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Naturalist Leslie Wilhoit holds a corn snake.

When I tell people I am a naturalist, I usually get weird looks because they aren't entirely sure what that entails.

Whenever I try to explain what exactly I do, it is really hard to put it in words. The easy answer for me is simply, everything. A naturalist's job can incorporate many different things, depending on where you work.

At Charlotte Nature Museum we have three naturalists. We have large programs we are in charge of but on a daily basis we do roughly the same things. For example, I am in charge of public programs, class curriculum and Butterfly Pavilion, but the other naturalists help me with daily upkeep.

Because there is a lot to do at the Museum, we have many checklists and scheduled programs to make sure we get everything thing done in a timely manner.

Every day … Keep reading.

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The flying squirrel might be the animal that is hardest to see at the Museum. Flying squirrels are arboreal, or tree dwelling, so they like to make nests up high. They are also nocturnal animals, so they are awake at night and sleep during the day.

Many animals at Charlotte Nature Museum are out and about when you visit, while some are more of a challenge to see.

But there is a clear reason for this. Most of the animals that don't move often or are hidden are nocturnal animals.

Nocturnal animals are awake at night and sleep during the day. (Animals that are awake during the day are called diurnal.)

Some of our animals that are nocturnal include the flying squirrel, skunk and opossum. Because the Museum is only open during the day, our nocturnal animals typically are sleeping or hiding while visitors are here.

The flying squirrel might be the animal that is hardest to see at the Museum. Flying squirrels are arboreal, or tree dwelling, so they like to make nests up high.

Our flying squirrel prefers to make a small nest … Keep reading.

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Whether it was a nature walk, habitat building, fishing or creek crawling, Summer Camps at Charlotte Nature Museum are messy, sweaty, silly, educational and, above all, unforgettable.

The Summer Camp season recently end, which makes me very sad.

I enjoy Summer Camps so much; it's probably my favorite time of the year.

We have a lot of different kinds of Camps here for kids from ages 3 - 10 years old. Most of this season, I have had the pleasure of helping teach the Camps for Pre-K and Rising Grades 4 - 5.

From day to day, the themes change but the fun and excitement stays the same.

For the youngest Campers we spend a lot of time talking about the differences between types of animals and being able to identify them by sight. We went on a lot of nature walks to find birds, bugs, and every once in a while we would see reptiles or mammals.

The Campers loved finding animals, whether out in nature or on exhibition in the Museum, and always enjoyed making craft… Keep reading.

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Looking for fun, inexpensive activities to do with the kids this summer? Give upcycling a try! With a little paint and creativity, empty boxes, bottles and cans can be transformed into musical instruments, games or even birdhouses.

With school out for the summer, many parents are looking for fun, inexpensive activities to do with their kids. Why not give upcycling a try?

There are so many great projects people can do with old objects around the house, instead of recycling or throwing them away.

What exactly is upcycling? It is the process of making something useful, and often beautiful, from old or discarded materials.

During our recent Earth Day Play Date, we made musical instruments, a matching game, a bowling set and a birdhouse all out of "trash" found at the Museum.

Here's how we did it.

Musical Instruments:
1. Take old coffee cans or tissue boxes and wrap different sized rubber bands around them. The different sized bands will create different notes when plucked or strummed.
2. Turn empty pla… Keep reading.

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A Museum staff member displays a corn snake, a naturally docile breed that is friendly with guests.

One of the coolest animals I get to work with is the snake. We have lots of different species that live at the Museum, including pine, corn, black rat, yellow rat, copperhead, ribbon, northern water, king and garter snakes.

Most of the snakes stay on exhibition in Creature Cavern, but we have a few that we're able to bring out for Animal Encounters. This means you can touch them!

Whenever I handle a snake, the first question a guest usually asks is, "Will it bite?" This is a great question to ask because it's important to maintain the highest level of safety around any animal.

Anything with a mouth can bite — it's true — but people also have mouths and can bite. This doesn't mean we go around biting things all the time, and it's the same way with our snakes.

Snake mainly bite… Keep reading.

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Copperheads have a distinct hourglass pattern on their skin. Young copperheads also have a bright green tail. Photo credit: Virginia Herpetological Society

We are lucky that we don't have many venomous snakes here in Mecklenburg County. We mostly only have to keep our eyes out for copperheads. So, do you know how to identify one?

There are several ways to tell if a snake is a copperhead, but the easiest and safest way is to look at their pattern. The darker spots on the back of the snake are in an hourglass shape, meaning they are wider on the sides and thinner in the middle.

If you look at a copperhead from the side, the hourglass spots touch the ground. Most similarly patterned snakes have spots that do not reach all the way to the underside of the snake.

Copperheads also have diamond-shaped heads and cat-like eyes. These two characteristics are not as easy to spot as the snake's patterned skin, so it can make identifying much ha… Keep reading.

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