July 28, 2014

A Day in Animal Care

By Alexa Cushman, Program Intern

A day spent in animal care begins bright and early at 8:00 a.m. . Diets need to be made for the animals on the trail first and foremost. The diets get made and collected; then it is time to hit the trail. Animal care staff doesn’t use the same trails that you use, but instead employ trails behind the exhibits that lead to enclosures where the animals stay in at night. While the animals are still inside, the animal care staff goes into the exhibit where we then clean. We clean the windows, so that you all can have the best view of the animal, and anything else that needs to be cleaned up and straightened out. Once the exhibit is clean, the animal is shifted out into the exhibit. We take this time to clean up their indoor enclosure and to put out their food for the evening. We make sure that all the animal exhibits have been cleaned, the animals have been fed, and are out on the trail by 9:30 a.m.. This ensures that you can see the animals as soon as the Science Center opens in the morning.

Once the trail is open, the animal care staff then moves back indoors to the animal care room, where many of our program animals are located. Cleaning, feeding, and providing enrichment for the program animals then begins. There are two different enrichment areas within the animal care room; one indoor and one outdoors. All of the program mammals spend at least a half hour either in the outdoor or indoor enrichment room every day. Enrichment is extremely important for captive animals. Animals in captivity do not live in their natural environment and to make sure that they are mentally and physically healthy, enrichment is provided to incorporate behaviors that are more natural. In the enrichment rooms we have placed many different logs, tunnels, toys, scents, and other activities to help provide space for the animals to run, climb, jump, and explore; all of the things that these animals would normally be doing in their natural environment.

Another activity that takes place in the afternoon in between cleaning and enriching the program animals is training. Training is very important for both the program and exhibit animals. Animal care staff does not train the animals here like you may train your dog or cat at home; instead all of the training serves a specific purpose. The program mammals are trained to move in and out of a crate onto a table, and are trained to stay there because they are used in many educational programs. When the animals are able to move by themselves, it is a lot less stressful for both the animal and the staff. The program birds are trained to follow whistle signals both on and off the glove. If the bird will easily move onto the glove, it is less stressful once again for the bird and the staff. Some of our larger program animals have been trained to do other tasks such as sit and give paw. These seemingly mundane tasks are important for routine nail clippings or visits from the veterinarian. The animals on exhibit have been trained to move on and off their exhibit so the animal care staff can perform maintenance and cleaning.

When all of the cleaning, feeding, enriching, and training has been completed, usually around 4:30 p.m., the animal care staff goes back to the exhibit trail to shift all the animals into their indoor enclosures for the evening. Eventually the animal care staff also go home, after a long, but rewarding day, ensuring that you were brought a little nearer to nature!

July 25, 2014

By Jordan McDaniel, Blue Heron School Associate Teacher, Guided Discovery Instructor

I’m in my fifth year as Guided Discoveries Instructor at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, and have never been so excited about what I have planned. This summer I have had the help of an intern for the whole summer and together we have gotten really creative in the planning process. We have included the use of some different types of animals for our private mini talks, have scoured our resources for some fun, new crafts, and have come up with many new games to play. Each day is full of plenty of outdoor hands on time, crafts, games, interactions with animals and even some unstructured exploration in some of our more secluded areas on the Science Center grounds.

We have had many children return from previous years and met quite a few new friends. It’s really fun to see who is going to show up Monday, as I have seen many of them every summer since I have been here. I love the ability to establish a relationship with returning kids and their families, as well as making new friends. The children always bring something fresh and have helped me learn a few things as well!

We still have spaces available in programs such as “Up, down and around” and “Creature Features” so come check us out if you have not been here before, or come say hi if we haven’t had a chance to catch up this summer!

July 21, 2014

Docent Guided Tours

By Madeline Warren, Marketing Intern

If you’re looking for something fun to do on a Thursday at 10:30 a.m., the Docent Guided Tours offered at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center are a great way to spend your time. Docent Guided Tours are approximately ninety minutes long. These tours are given by trained Science Center volunteers who provide an in-depth look at the animal exhibit trail. Docent Guides have an extensive degree of knowledge about New Hampshire wildlife and the natural world.

Last week I was fortunate enough to join one of the Science Center’s Docent Guided Tours. My tour guide was Rachel, a volunteer Docent who spends a few months out of the year here at the Science Center working in animal care and leading tours. The tour began at the Welcome Center where Rachel introduced herself to the group of seven other visitors. I quickly learned that when Rachel is not giving tours or working in animal care at the Science Center she spends her months all over Africa giving wildlife safari tours. I could hardly believe I was about to take a tour with a true wildlife expert!

The tour then proceeded to the Trailhead Gallery where Rachel showed us the Barred Owl and explained the various adaptations owls have for living in the wild. One adaptation owls have that I thought was particularly fascinating is that the layout of the owl’s feathers is specially designed to allow the animal to silently swoop down and snatch their unsuspecting prey. Rachel was such an animated tour guide she demonstrated how the owls wings slice right through the air silently.

After giving the tour group a few minutes to walk around the Trailhead Gallery we continued to the exhibit trail. On the trail it felt as if I was taking a stroll through the woods because the wildlife was so abundant. We saw different song birds flying in the sky, chipmunks with their cheeks full of food, and an array of wild flowers. Rachel was just as knowledgeable about the wildlife at the Science Center that was not contained to an exhibit and was able to answer everyone’s questions. One couple in the group was specifically interested in learning about song birds and Rachel was able to identify all of the birds flying above and provided the couple with a great deal of information. It soon became evident that I was not just getting a tour of the animals at the Science Center but of all New Hampshire’s wildlife.

Having walked the trail dozens of times I thought I already knew everything about the animals here at the Science Center, however, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Rachel was telling me things about our exhibit animals and New Hampshire wildlife that I didn’t know before taking the tour. I especially loved that she knew so much about the stories behind each individual animal, and why they were brought to the Science Center. For just two dollars extra per person with trail admission, you will learn more than you ever thought you would about New England wildlife. I especially recommend this tour to anyone who has come to the Science Center before and wants to learn more about the animals here.

Docent Guided Tours are truly an unforgettable up close experience with New Hampshire’s animal ambassadors. In addition to gaining educational insights about the Science Center’s exhibit animals you will hear fun facts, and stories about all our animals. Docent Guided Tours truly provide an exclusive educational experience that will give you memories to take back with you.

Docent Guided Tours are offered every Thursday at 10:30 a.m. through August 28.

July 14, 2014


By Sarah Kelly, Program Intern

My knowledge has expanded immensely in my first weeks here at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center but one type of animal I was surprised I didn’t know more about are snakes. I’ve lived in New Hampshire my whole life. I haven’t encountered many snakes but there are 11 species of snakes in this state. Of those 11 species, five are endangered. The more common snakes are the garter snake, brown snake, and milk snake, while the rarest is the timber rattlesnake.

If you asked a group of people what they are afraid of, snakes definitely come up. Snakes are one of the most feared things on the planet. Even everyone’s most beloved fictional archaeologist, Indiana Jones, is deathly afraid of these creatures. This fear comes from many origins. Perhaps people don’t like the way snakes slither and hiss or think that they are slimy. Others may fear they have cunning and sly personalities such as found in books or stories. And others may fear they could be bitten and injected with venom or eaten whole by one of the bigger species. It is theorized that fear of snakes is an innate characteristic of humans. Along with fear of spiders, sharks, and other creatures, this trait is a survival mechanism so that we avoid these things. The fear is then intensified through media, stories, and depictions.

In some areas of the world the snake is seen as a symbol of evil, trickery, and deceit. In the Bible, the story of Adam and Eve portrays these characteristics as the snake tricks Eve into committing the original sin that exiles mankind from the Garden of Eden. In Ireland, St. Patrick is celebrated for ridding the island of all snakes. In Africa, snakes are associated with voodoo and in ancient cultures snakes were worshipped for deadly vengeance. In many stories the snake is personified to be antagonistic.

There are many cultures that celebrate snakes. In Greek mythology the snake is a symbol of healing and medicine. The snake was used by Asclepius, the god of medicine, on his walking staff. This symbol is still used today for medicine, pharmacy, veterinary care, and is commonly seen on ambulances. The snake also represents rebirth and renewal as it sheds away its old skin to reveal a new one. Snakes are also seen as a symbol of wisdom and shown in art as consultants to kings and queens, such as Cleopatra. Snakes are revered in India and associated with certain gods and goddesses. Snakes are also used as fertility symbols and there are festivals celebrating snakes. Even in western culture the snake is used to represent independence. The “Don’t Tread on Me” flag represents snakes positively, as tough and willing to stand up for themselves.

In general, snakes are not the slimy and calculating creatures we might think them to be. Most snakes are not slimy. Their scales are dry and smooth. The hissing noise they make comes from the use of their tongue, which they use to smell. Venom that is found in some snakes is primarily used to stun prey, (typically not for something as big as a human) and secondarily as a defense. A snake will usually only bite a human if it is taunted or startled but otherwise goes in another direction.

Snakes have been feared for centuries. This fear has caused a decrease in some populations because of eradication by humans. Snakes, however, are important to our ecosystems because they help to balance populations of small mammals, fish, amphibians, insect, and birds.

Timber rattlesnakes are an example of how eradication and other factors can bring a species to near extinction. The status of timber rattlesnake in this state is “critically imperiled.” They are so rare that there is only one population left known to New Hampshire Fish & Game. This species is the only venomous snake in New Hampshire and the only snake with a rattle. The rattle is used to warn possible attackers. The milk snake is sometimes confused for a timber rattlesnake because they also shake their tails but do not have rattles. Timber rattlesnake populations have declined mostly because of habitat destruction, automobile accidents, gravel mining, and hunting by humans. These threats are exacerbated by the snake’s reproduction patterns. Females only reach maturity after 10 years and give birth every three to four years. Any sightings of timber rattlesnakes should be confirmed and then reported to New Hampshire Fish & Game (603-271-2461).

If you visit the Science Center this summer you might be able to attend an Up Close to Animals presentation about snakes in New Hampshire and see either a Red-Tailed Boa or Ball Python. Neither of these snakes is found in New Hampshire but live successfully in captivity. Their size allows us to demonstrate the different parts of snakes. And they are large snakes! The Ball Python can grow to five or six feet, while the Boa can be anywhere from six to ten feet! The Ball Python is from Africa and the Boa from South America so seeing these creatures in New Hampshire is a unique pleasure.

To learn more about snakes native to New Hampshire, visit:http://www.wildnh.com/Wildlife/Nongame/snakes.htm

July 7, 2014

The Road Not Taken: How the Wilderness Act Preserved the United States Landscape

by Marianne O’Loughlin, Program Intern

A half hour’s drive north of Squam Lakes Natural Science Center will take you to a public wilderness: the White Mountain National Forest. This great expanse of habitat is home to both New Hampshire wildlife and geologic wonders and it’s difficult to imagine that this land fell under the protection of a law enacted only a half century ago. 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, a law that preserves land like this for future generations of wildlife and human visitors.

On September 3, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act into law and established the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS). It started with only 9.1 million acres. While that may sound like a vast expanse, it’s just over twice the total acreage of New Hampshire (5,954,560 acres). In the past fifty years, the United States has added additional protected sites that are equivalent to the size of the state of California. Many other countries have modeled protections on the Wilderness Act.

The Wilderness Act means that “wilderness”—once a vague, legally purposeless space—is both defined and protected by law. It keeps wilderness separate from other areas, preserving them as unaltered habitats. Industry and development is not permitted. If any logging occurs at all, it falls under strict regulation. Developed land has its place: it’s protected by zoning regulations and has at least some degree of environmental regulations. The Wilderness Act offers undeveloped lands protection from fragmentation and the damages of industry and human occupation.

As you visit the Science Center, keep in mind how animals in New Hampshire depend on unaltered, unfragmented habitat. Animals like skunks and coyotes can adapt to human environments. They can exist in areas where habitat remains only in pockets between developed areas. That same feat would be impossible for a mountain lion or a moose. If an animal requires a large territory to survive, it won’t be able to live anywhere but in isolated regions. This law ensures that such regions remain free of alteration so the natural world can flourish undisturbed. Any humans that pass through public wilderness are merely visitors, appreciating the landscape instead of its resources.

This public, undisturbed habitat has the power to bring generations nearer to nature. With great effort, we all can protect wilderness. We can share this love of the land with others so they’ll do the same. We naturally preserve and protect what we understand and love. But to fall in love with something first requires an introduction, an impossible task if unaltered habitat disappears.

For more information on the Wilderness Act and events during its 50th anniversary, please visit http://www.wilderness50th.org.

July 1, 2014

Fast Facts about North American River Otters

By Alexa Cushman, Program Intern

In the short time that I have been interning at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center I already have a favorite exhibit animal, the adorable and playful North American river otters. I know I am not the only visitor that enjoys watching the otters gracefully swim through the water, and play with each other. These enjoyable mammals can be found across North America, always near a body of water. Otters have amazing adaptations that help them survive in the wild and excel as predators both in water and on land. Their body is streamlined, with a long rounded tail, and they have webbed feet to help propel them through the water. They are able to close both their ears and nose by using specialized muscles so they can stay underwater for up to eight minutes. River otters are able swim up to 6 or 7 miles an hour both on the surface and under the water! They are even faster on land and they have been known to run up to 18 miles an hour to escape predators.

If you stay at the exhibit long enough, or if you have been to River Otter Feeding, you have probably seen the otters playing. North American river otters are very playful in the water and on land. Often wild otters can also be seen playing in the water, and sliding through the mud. Sometimes their slides can even be 25 feet long. Other than just for fun, these activities and behaviors are actually used to strengthen social bonds, or practice hunting techniques.

These intelligent mammals use many different forms of communication. They vocalize through various growls, whistles, chuckles, and screams, and can have up to a dozen different vocalizations. River otters are a part of the Mustelidae family which includes weasels, marten, fisher, and mink. Most animals in this family are able to communicate in a very different way than most other animals; through scent markings. Otters have scent glands near the base of their tail that produce a musky odor. They use this form of communication mainly to mark their territory. They also communicate through posture and other body signals just like us.

Even though river otters can be found throughout the United States, they are not commonly seen animals. They are mostly nocturnal and tend to den in sites that have a lot of bush cover for protection. In the twentieth century otters were often hunted and trapped for their rich, waterproof furs. Hunting and increasing water pollution caused otters to be extirpated in many places. Luckily for us, trapping and hunting regulations were developed and there have been many reintroduction efforts to help river otter populations recover. In many areas the river otter is back and doing well, but otters are easily affected by pollution and unclean water so they are not commonly seen around densely populated areas.

These amazing feats and adaptations have allowed the North American river otter to excel as a predator across the United States!

June 23, 2014

Coyote Day

By Madeline Warren, Marketing Intern

The one thing I love most about Squam Lakes Natural Science Center is how interactive and lively the animals are. Out of all the animals at the Science Center my favorite is the coyote. I remember my first time walking the trail at the Science Center I was so amazed by the coyote exhibit. When the coyote came right up next to me I could hardly believe what was happening; I had never seen a coyote up close before. His eyes were a deep auburn and reminded me of something you would see on the cover of a mystery book. There were some children playing around the coyote exhibit pretending to be coyotes and howling. I think the coyote thought one of his own was nearby because then he let out a loud howl! I thought I was dreaming because it was unlike anything I had ever seen or heard before.

I’m not the only one who loves our new coyote exhibit. Staff, volunteers, and visitors love the coyote exhibit too which is why Squam Lakes Natural Science Center is dedicating an entire day to teaching our guests about these wonderful wild creatures. Coyote Day, Saturday, June 28th will be filled with coyote education, crafts, scavenger hunts, and fun! The day will start out with coyote crafts at 10:00 so be ready to allow your artistic abilities to run wild. After crafts at 11:00 there will be an “Up Close to Animals” program that will feature a live coyote. Don’t miss out on this great opportunity to be in the same room as a coyote and speak to coyote experts about this amazing animal.

At 1:00 p.m. is the event Science Center staff has been eagerly waiting for. This event is a presentation by Chris Schadler from Project Coyote about Eastern Coyotes in New England. Science Center Naturalist Margaret Gillespie is especially excited for this Eastern Coyote presentation because the Science Center’s newest coyote is eastern. It’s going to be very interesting hearing this talk about Eastern Coyotes and then getting to meet a real live Eastern Coyote.

The fun doesn’t stop at the coyote presentation. After the presentation there will be coyote games on the lawn below the Bluestone Terrace. Bring your friends and family to test each other’s skills in games about coyotes. Finally, if you missed the earlier “Up Close to Animals” program don’t worry! The day comes to a close with another “Up Close to Animals” that will feature a live coyote.

You don’t need to already know a lot about coyotes to enjoy this day, but you will certainly learn a lot. If you have any questions about coyotes they will surely get answered. Science Center volunteer docents will be at our coyote exhibit all day answering questions and informing visitors about these fascinating creatures. There is definitely something for everyone at Coyote Day, no matter what age, if you’re a coyote expert, want to learn more, or just want to have a fun time. Don’t forget to be on the lookout for scavenger hunt items all throughout the day. You can pick up a list for the scavenger hunt at Admissions. Squam Lakes Natural Science Center can’t wait to see you at Coyote Day! Below is a full schedule of events for Coyote Day.

Coyote Day Program Schedule:
  • 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. - Coyote Crafts (Bluestone Terrace) 
  • 11:00 a.m. - Up Close to Animals: Live Coyote (Classroom 3, Webster Building) 
  • 1:00 p.m. - Becoming Wolf: The Eastern Coyote in New England Presentation by Chris Schadler from Project Coyote (Classroom 3, Webster Building) 
  • 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. - Coyote Games (Lawn below Bluestone Terrace)
  • 3:00 p.m. - Up Close to Animals: Live Coyote (Classroom 3, Webster Building) 
  • Coyote Scavenger Hunt - All Day (pick up at Admissions) 
  • Volunteers at new Coyote Exhibit all day

June 9, 2014

Emerald Ash Borer Awareness

New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan Declared May 18-24 as Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week. The awareness week may have passed but it is still important to be on the lookout for this invasive pest. See the full press release from the UNH Cooperative Extension below:

Karen Bennett
Extension Forestry Specialist
UNH Cooperative Extension
(603) 312-6695

Governor Hassan Declares May 18 – 24 Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week

Protect your high-value ash trees, develop a preparedness plan

CONCORD, N.H. – New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan has declared May 18-24 Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week. The proclamation encourages all citizens, landowners and municipalities to learn more about emerald ash borer and what we can do as a community to prepare for the treatment or removal and replacement of ash trees. The emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) is an invasive beetle that attacks and kills North American species of true ash (Fraxinus spp.) within three to five years infestation. The insect was first detected in Concord in March 2013 and was recently found in Canterbury and Loudon.

New Hampshire municipalities and landowners can help slow the spread of emerald ash borer and mitigate emerald ash borer-associated costs by developing and implementing an emerald ash borer preparedness plan, regardless of their location in the state. A plan involves looking for ash trees and monitoring them for signs of emerald ash borer. Protection measures will vary depending on how valuable the trees are and where they are in relation to the infestation. Recommendations are available at www.nhbugs.org.

Officials are on the lookout for emerald ash borer in other parts of the state, but they need the help of all citizens. Signs that everyone can look for include blonding of the bark and lots of woodpecker activities on ash trees. Blonding occurs when woodpeckers forage for insects beneath the bark and chip away the top bark layer, creating a lighter color than the surrounding bark. This sign is most evident before leaves fully emerge, so now is the best time to look for it.

Landowners are also encouraged to think about the movement of firewood, especially with camping season starting soon. Buy firewood from a local distributor and burn it where you buy it. Most importantly, don’t move firewood from Merrimack County to other areas of the state.

Citizens can learn more about emerald ash borer and other invasive forest pests, and can report suspected insects or infested trees at www.nhbugs.org—the primary source for information on invasive forest insects in New Hampshire, featuring pictures of the telltale signs of emerald ash borer, including blonding.

Quarantines in effect

State officials are also reminding residents and visitors about two quarantines put in place after the invasive beetle was first detected in New Hampshire. A quarantine issued in April 2013 prohibits the transportation of ash nursery stock, ash wood products and all hardwood firewood from Merrimack County. Piera Siegert, state entomologist with the Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food (DAMF) said, “The quarantine is aimed at limiting the human-assisted spread of the insect in a way that impacts as few stakeholders as possible.”

Also still in effect is the firewood quarantine intended to help prevent the arrival of more emerald ash borer or other damaging insects by prohibiting uncertified firewood from entering the state. Humans are responsible for the widespread movement of non-native insects, mostly through transporting firewood out of an area infested with an invasive pest.

This camping season, forest rangers with the Department of Resource and Economic Development’s (DRED) Division of Forests and Lands will conduct inspections at select locations, looking for out-of-state firewood and firewood from Merrimack County. State Forester Brad Simpkins says, “We want to remind our in-state and out-of-state campers we have a firewood quarantine. We inform campers using state campgrounds about quarantines prior to their arrival to ensure greater compliance with the quarantine.”


Emerald ash borer resources:
Governor Hassan’s proclamation
Report suspect trees and insects
Recommendations for homeowners and landowners
Ash product quarantine in Merrimack County
Out-of-state firewood quarantine
Emerald ash borer found in Canterbury (press release)
Forest insect photo gallery