaster Community College. 

Michael remains actively involved in natural resources conservation, research, and the natural history of our area through volunteering with the Alleghany Highlands Master Naturalists, the Cowpasture River Preservation Association, and the Clifton Forge Parks & Trails Committee; as well as part time employment through Douthat State Park, the U.S. Forest Service, and his private consulting firm, Virginia Vernal Pools, LLC.

He continues to explore the natural world and enjoys sharing that passion with others.

“Skullduggery: A ‘Gross’ Display of Animal Skulls” will be on display throughout the month of November.

The Clifton Forge Public Library is located at 535 Church Street.

For information on any library program, call the Library at 863-2519.

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