You don’t need to head up north or plan a camping trip to connect with nature – there are amazing animals all around us! Let us introduce you to three of your wild neighbors.
They call it mudpuppy love!
Mudpuppies are the second-largest salamander in the western hemisphere. These amphibians may not give off total puppy-dog vibes, but when you see them up-close and in-person, you can’t help but to fall for their charms. There is even a whole celebration in their honor called Mudpuppypalooza taking place March 26 at the Belle Isle Nature Center!
Mudpuppies have wide faces and frilly, external gills on the sides of their heads that act like filters in the water. This means they need to live in clean water to stay healthy. These pups spend most of their time under the cover of flat rocks or slabs of concrete at the bottom of rivers – including our very own Detroit River. They are an important part of Michigan’s aquatic ecosystem, and the Detroit Zoological Society has been collecting data on mudpuppies and water quality in the Detroit River since 2004. Learn more about our monitoring efforts.
Say hi to Michigan’s largest snake!
Black rat snakes can grow to be an impressive 8 feet long – but don’t worry, they are non-venomous and harmless to humans. Rodents, however, are not so lucky. As their name suggests, this species hunts rats and will often enter barns or abandoned buildings in search of food. They use the constriction method of hunting and consume their prey in a single bite! Rat snakes can also be found hiding in tall grasses, under fallen trees or in hallowed out logs, just like our friend here, who just emerging after a taking a nice afternoon nap. The habitats at the Belle Isle Nature Center are designed to mirror the landscape the species might experience in the wild – do any of the elements look familiar to you?
Do I spot a spotted turtle?
If you have visited our Nature Center before, you may be familiar with our turtle pond. This expansive indoor habitat is home to several turtle species, including this pair of spotted turtles. They may be smaller than most of their pond mates, but as you can see from this video, they make up for it in moxie! Spotted turtles can be found in bogs, marshes, swamps, ponds and woodland streams throughout Michigan. They can often be seen basking in the midday sun, but when surprised, spotted turtles will dive underwater and completely bury themselves in the mud. They also retreat to these muddy beds to stay cool on hot summer days. Spotted turtles in Michigan are threatened by habitat loss and from being removed from the wild by reptile collectors. That brings us to a rule that applies to all wild animals – look don’t touch! This is the best way to keep your new friend safe.
The Belle Isle Nature Center is all about making connections. People, animals, natural and unnatural landscapes are all a part of the unique tapestry that is Detroit. Visit belleislenaturecenter.detroitzoo.org to plan your visit. The Nature Center is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and and is always free!