For most people, Independence Day means family, fireworks, and a good ole' fashion cookout...all of which we did this past weekend, however, there's always time for Reptiles and Amphibians. So for the 4th of July my girlfriend Fox Peterson and I took our daughter, young Pup Peterson, out to The Holden Arboretum for some much needed exploring in the natural world.
The Holden Arboretum is a great place for family oriented exploration...a multitude of ponds, lakes, bogs, marshes, fields and forests makes a true playground for children of all ages. The Reptile Show is many things, and aside from the action and adventure, its deepest rooted message is to encourage people to get out of the house and explore the natural world around them. Most importantly...our goal is to inspire the next generation of explorers and this past weekend...that is exactly what happened.
Despite the incredibly warm temperatures we still managed to find quite a few Reptiles and Amphibians. We searched out the shady cool areas of Holden's and managed to first find this guy...a beautiful American Toad.
Enjoying some early afternoon shade I spotted him plumped up on a damp patch of moss. I pointed the bumpy, wart covered amphibian out to Pup and said, "Get your binoculars ready...I'll give this one a go and give you an up close look!" American Toads are probably the safest animal you can possibly catch. No Claws, they don't bite, they are pretty slow and they are covered in bumpy wart-looking skin, so having one slip out of your hands is probably NOT going to happen. Oh, and for the record...it's an old wives tale that you can get warts from a Toad...but trust me...they will pee on you!
After our Toady success we ventured along side of a lily pad marsh and as we approached the water a Midland Painted Turtle scurried from the bank and began to make his way into the muck.
With Pup standing watch I sprinted, dove, splashed and successfully captured the turtle...but not before sinking nearly waist deep into the mud. It was a pretty remarkable catch, if you don't mind me tooting my own horn, and to be honest...I am not really sure how I manage to get this turtle...luck must have been on our side because in all actuality... between the time the turtle spotted us and the time I made my capture... he should have been long gone and disappeared into the murky abyss of the marsh.
Maybe this Midland Painty knew that Pup had been asking all day for "1 Turtie...1 Frog" She is only 2...so turtles are "Turties"... and by the way, Snapping Turtles don't count because according to Pup..."they stink". And like a good little herpetologist who knows her field signs, she is right...they do STINK!
With a Toad and a Painted Turtle checked off the list it was time to move on to snakes...some incredible success was delivered to us by Mother Nature in the form of an Eastern Garter Snake and two awesome Northern Water Snakes.
Typically Water Snakes are incredibly aggressive...nonvenomous, but mouths full of needle like teeth can always be an issue. I always expect to get bit...as I did...but it was actually the Garter Snake that was the most aggressive...something you don't see all that often.
Eastern Garter Snake
Northern Water Snake
Northern Water Snake
Pup stayed at a safe distance for the captures but enjoyed seeing the animals up close once they were under control and calmed down. Is it normal for a 2 year old little girl to love snakes? In our family it is!
My goal is to always show Pup the king of the environment and despite the fact that she is pretty bored with Snapping Turtles at this point...and thinks that they "STINK", I always love to show her these ferocious beasts.
As luck would have it...we found ourselves in the right place at the right time and just as I was about to start catching some juvenile Bull Frogs we spotted a Snapping Turtle coming in for his lunch.
The situation was a bit tricky, and the water pretty deep...but with Mama Fox watching Pup and keeping her at a safe distance from the action, I managed to make a pretty good, slightly acrobatic jump and twisting turn in the air to land behind the turtle and make the catch. I assure you...this reptile was none too happy to be disturbed during his lunch hour and in a splash of furry the pond erupted in claws and jaws, mud and deep water. From shore I could hear Pup saying, "awww Papa...Turtie Stinks...Snapping Turtie he's a stinks!".
After wrestling the Snapper back to land I gave Pup a safe look from a distance, took some pictures and put the beast back into feed, explaining to her that Snapping Turtles are the top predator in the wetland ecosystem and that you never get close to a turtle of this size...always get Papa if you see one...don't try to pet it or pick it up yourself.
As impressed and excited as I was with the Snapper and my daring capture...Pup was still after the frogs and keep saying, "Papa...1 Frog Please...1 Frog".
So as promised...and last but not least...we spent the rest of the trip catching Bull Frogs...this one was her favorite and after blowing him a kiss she helped me release him back into the pond...
Where hopefully he didn't become lunch for the Snapping Turtle!
It was a fun filled family weekend...our team of Reptilian Enthusiasts works incredibly hard when the cameras are rolling but it is important, no matter how hard you work...or what your profession, always make time for your family. Fox and I feel it is a truly touching and remarkable thing to have our daughter be so into nature...this weekend she got to see the entire ecosystem, not just the Reptiles and Amphibians...but the ducks, geese, dragonflies, chipmunks and even some spiders.
The Holden Arboretum is probably the best place in Ohio to take your family if you are looking to see animals in their natural environments... so plan a weekend to check it out...I guarantee you it will be a blast!
I'm Coyote Peterson and this...is The REPTILE Show!