Animals at the Museum…that aren’t ours!

So on any given day you can come to the museum and see all kinds of fun things.  The exhibits, the fun and wonderful staff, and of course the animals in their habitats.  But once in a while you get a treat. You see the museum is on a good bit of wooded land and has a healthy population of wildlife living on it’s grounds as well.  So sometimes we’re lucky enough to run into all kinds of fun animals that we work around every day and don’t always see.  Especially on those days when we come in extra early, or leave extra late – when the crowds aren’t too plentiful is when we especially get to encounter some fun wild critters. 

Look at the side of her shell- see the old injury in the middle?

A few weeks ago, all of the keeper staff came in extra early to help catch the wolves so we could spray the yard for ticks, and get them vet-checked, as well as some other big maintenance like cleaning the pool and mowing as long as we were at it.  On the way down to the wolf yard we came across a big female yellow bellied slider right in the middle of the path.  I got out of the back of Sherry’s truck to move her over and it was Chip, a turtle who if the story serves true, was hit by the museum train many years back and now has a distinctly scarred shell from the encounter.  All the keepers said a cheerful (or as much as they can muster at 7am) “Good Morning” and we send her on her way out of the trucks path. 

Somebody just doesn't like museum paparazzi!

Slightly later on that morning after the wolf yard had been taken care of and most of us had been de-ticked (Marilyn usually has a complement of three times the normal human capacity) when Aaron and I were mucking around Explore the Wild, we came upon a young black rat snake sunning itself on the path.  I say young because even though it was a small adult size, it still had faint remnants of it’s juvenile blotched coloration.  It was decidedly unhappy to see us, which I will attribute to Aaron’s singing.  🙂

Already this summer we’ve found a number a copperheads on grounds.  Everything from last year’s birth to a decently hefty female looking for a meal over by our compost pile in the back area.  These snakes are very pretty, but also are dangerous because of the fact that they are venomous so when we find one we relocate it to an unpopulated area to ensure the safety of both our guests and the snake.

Pretty but dangerous... I've had dates like that 🙂
Agkistrodon contortrix - The Copperhead
Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor) - A cute way to start the day!

There’s so many animals to be found on the museum grounds that you could spend weeks trying to find them all.  Any given day you might see woodchucks eating and hanging out at any given place in the park.  I had a Gray Tree Frog keep me company as I cleaned at Lemurs the other day.

Our Intern Jessica with a baby slider she rescued from the dangerous human path in front of wolves
And it's off to the swamp with him!

You might even be in early one day to start cleaning the animals and a random creature from the night before left you a present on the path to step over and try to identify.  🙂  All in all, it’s always nice to be surrounded by nature, especially in the heart of Durham.  The best part is, you never know what you’re going to find.

The Museum version of a mermaid... minus the singing Animals 🙂

2 responses to Animals at the Museum…that aren’t ours!

  1. Sherry Samuels says:

    I’ve seen a bunch of wild mammals on grounds over the years: fox (and kits too), muskrat, beaver (with babies), deer, and an otter.

    Maybe you can get photos of all our groundhogs!

  2. Libby says:

    Is that copperhead in the second picture trying to strike? And how do you go about safely relocating them?

    As an aside, children’s author Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) wrote a couple of fabulous memoirs about his childhood and young adulthood. In the second one (Going Solo), there’s a chapter about catching a green mamba in Africa (by a professional snake catcher, not Dahl, who felt the same way about snakes as I do!). It’s a great read for those who are interested in snakes, although not the NC variety.

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