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Meet all of our animal friends at Petapalooza this Saturday from 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

We had a great time talking with Colleen and Eugene about traditional and non-traditional pets on WCNC yesterday.

Check out the video below and meet all of our animal friends at Petapalooza this Saturday from 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Filed Under: In the Museum
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The groundhog is probably the most commonly known mammal in our region that goes through a true hibernation. Hibernating is what certain animals do to survive extreme weather.

Winter is approaching fast. Many animals have migrated or acquired a thicker coat to prepare for the cold, while others animals are getting ready to hibernate.

What does hibernate mean? Hibernating is what certain animals do to survive extreme weather. It's an interesting adaptation that is a state of inactivity. The animal's heart and breathing rates go down as well as their body temperature. This allows the animal to use very little energy through the cold months.

Why is this beneficial for the animal?

During the winter, food can be very hard to find. It becomes more stressful and draining for the animal to constantly forage or search, usually coming up empty handed. Because of this, spending more time asleep or in a state of hibernation gives the animal a higher chance of survival.

When we think of hibernating animals, we usually think of bears. But bears don't truly hibernate! Instead, they go through a process called torpor. Torpor is kind of like a short term hibernation where the animal reduces its body temperature on the cooler days but will be out and about on the warmer days of winter.

The groundhog is probably the most commonly known mammal in our region that goes through a true hibernation.

Reptiles and amphibians brumate, which is the name for when ectothermic (cold-blooded) animals hibernate.

Did you know that some desert animals also go through a type of hibernation when it's too hot and dry in the summer? This is called estivation.

Nature is so fascinating!

By Leslie Wilhoit, Naturalist, Charlotte Nature Museum

Filed Under: Ask a Naturalist
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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 our animals need to be fed, cleaned and enriched. We have to make sure the Admissions desk is up and running, as well as cover special programs including classes or the Puppet Show.

Some tasks don't need to be done every day but are still our responsibility, such as making sure the chrysalis are hung, lights are working and the grounds look nice.

One of the perks of my job is that I get to work closely with animals. It is a great way for me to learn more about lesser-known species of animals.

I enjoy researching as much as I can about the local species of North Carolina, so that I can pass the excitement I have for nature on to other people. That's how I knew this field was for me.

Another question I frequently get about my job is, "How does a person become a naturalist?"

I can only speak for my experiences, but I believe volunteering is the way to go. Even now that I am in my dream job field, I volunteer at other establishments to further my expertise.

We have volunteers at the Museum who help us on an almost-daily basis and their participation allows them to get a head start on what it takes to be a naturalist.

By Leslie Wilhoit, Naturalist, Charlotte Nature Museum

Filed Under: Ask a Naturalist
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Charlotte Nature Museum Members enjoy exclusive access to the Museum for Spinning Spiders & Creepy Crawlers, our October Creature Feature.

From ghosts and superheroes to witches and princesses, our littlest Charlotte Nature Museum Members trick-or-treated their way into our hearts at Saturday's Boo Bash.

Boo Bash gave Members exclusive access to the Museum for Spinning Spiders & Creepy Crawlers, our October Creature Feature. They enjoyed arts and crafts, face painting, storytelling, mini golf and live animal encounters, all before the Museum opened to the public.

Check out our slideshow at right to see photos from this spook-tacular event.

Not a Member? Click here to discover the benefits.

Filed Under: In the Museum
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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 in the rocks on the top, left side his home. He tends to be more active early and late in the day. Sometimes if we feed him early enough, he'll come down and take some nuts back up to his home. This is called caching or food storing.

If you are patient and look hard enough, you can find our flying squirrel in his exhibit in Creature Cavern. We hope you'll come and give it a try!

By Leslie Wilhoit, Naturalist, Charlotte Nature Museum

Filed Under: Ask a Naturalist
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A Charlotte Nature Museum naturalist cleans a young water snake that was caught in a glue trap.

Although commonly used for pest control in homes and commercial buildings, glue traps can have unintended consequences for wildlife, something that Charlotte Nature Museum had a run in with recently.

A woman brought in a small snake stuck in a trap, which we quickly identified as a juvenile water snake. The snake was so saturated in the glue, it could not move. Its jaw was disjointed and stuck in an awkward, painful-looking position.

Naturalists immediately went to work on the snake, gently rubbing mineral oil onto its shiny scales while prying it away from the glue.

Once extracted from the trap itself, more work was still in store. The glue had encased the snake in a thick, gummy mess.

After more than an hour of concentrated work, the water snake was finally cleared of all the tacky substance. Following an overnight observation, it was able to be released into the wild the next day.

Luckily, we had a success story, but this is often not the case. Many people are unaware of the dangers glue traps can pose to wildlife.

Treated with flavoring and made up of a combination of resin, mineral oils and synthetic rubber, these traps attract any number of animals, not simply the targeted pest. Their tragedy lies in the slow suffering a caught animal must undergo before it dies.

Often the targeted pests are rodents or large bugs. When they are stuck on a trap and still alive, they attract larger animals such as birds and snakes, which also get trapped in the sticky glue.

Safely extracting an animal from a glue trap can be a delicate, dangerous process that many people are not comfortable undertaking and rightly so. Wild animals can be particularly dangerous when in a vulnerable state. Many animals caught in glue traps face a painful demise from exhaustion, suffocation and dehydration.

Please consider alternative solutions to pest control. If your landlord or workplace uses these traps, consider talking with them about the risks to wildlife. If glue traps must be used as insect control, consider purchasing smaller sticky traps, which have a lid to dissuade larger animals from getting stuck in the trap.

If you do find an animal caught in a glue trap, click here for a step-by-step list on how to safely extract and release it.

By Nikki Panos, Naturalist, Charlotte Nature Museum

Filed Under: The Wild Around Us
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