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Learn about the residents at the Nature Center

This article was contributed by volunteers.

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Red-Tailed Hawk

Stryker, our Red-tailed Hawk

The Red-tailed Hawk is classified as buteo, which is a broad winged hawk with a short fan-shaped tail. This permanent resident of Ohio spends much of its time soaring. It inhabits woodlands, fields, and plains, with a diet that consists mostly of mice, insects and some other small mammals, as well as carrion.

This majestic bird has a brown back and white breast. The tail of the adult is a brick-red color, hence the name. A good field mark is the bank of dark stripes across the breast. Much variation is found in the coloration of this bird. The immature are brown and white striped.

These birds hunt in open country, but build a large nest of sticks high in the fork of a tall tree, often in the woods. The nest will contain two to three brown-spotted white eggs. Most breeding takes place in the spring, and the eggs are incubated for 28-35 days. The young fledge 42-46 days after hatching. Their typical call is a loud descending scream. S

Stryker, the Red-tailed Hawk living at the Nature Center, was brought here because he is blind in one eye. Vision in both eyes are important to raptors especially for depth perception. Stryker can not judge distances, therefore, would not survive on his own in the wild.

Eastern Screech Owl

Scout, our Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern screech-owls are dichromatic, meaning they come in two distinct color morphs. They are either uniformly gray or uniformly rufous, with darker streaking on the body. Both color morphs allow for camouflage against the bark of trees. The owl at our Nature Center is a gray variety. They are small, growing 8-9 inches with a 20-22 inch wing span.

A fairly common permanent resident of Ohio, Eastern screech owls live in towns, orchards and small woodlots. Their diet consists of mainly mice and large insects, but they will also feed on other small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds.

The nest is in a natural cavity or sometimes in a wood duck nesting box. The three to eight white eggs are laid without any nesting materials and incubated for 26-34 days. Young fledge 28 days after hatching and are independent at 8-10 weeks. Their song is an eerie, trembling wail and a soft trill.

Scout, our resident screech owl, was picked up off the ground as a fledgling by a well intentioned passerby who didn't realize it is illegal. Scout, while being cared for imprinted on this person. Attempts to re-release Scout failed because he was used to humans.

Eastern Rat Snake

Caesar, our Eastern Rat Snake

Many people are afraid of snakes and don't understand the valuable role they play in a balanced environment. The natural predatory behaviors of snakes are extremely valuable to humans. Many snake species prey heavily on insects and rodents.

When populations decline, the populations of these prey items increases, often causing serious problems to people. When rodent populations surge, they can destroy crops at an alarming rate, affecting supplies of food and industrial products. They can also spread many harmful diseases.

Snakes are extremely valuable because they are efficient at keeping the number of rodents and insects in check, without relying on damaging chemical pesticides which can degrade the environment and harm other animal species.

Snakes are also helping to save the lives of millions of people every year, as the venoms from snakes are being used to treat many serious health ailments like cancers, heart and stroke diseases, Parkinson's Disease, and many more.

Snakes are cold-blooded reptiles, which means their body temperature is the same temperature as their surroundings. A heat light is used to keep them warm in captivity. Caesar is our resident Eastern Rat Snake, also called a Black Rat Snake. Caesar was bred in captivity and is very tame. We still have the egg Caesar emerged from at birth.

Once a month or so, Caesar does a really neat thing and sheds his skin. He also sticks his tongue out so he can smell. Caesar eats his food whole, in one big gulp, and doesn't eat again for a couple weeks.

Eastern Box Turtle

Eastern Box Turtle

The Box Turtle population is disappearing and is now considered a "species of concern". It is illegal to own a Box Turtle without a permit. There are several reasons why the Box Turtle has been affected. In the past many people have removed turtles from the wild. The pet trade has severely affected many wild animals. Land development and construction is another problem. Many new roads have been built through their habitat, and they cannot move fast enough to avoid a speeding car.

We can help save Box Turtles! If you see a Box Turtle in the road, you can help them out by safely picking them up and putting them across the road in the same direction they were heading. Another way to help save Box Turtles is to simply leave them where they are so they can reproduce and have a family. Turtles are very fond of their territory and do not like to be moved into a new location (unless they are in danger.)

Eastern Box Turtle

Male Box Turtles most commonly have red eyes and females have brownish-orange eyes. Box Turtles are the only land turtle in Ohio (all the others live in the water). They have a special ability to completely close themselves into their shell which other turtles can't do.

The Box Turtle eats leafy greens, mushrooms, berries, fruit, bugs, snails and worms.

We have two Box Turtles at the Nature Center. Pumpkin has metabolic bone disease. As a result her shell is deformed and her skin is thin. This condition may be due to lack of proper light and diet. This is a good reason to not take animals out of the wild. It's also illegal. This regulation was put into place to protect wildlife. Grandpa is our other resident Box Turtle who was removed from an unsafe environment.

Painted Turtle

Painted Turtle

Painted Turtles are the most abundant turtles in Ohio. They are particularly fond of basking in the sun and can be seen by the dozens on logs and along the banks of most bodies of water through the summer. They are plentiful in ponds and here at the Nature Center.

Painted Turtles are named for their bright markings on their head, neck and shell. The patterns look as if they were painted on by hand.

Northern Map Turtle

Map Turtle

The female Map Turtle is larger than the male. Her carapace (or upper shell) is usually ten inches while the male typically does not exceed five inches in length.

The name "map" turtles comes from the lines and ridges on the turtle's carapace. These lines and ridges look similar to the lines and ridges of a topographical map. Over time as the turtle ages the lines fade.

Map Turtles are shy and prefer deep bodies of water, such as lakes and rivers. They have powerful jaws which crush clams, crayfish and snails, a large part of their diet. Map Turtles can be active year round.

Red-eared Slider

Red-eared Slider

The Red eared Slider is commonly sold in pet stores and not native to Ohio. These turtles typically originate from southern states. While isolated communities of these turtles have been found in Ohio, it is thought that "discarded pets" might be another reason they appear in our area. Remember: Releasing pets into the wild is illegal. It may endanger other native Ohio wildlife.

Fun fact: The popular "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" characters are designed from the image of a Red-eared Slider. The red bandana worn looks like the reddish marking behind each eye of the turtle.

Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle

Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle

The Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle is named from its rubbery sponge-like shell. Small spines comprise the front of this turtle's carapace, hence the reason for the name "spiny softshell."

This turtle prefers the river as its home but can be found in lakes and smaller streams. This turtle burrows by rocking into the mud and sand camouflaging its whereabouts.

The Eastern spiny softshell has an extremely long neck and snout which allows it to easily reach the surface for air. However, it does not have to get air from the surface. It is capable of pumping water out of its mouth and pharynx.

Speed and disposition serve this turtle well as it can be as aggressive as a Snapping Turtle and swims faster than other turtles.

Our Map Turtle contemplates your countenance.

Last updated Thursday, 11-Mar-2021 16:13:21 UTC